|Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, told delegates, 'Our vision is to be the world's leading language travel association.' The association has over 330 members who joined from now-defunct Arels and Baselt.
More members are expected because of new government rules on accreditation (see left) and Simon Freeman, Deputy Chief Executive (Professional Services) said the association was seeing high levels of interest in its accreditation consultancy service.
Announcing services planned for the future, Freeman spoke of plans for a possible agent certification scheme as well as international accreditation.
Richard Truscott, Deputy Chief Executive (Business Services), responsible for marketing and recruitment, also outlined to members a marketing plan until the end of 2005, incorporating inward and outward missions, joint activities with the British Council and remote promotion. Countries targeted include Kazhakstan, Libya, Poland, Brazil, Mexico, Vietnam, Taiwan, Russia and Korea. English UK aims to provide a strong profile in these markets to accompany members' marketing initiatives. Working with agents is a key focus of English UK, added Millns.
Truscott commented that the focus of the new association was on spreading the message of quality provision and value for money. 'We want the UK to be the first-choice student destination, with quality as a cornerstone to our appeal,' he said, adding that the crackdown on bogus school operations in the new government regulations 'will dovetail very nicely with the message that we are trying to put out'.
Enforced regulation for UK schools
In its bid to stamp out illegal immigration into the UK, the UK government has turned its attention to the English language teaching (ELT) industry, announcing closer scrutiny of language schools and plans to issue student visas for genuine schools only.
A list of schools will be set up by the end of the year comprising accredited schools and those that the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) has checked and found to be genuine. This process is currently ongoing.
A Home Office spokesperson said, 'An institution that is either unknown to IND or who is not accredited will be vetted and if satisfactory, will be included on the list of genuine [schools].'
From next year, student visas will only be issued for schools on this list. The Home Office has also revealed plans to enforce accreditation among all ELT schools in the future. Although details were still being considered at the time of going to press, such a strategy is thought likely to be in place by early 2009, although initial announcements suggested such a scheme by the end of the year.
At present however, the Home Office has confirmed that it knows of the accreditation schemes managed by the British Council and English UK - English in Britain Accreditation - the Association of British Language Schools (ABLS) and the British Accreditation Council (BAC).
Home Secretary, David Blunkett, said international education was one of the avenues used by visa abusers. 'We cannot and should not shut the door to workers, investors, genuine students, relatives and friends from other countries. But we must... strive to ensure that our immigration system is robust,' he said.
A number of newspaper exposés into language schools offering to accept students regardless of whether they attended classes or not, as well as high-profile reporting of the collapse of Evendine College, may have influenced the government to act. It commissioned the British Council to produce a report into current regulation of the industry in order to assess any risks to students and to the UK's reputation.
Findings included the observation that less than half of UK schools are currently accredited; that there are no specific legal requirements to operate a private ELT school; minors coming to study English in Britain need regulation to protect them; more could be done to publicise the voluntary English in Britain accreditation scheme; and other countries, namely Australia, have comprehensive regulations involving immigration services.
As well as the move towards a list of genuine - and eventually, accredited schools - consultation will also take place about how best to notify the Home Office when students fail to turn up to class. More risk assesssment units in embassies to improve intelligence about possble visa fraud or abuse are also promised.
Deputy Director-General of the British Council, Robin Baker, welcomed the new measures. 'The UK has a unique reputation throughout the world as a quality provider of English language teaching. It cannot afford to jeopardise this reputation, nor can it ignore the risks posed by disreputable providers,' he said.
At English UK, which is encouraging ELT schools to join the association, Chief Executive, Tony Millns, added, 'There is a growing recognition among the non-accredited [sector] that the current position is unsustainable and that schools will have to achieve accreditation.'
The Education Department is also expected to make a statement soon about ELT regulation.
New Zealand backtracks over levy increase
The private English language teaching (ELT) industry in New Zealand is rejoicing after the government has reneged on its decision to make private ELT providers pay an increased levy to cover the costs of the money paid out to students last year when two prominent private language schools collapsed and left students without accommodation.
The Modern Age Institute of Learning and Carich Training Centre were the two high profile school closures, although other schools also suffered last year as student numbers dried up (see Language Travel Magazine, July/November 2003, page 4).
When the government initially stepped in to bail out students who were left without money for new accommodation - other schools accepted them in classes - Education Minister Trevor Mallard said, 'It is my intention to shift the levy which these language schools pay.. so it will cover these costs.' The industry reacted with outrage, claiming they should not be punished for the mistakes of other providers.
It was this opposition that seems to have shifted the mindset of Mallard, who announced his intention in April to remove a clause stipulating an increase from 0.45 per cent of fee income to 0.7 per cent of fee income for private providers only.
'Sector representatives had wanted more time to adjust to any possible increase in the levy to ensure their viability during a time of market downturn,' he said. 'They also expressed concern about being accountable for the business decisions of particular providers.'
The industry applauded the decision. 'Removing [the clause] from the education (export education levy) amendment bill ensures that private providers are on a level playing field with the public sector,' said Sandra McKersey, President of the Association of Private Providers of English Language (Appel).
Robert Stevens, Chief Executive of Education New Zealand (EdNZ), which had made strong representations to government about the proposal, added, 'We are absolutely delighted with the Minister's announcement. [It had] loaded the legislative gun. Thanks to the effective advocacy of EdNZ, it has not pulled the trigger.'
In February, Mallard announced a NZ$3.2 million (US$2 million) programme of research, quality assurance, promotion and professional development for the export education sector, to be funded by the levy. 'The industry is a hugely important industry to New Zealand, worth around NZ$1.7 billion (US$1 billion) a year,' he said.
In April, he also handed over management of the levy to EdNZ. Stevens praised the move to allow the industry to 'self-direct'.
Alberta, Canada imposes second language rule
All students in grades four to nine in the Alberta school system in Canada will be required to study a second language by 2011, it has been announced. The province's Learning Minister, Lyle Oberg, said the new rule would be phased in from 2006, one grade at a time, from grade four upwards.
Schools in the province are free to choose which languages to offer, although Alberta Learning is developing resources for Cree, French, German, Japanese, Mandarin, Spanish and Ukrainian. 'Schools may choose to offer [courses] developed by Alberta Learning, or they may opt to teach locally developed language courses, based on their communities' needs,' said Oberg.