The activities of governments can either make or break an international education industry and what’s scary is the speed with which national policies can change bringing far reaching consequences for those caught up in the midst. Language schools in Malta were reassured that the Spanish government grants for Spanish students learning English in the country would be kept the same at the beginning of this year, only for them to discover months later that the grants had in fact been reduced to take account of the lower cost of living in Malta compared to other language travel destinations (page 6).
The speed at which regulations can change is also a concern in the UK, with language and education providers worried about the impact of confusion for students and advisors regarding the many changes introduced to the Tier 4 visa system over the last few years. Look out for our special Direction feature focusing on the Tier 4 visa changes in the July issue of Study Travel Magazine, which will take a definitive look at the effects of these changes on providers in the UK.
However, in some countries government policies have been helping the industry with a new quality assurance body announced for vocational providers in Australia (page 19) and a new government-led promotional body for international education in New Zealand. These measures show the seriousness with which some governments are viewing their education export industries and regulating and unifying the industry can only be a good thing.
Favouring certain sectors of the industry, however, and issuing different requirements for different education providers can bring up its own complications. This is highlighted in the UK where government funded universities were automatically given ‘highly trusted sponsor’ status under new visa regulations introduced last year while private institutions had to prove their status. The news that a UK university is currently under investigation for illegally letting students work during their studies questions the wisdom of having different requirements depending on the sector of the market as no-one it seems is immune from breaking the rules.
Our ‘industry issues’ question this month reveals that higher and vocational education are growth sectors for agents worldwide and there are many benefits for governments who tap into this demand in a sustainable and open manner.