|Confusion over US accreditation of college English courses
A statement issued by the US Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has caused confusion as to whether English language programmes run by universities and colleges need specific ESL accreditation, leaving many at risk of not being able to recruit international students.
The Accreditation of English Language Programs Act was established in December 2010, requiring all English language training programmes be accredited or have applied for accreditation by December 15, 2011. It was thought that university-governed programmes were accredited under the umbrella of their host college or university. However, in the statement SEVP said that combined training programmes would be required to submit evidence that its ESL programming was in compliance with the Accreditation Act and in the event that SEVP believed the ESL programming was not adequately accredited, would request that programme be removed.
In a joint statement, the American Association of Intensive English Programs (AAIEP) and the Consortium of University & College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP) urged SEVP to clarify its stance and the evidence required. “The intention was to hold accountable unaccredited stand-alone Intensive English Programs (IEPs) and not those under the governance of a university or college that have been accredited by a regional accrediting agency recognised by the US Department of Education,” said a joint statement.
The confusion has re-opened debates about whether combined IEPs should like stand alone IEPs be accredited by the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training or the Commission of English Language Program Accreditation. Michael G. Milne, Founder and Director of Access International Business Institute, said SEVP had exposed a loophole unforeseen by legislators. “Stand alone institutions must go through accreditation, and university IEPs who are simply ‘accredited’ because the host institution is, can relax.”
Conversely, Karen Hurley at the Intensive English Language Centre at California State University, said, “University-based IEPs follow the strict standards of the institutions that they report to and they are educationally legitimate programmes as mentioned in the [AAIEP/UCIEP] memo.” At the time of writing, SEVP had not responded to the joint statement.
US and European university partnerships for CEG
Cambridge Education Group (CEG) has announced two new university partnerships from September in the USA and Europe.
ONCAMPUS Boston is a deal to prepare overseas students for the second year of a US degree with three New England institutions: Wheelock College, Southern New Hampshire University and Rivier College. Meanwhile, Amsterdam FoundationCampus is a partnership with the University of Amsterdam that will offer students the chance to progress to the International BSc in Economics and Business.
Fergus Brownlee, CEO, outlined a new phase of growth and global expansion. “Both partnerships will continue our commitment to providing quality outcomes and strong pastoral care for international students in highly attractive destinations.” He added that CEG would broaden overseas operations with a quality over quantity approach, predicting growth in pathways and high schools. “We will be working closely with our network of agents and key recruitment markets to identify the most suitable territories for new ventures.”
New German rules as reports says Europe losing keen overseas graduates
Germany has approved more generous post-study work rights for international students, following the release of a European comparative survey into post-study intentions that claims opportunities to transition highly educated international students into the labour market after graduation are being lost.
The survey, Mobile Talent? The staying intentions of international students in five European countries, was conducted by the Research Unit of the Expert Council of German Foundations on Integration and Migration (SVR) in cooperation with the Brussels-based Migration Policy Group (MPG), with 6,239 international Master and PhD students at 25 universities across Germany, France, Sweden, the Netherlands and the UK taking part.
The report discovered that Germany had the highest rate of students intending to stay after study 79.8 per cent of Masters students while the UK had the lowest at 51.4 per cent. However, the report referred to OECD data on student retention that showed generally only around 25 per cent stay to work beyond their studies. Director of the SVR-Research Unit, Dr. Gunilla Fincke, said, “The study clearly shows that none of the five countries is fully utilising the potential of international students.”
The survey suggested that the vast majority of students intending to stay only wish to do so temporarily, with just 12.5 per cent in Germany planning to stay more than five years. “Studying abroad and gaining employment experience afterwards are seen as a ‘complete package’,” said Fincke.
The SVR-Research Unit has been lobbying the German government, which has recently approved more generous post-study rights. Students will be able to stay for 18 months to seek work, with no restrictions on jobs taken while looking for permanent employment. A permanent resident’s permit will be issued after two years.
Becas budget cuts threaten business
Spanish government cuts to the Becas Mec Scholarship for 2012 have shown signs of affecting agency business, while changes to the scholarship conditions have caused confusion.
According to reports in El Mundo, the budget for scholarships has been reduced to €24.5 million, down from €51 million last year, when a reported 27,000 students benefitted from the means-tested study abroad scholarship. The 2012 Becas scheme has retained the staggered system of scholarships available per destination that was introduced last year, ranging from €1,245 for Malta to €2,645 for Australia.
Oscar Porras Sánchez of Spanish agency Midleton School said the cuts could threaten business. He advised Becas students represented around 25 per cent of their trade last year, but that this year they hoped to increase business in other sectors. However, he added, “There are a good number of agencies for whom the big market is the scholarship students and it is very likely that some might close this year.”
Brian Christiansen of agency Tec-Idiomas reported a drop of around 50 per cent in Becas enquiries compared with the same time last year, although he added, “It is difficult in Spain this year, so we don’t know if this is because of the scholarships or the economy.” He also advised that the Becas scholarship is a relatively small area of business for them, but it could be more damaging for others. “Some agents are really worried this year,” he said.
A downturn was also reported by Elinor Zucchet at Barcelona-based agency Timpany Languages. She added stricter qualification requirements would also make it more difficult for students to apply. “We’ve definitely received less enquiries than at the same time last year, but it is still too early to tell as many students wait to be sure that they got the scholarship before booking anything.”
Agents were also critical of the government for the lack of clear guidance on this year’s scheme. “It is extremely difficult to find detailed information,” confirmed Zucchet. Although perhaps not surprising in light of the current economic situation, said Sánchez, the government had not given any prior indication of the reduction.
One particular area of uncertainty this year was whether eligible courses should be 20 lessons per week or 20 hours per week. However, Alex Fenech, President of Maltese language school association, Feltom, said they had received confirmation from the Spanish Embassy that lessons of 45 or 50 minutes would be acceptable.
Canada closes visa sections in key market
Citizenship and Immigration Canada (CIC) has closed the Visa and Immigration sections at Canadian embassies in Germany and Japan, as well as the Canadian High Commissions in Malaysia and Bangladesh.
These markets will now be serviced by: Singapore (for Malaysia and Bangladesh); Manila (for Tokyo); and Vienna (for Germany). A statement on the CIC website said the closures were part of a programme to modernise and streamline operations to where capacity exists.
The sudden announcement surprised both advisors and Canadian schools. Katrin Schauer at German agency GLS Sprachenzentrum said even contacts at the embassy were unaware of CIC’s plans. “We don’t know how good the embassy in Vienna is. We just hope they are as speedy and competent as the Berlin office.”
At the time of writing, Miki Harada of Japanese agency Ryugaku Journal confirmed that they had been waiting for confirmations from Manila for almost four weeks. Standard issue times at the Tokyo office were two-to-three weeks, suggesting some disruption to students.
New Zealand speeds visas for specialist agent students
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between Immigration New Zealand and Education New Zealand has been signed to improve visa processing times for international students who use an approved agent.
Students applying through New Zealand Specialist Agents (NZSA) will have their visa applications processed within 10 working days. A dedicated point of contact for NZSA members within all Immigration New Zealand branches will also now be available.
New Zealand’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister, Steven Joyce, said the announcement was an example of government departments working together towards the goal of doubling student numbers within 15 years. “Only by the government working closely with the sector, and developing initiatives such as this that support growth, will we achieve that goal.”
Constanze Baarlage, a New Zealand Specialist Agent at TravelPlus Group GmbH, welcomed the announcement, although she added visas are usually processed within that timeframe. “It is a good thing that we can use for marketing purposes. We are often asked about the specialist agent logo, so it is great if we can say that this guarantees a visa in a certain time,” she said.
The New Zealand Specialist Agent scheme was launched in 2008 and accredits agencies, with a member of the senior management team or owner required to attend the in-country training workshop.
Mandarin House expands to Guangzhou
Mandarin House has opened its third Chinese language school in the city of Guangzhou, adding to centres in Beijing and Shanghai.
Located on the 10th floor of the iconic Victory Plaza in the Tianhe business district, Mandarin House Guangzhou boasts air-conditioned classrooms, a student rest area, and PC stations with free Wi-Fi. The lower floors of the Victory Plaza comprise a shopping mall and food court, and attractions such as the Guangdong Museum are nearby. Courses include intensive classes, options to learn Chinese characters, private tutoring for individuals or small groups, tours and summer camps.
Guangzhou is China’s third largest city and home to hundreds of international companies. Jasmine Bian, Founder and President of Mandarin House, said, “According to our research, not being able to understand and communicate in Chinese is often the single largest barrier to doing business or enjoying life in Guangzhou. As such it was a no-brainer to expand to Guangzhou and give these people the language training they need.”