|USA visa denials worsening in Turkey
Agencies in Turkey are suffering from extraordinarily high rates of refusals for F-1 visas to study in the USA, with association UED reporting over half of visa applications from member agencies being denied over the last three months and the situation worsening.
“The visa denial rates are increasing drastically,” confirmed Gokhan Islamoglu, Coordinator at UED. Referring to the last three months, he said, “It can be easily seen that even for our member agents, who are some of the most reliable agents in Turkey, the average rate of visa refusals is 53 per cent.” The refusal rate is startling given that UED members had a 95 per cent acceptance rate during 2011, Islamoglu added.
Some UED member agencies have advised that refusal rates are even worse. Esra Gumuslu, Director at Teorem International Education Consultancy, said since August all visa applications have been refused.
Onur Yaldizkaya, Principal at Idealist Education Consultancy, said, “During the last month, six of our students applied for an F-1 visa in order to study English in the USA. Unfortunately, the visa requests of all of them have been refused.” He added that these were high-level applicants including a Turkish Airlines employee with an official letter of leave from the company.
“We have around 60 per cent visa refusal over the past couple of months and the figure is too high to be normal,” confirmed Mesud Yilmaz, Managing Director of Atlas Private Educational Services. He added that this was impacting on business and student choices. “Luckily, most of our students are applying for other countries as the aim is not only travelling to the USA but studying English language abroad. But of course there are a few students that just cancel.”
No official announcement on why so many visas are being refused has been made by either the consulate in Istanbul or the embassy in Ankara as yet. However, the policy is thought to relate to an issue with students attending Work and Travel programmes in the USA on an F-1 study visa, rather than the J-1 visa, with some agents reportedly assisting in this process.
Islamoglu said the flat refusal policy was punishing reputable agents. “Above all, we believe some particular agencies’ intention for encouraging students to abuse the F-1 visa rules should not have a devastating effect on the market, damaging the mutual relationships between the schools and agents.”
He explained, “At UED, we are trying to contact the visa section at the Consulate General in Istanbul to explain that our members are reputable agencies with clear business backgrounds and we have our own screening and control system over our members.”
UED and its members have indicated that they may have no choice but to recommend alternative destinations for English language courses. “We are sure that our business partners in the USA can understand that because of this disappointing tendency in visas, we as UED member agencies have to inform our students about this issue and the extremely high visa refusal rates,” said Islamoglu. “We have just decided to recommend the UK, Canada and Australia as alternatives to the students who are interested in studying in the USA,” confirmed Yaldizkaya.
International students in USA at all-time high
THE NUMBER OF international students at universities and colleges across the USA is at an all-time high, contributing US$22.7 billion to the economy, according to the 2012 Open Doors Report on International Educational Exchange.
The total number of overseas students in the country rose by 5.7 per cent to 764,495 in the 2011/12 academic year said the report, conducted by the Institute of International Education (IIE) in partnership with the Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs.
The results are the sixth straight year of expansion and with new international student enrolments during the year increasing by 6.5 per cent to 228,467, the trend looks set to continue. There are now 31 per cent more international students on campus in the country than a decade ago.
In terms of markets, China continued to be a key driver in the increase, with a 23.1 per cent rise overall, and a 31 per cent leap in undergraduates. India remained the second largest source of students, although posted a 3.5 per cent decline. Phenomenal growth of 50.4 per cent was recorded by Saudi Arabia, while Iran, Venezuela and Spain all posted double-digit increases. Meanwhile, sizeable declines were seen from Thailand (7.4 per cent), Nepal (6.6), Taiwan (6.3) and Japan (6.2).
For the first time, the state of California surpassed 100,000 students with a 6.5 per cent increase. With 9,269 overseas students, the University of Southern California retained position as the top campus.
The Department of Commerce estimated the value of international students to the economy in the last year at US$22.7 billion, and the Open Doors report revealed that 64 per cent of students were financed through personal and family funds, while a further six per cent received grants from their government or university overseas.
Although in terms of numbers the USA leads the way in global recruitment, international students constituted only four per cent of the student body significantly less than Australia and the UK.
The Open Doors report also analyses American students going abroad for studies, and recorded a 1.3 per cent increase to 273,996 (data based on 2010/11). The UK continued to be the top destination, although Italy in second place posted an 8.7 per cent increase in American students.
Meanwhile, a report released by the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) revealed first-time enrolment of overseas international students at graduate level in the USA grew by eight per cent in the last year. The increase recorded in the survey of 265 institutions matched the rise in the previous year’s report and represents the third straight year of growth in first-time enrolments. China recorded a seventh straight year of double-digit growth, adding 22 per cent, and Brazil also posted a substantial rise of 14 per cent.
ICEF Berlin Workshop tops 2,000 participants
The ICEF Berlin Workshop drew over 2,000 participants for the first time in its history, recording an eighth consecutive year of growth.
Attendees from 96 countries came together to hold 23,523 pre-scheduled meetings across the three days a 10 per cent growth in meetings compared with the 2011 workshop. Some 727 individual agencies from around the globe were represented, meeting with 546 educational institutions, 76 individual exhibitors and 24 work and travel organisations.
Dr Tanveer Iqbal of Uni-Guide Consultancy Services in Pakistan said, “This event was an excellent opportunity to meet the best education providers from around the world under one roof.” Meanwhile, Olga Govor from agency Meridian Group in Latvia said, “We’ve met many of our long-term partners at previous ICEF Berlin Workshops. This year, like every other, there have been so many new educators to grow our portfolio even further.”
The workshop also featured 43 seminars and presentations from industry leaders and experts. In terms of social events, the ICEF Berlin Party included dinner and a live band.
Australia’s Milton College closes down
AUSTRALIA’S NATIONAL TUITION Protection Service (TPS) and English Australia’s Tuition Assurance Scheme (TAS) have been activated to place international students with alternative providers, following the closure of Milton College, which taught mostly high school preparation courses. The TPS confirmed it had been advised the college went into liquidation on November 15.
The TPS was activated to assist student visa holders, while the TAS was used to help non-student visa holders, meaning affected students were offered alternative courses at no extra cost. Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, said just over 100 students had been offered new places and that both schemes had responded very promptly.
Blundell added that Milton College was a highly regarded school that had good relationships with a number of government and independent schools. “What I can say is that business failures occur in all industries and college closures occur in all study destinations,” said Blundell. “What is important is that Australia has structures and systems in place to ensure that students are looked after promptly with minimal disruption to their studies when such unfortunate events take place,” she added.
China considers ban of foreign-based agents
THE CHINESE GOVERNMENT is considering legislation that could ban overseas agencies from engaging in “intermediary services” in China, as part of a clampdown on standards within the industry.
The draft policy was posted for consultation until November 5 on the Ministry of Education website and stated that overseas-based agencies, foreign-invested enterprises, Chinese-foreign joint schools and individuals should not provide consultation services to students in China.
If accepted the draft legislation would also require all agencies to set up an emergency fund of at least 500,000RMB (US$80,000) so that students could obtain refunds in the event of the agency being unable to provide services. The proposed legislation will allow for provincial education authorities to be able to approve or reject agencies and ban foreign-based companies from entering the market.
It is thought that the direct recruitment of students from university international offices based in China would not be affected, providing the offices don’t engage with foreign agencies.
According to the official Xinhua News Agency, the ministry said that there had been examples of forged materials and clients being cheated out of money by unqualified agents. The ministry said that although non-Chinese agencies were not necessarily culpable of such practices, they were more difficult to regulate than Chinese-based companies.
English universities relying on non-EU student rises
THE UNIVERSITY SECTOR in England is relying on a predicted 24.5 per cent real-terms increase in income from non-EU student tuition fees in its financial forecasts for the next three years, according to a report released by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE).
The report, Financial health of the higher education sector: 2011-12 to 2014-15 forecasts, revealed no institutions are currently at risk of insolvency. However, financial forecasts are increasingly dependent on the sector achieving recruitment targets, both in domestic and international students, HEFCE warned.
Non-EU tuition fee income has increased by 11.4 per cent per year for the last nine years in real terms, according to HEFCE, and in cash terms the sector is anticipating revenue from this source to rise from UK£2,513 million (US$4,015 million) in 2010-11 to UK£3,459 million (US$5,526 million) in 2014-15.
The HEFCE report cautioned it was too early to predict how the new Tier 4 student visa regime would affect recruitment of non-EU students in the medium term. “There is a significant risk that these new immigration restrictions, as well the UKBA’s decision [last] August to revoke London Metropolitan University’s licence to sponsor students from outside the EU, will have caused some reputational damage to the UK. This could result in a slowdown of international student recruitment that is not reflected in institutional forecasts,” the report stated.
Data from UCAS, the organisation that administers applications for UK university study, showed non-EU applications for 2013 courses with an October 2012 application deadline rose by 5.1 per cent, although this rate of growth was less than any of the previous three years. The financial report comes at a critical juncture for English universities as they transition from a public funding model to one of direct income from domestic student fees.