The excitement is mounting in the STM office as we announce that the voting period for the LTM Star Awards has now closed. The votes are now being counted and nominees will soon be informed of their success. The enthusiasm with which individuals greet the news that they have been nominated for a Star Award is always rewarding for us all in the office and reminds us that everyone in all levels of the study abroad industry appreciates being recognised for all their hard work.
For the first time this year we have decided to introduce a LTM Star Award category for vocational colleges and the votes for colleges in this sector revealed how the boundary between language and education travel is continually blurring. Many of the vocational colleges offer a range of language as well as vocational programmes and it is interesting to see how the vocational sector is developing to cater for those wanting to gain a vocational qualification while also perfecting their language skills. Our Special Report on the vocational education sector (page 26) highlights that demand for vocational programmes from international students around the world is growing, whether as a stepping stone from language programmes to other educational goals or as job-ready qualifications in their own right.
An understanding of the role of vocational education in international study travel is key for those involved in government policy making, particularly for those governments that view international students entering the vocational education sector as migrants looking for an easy way into the country. The UK’s recent Tier 4 visa review has introduced some challenging changes in the system recently, not least of which is the different criteria for those wanting to study in government-funded universities and colleges and those studying in the private sector (page 38). Two UK associations for language schools and private colleges are currently challenging the new changes (page 6), which penalise those applying for a visa to study in the private sector. For those businesses already struggling in the current economic climate, being penalised by the visa authorities simply for being a private business seems unfair and ignores the economic contribution such enterprises bring to the country. Many language schools and private colleges in the UK are calling for a level playing field when it comes to students applying for visas to study in the country and it seems unfair that this is not already the case.