Accreditation impact in UK
Confusion hung over parts of the UK at the time of going to press as to whether under-18 year old visa national students, using the child visitor visa category, could attend English language schools that are not currently accredited by a UK Border Agency (UKBA)-approved body.
While one school informed Language Travel Magazine that they had seen advice, dating April 6, from Moscow indicating that usual child visitor visa routes could be used by all schools, the official line on the UKBA website of 31 March was that no visa national, including child visitor visa holders, could attend an unaccredited institution. When asking the Home Office press office for clarification, the advice received was that the Tier 4 (T4) system doesn’t launch until autumn! The press officer was misinformed, as it launched on March 31, although the sponsor management system rolls out later this year.
While some unaccredited schools remain concerned over their recruitment of junior students from outside the EU this year, it was clear that many unaccredited schools were in the process of trying to obtain accreditation, either with ABLS or Accreditation UK. One school, Anglophiles Academic, said it had not pursued accreditation until now because the majority of its business was from France, therefore not a visa national country. “We are licensed in France and have a very high French client base,” explained Jean-Philippe Morris, who added nevertheless, “We do think [accreditation] is the right way forward.”
So far, 460 organisations applying for accreditation have been turned down, according to news sources, out of 2,100 institutions in total. Last month, Liz McClaren of the British Council Accreditation Unit acknowledged a fail rate of 33 per cent at this accrediting body, which had accredited 480 institutions when T4 went live (see LTM, May 2009, page 6).
Aside from Accreditation UK and ABLS, the latter of which only received UKBA approval in March, the two other UKBA-approved accrediting bodies, Asic and the British Accreditation Council (BAC), tend to cater for vocational and professional colleges Asic’s handbook states that it does not accredit institutions solely providing EFL. Costs in this sector are higher Asic has a starting cost for inspection and annual accreditation fee (for four-year term of accreditation) of UK£7,300 (US$10,944) for institutions previously accredited, rising to a maximum of UK£22,950 (US$34,408) for large institutions with over 400 full-time enrollments that have not previously been accredited. This is compared with estimated costs at BAC of UK£6,435 (US$9,648) to UK£35,750 (US$53,598). Asic had no accrediting experience prior to its UKBA approval in 2007 but has accredited 131 institutions. Meanwhile, fees at Accreditation UK range from UK£3,927 (US$5,888) to UK£6,948 (US$10,416), including an annual accreditation fee for the four-year term, while ABLS charges UK£3,750 (US$5,622) to UK£4,250 (US$6,372) over the same four-year period.
ELS boasts new centres overseas
ELS American Education Centers (AEC) has added new locations to its network in Istanbul, Turkey; Beijing and Guangzhou in China; and Hanoi in Vietnam. The American Education Centers, which also act as bases for agent training and US higher education promotion in foreign countries, first opened in China with a branch in Shanghai.
John Nicholson, Director of Marketing and Communications, said that the new locations were selected because of “the large and increasing demand noted for US higher education” in these countries, as evidenced by growth rates in student numbers from these countries to the USA. Of these three countries, Vietnam has posted the largest growth rates, with 45 per cent more students studying in the USA in 2008 although only 8,750 compared with over 80,000 Chinese studying in the USA in 2008 (nearly 20 per cent up year on year).
“ELS American Education Centers have the mission of promoting US higher education, ELS Language Centers, and ELS Agent Counselors,” explained Nicholson. “Each AEC serves as a platform for [overseas] universities to meet face-to-face with potential students and ELS agent counsellors. Additionally, the AECs serve as a conduit of knowledge about the multiple higher education opportunities that are available [in the USA], and how best to access them,” he added.
Students can start a preparatory course for a US-based degree programme at an AEC, and receive a conditional acceptance offer from one of 600 US universities. Nicholson commented that ELS’s agencies are very supportive about the development of AECs, which he has compared previously to the outreach work of the British Council, for example. “The ultimate objective is to increase the number of international students pursuing higher education in the United States,” he said.
ELS, which is owned by Berlitz, has also committed to fam trips; taking over 100 agents to visit US higher education institutions last year.
Mike Francis, MBE, honoured for work in UK
Mike Francis, Owner of Westbourne Academy in Bournemouth, UK, has received a Medal of the British Empire (MBE) in honour of his services to tourism in the south coast town. His language school has been in operation for 13 years, and he also set up the International Education Forum. Francis said he was delighted to accept the MBE, the first honour of its kind for services to the language school and education export industry.
He met with HRH Princess Anne at Buckingham Palace earlier this year at the acceptance ceremony. He said that he pointed out to Princess Anne that the industry is among the best-performing in the UK’s current economic climate.
UK university language centre opens branch in Second Life
The University of Essex International Academy (IA) is showing its state-of-the-art technology credentials with the announcement that it has created a second campus, an island in fact, in the virtual world of Second Life.
Second Life plays host to over 60,000 campuses and educational institutes, including Harvard Law School, Princeton and over a dozen universities in the UK. It is a user-created virtual platform that enables distance learning and interaction in an alternative “community” according to Iffaf Khan at IA, Second Life “allows students to interact on a very real level with their subjects, to access material from the comfort of their own homes and for participation on a global level”.
Not only is the campus hoped to attract new learners, but “real” students can use the Second Life campus to find out about life in the UK, get information about timetabling and observe classes in action. Khan said that the online campus is a secure and safe area and entry is by invitation only. “Second Life training for staff and students has already begun,” he commented.
IA plans to launch academic English courses later this year that are solely delivered in Second Life, while current students at IA can attend “virtual” lectures and conversation classes. The campus has a meeting and information area where students can ask members of staff for advice and support. “There is, in addition, a games area on the other side of the island,” added Khan, “where students and staff can play chess and a number of vocabulary-based games.”
The IA hired accomplished international Second Life builders and landscapers to construct its 65,000 metres-squared campus, which is based on the campus design in Colchester. It has eight classrooms, eight seminar rooms, a lake and the same Ivor Crewe Lecture Hall. Khan said, “A number of educational luminaries have already agreed to talk at our virtual lecture hall but we also hope to play host to our colleagues from other departments and universities.”
He said that students had been “very, very” positive about the advent of a virtual campus. “There’s been quite a buzz about it from staff and students,” he said. Southeast Asian students are expected to be particularly drawn to the idea of Second Life however: “This is because, although students from that part of the world tend to prefer face-to-face classes, there is a gaming culture there and active use of Second Life.”
Study Group opens university study centre in UK Midlands
A new International Study Centre has opened in the North Midlands, UK, in a joint partnership between leading international education provider, Study Group, and Keele University. The Keele University International Study Centre (KUISC) is the first of its kind in the region, and offers international students an opportunity to prepare for degree and masters studies at Keele University, including one option the KUISC Foundation Diploma which means students can then fast-track into the second year of a degree programme.
Managing Director of Study Group UK, James Pitman said he hoped the development would encourage the promotion of the Midlands as a quality international study destination. “The collaboration between Keele University and Study Group is a significant development in international education,” he said. “Through this public-private partnership, Study Group will actively support Keele in achieving its international student objectives.”
Rama Thirunamachandran, Deputy Vice Chancellor at the university, was positive about the development: “Students at the International Study Centre will be assured of a warm welcome and will be a part of the university community from day one.”