|UK’s Extended Student Visitor Visa a success
Introduced as a ministerial concession in January 2011, the Extended Student Visitor Visa (ESVV), available to non-EU students studying on courses lasting between six and 11 months, has been hailed a success by school association, English UK.
In a letter to Immigration Minister, Damian Green, association CEO, Tony Millns, highlighted the visa scheme’s many positives, including a low visa application refusal rate (eight per cent among member schools), the “very” high return home rate and the fact that more than 80 per cent of students using it reached the language level required for a points-based visa. “The results are very positive and indicate, we believe, that not only should the visa be continued, but it should be made rather more permanent by being written into the Immigration Rules,” said Millns.
English UK made several suggestions as to ways in which the regime could be tightened including that all language schools recruiting students on the ESVV be subject to Accreditation UK inspections (the quality assurance scheme administered by the British Council and English UK) and that data from e-Borders the electronic border control system that collects and analyses information on people entering and leaving the UK be used to flag member centres where there had been evidence of students overstaying.
English UK member schools were pleased to report that 93 per cent of ESVV students later applied for another course and returned to the UK on a new visa, suggesting a significant proportion had returned home as required.
Millns concluded, “The average length of course ESVV students attended was 32 weeks, pretty much as envisaged in the reasoning for its introduction. Around 85 per cent of students reached level B1 by the end of the course, again suggesting that this visa is doing what was expected in its conception.” The ESVV route is currently under review by UKBA.
Hutong school opens in Shanghai
Hutong School has opened a new Chinese language school in Shanghai, adding to its two existing centres in Beijing.
The school is located in a renovated factory building at the border of the Former French Concession area and Jing’an, one of Shanghai’s business districts. The school offers Intensive Chinese classes for all levels as well as tailored programmes, and also specialises in internship and volunteer placements for international students.
“Hutong School isn’t like any other Chinese language school,” said Haike Bruneel, Sales and Marketing Officer. “What makes it unique is the fusion of a special teaching method together with unique locations held together by unparalleled community spirit.”
A grand opening party was held on the school’s rooftop terrace and featured a mask switching and acrobatic show.
London student accommodation brand launched
Pure Student Living has launched as a new student accommodation provider and is offering rooms for the 2012/13 academic year at its first facility, Pure Highbury, in North London.
Pure Highbury will be a 400-bed private residence near Finsbury Park underground station and within 20 minutes of 18 universities. Study-bed or studio-type rooms are offered. Packages include 10Mb Internet provision, all utility bills, a 24-hour gym, 24-hour security and contents insurance provided by Endsleigh Insurance.
Communal spaces will include a games room, outdoor terraces, an iMac computer suite, and a cinema room. Advisors will also be available to assist students in a range of areas.
Further residences are due to be added across London in 2013 and 2014. Pure Student Living was founded by The Carlyle Group, which recently pioneered the Student Hotel brand in the Netherlands (see STM, September 2011, page 10).
China-US university commences from 2013
China’s first Sino-US higher education institution, co-established by New York University and East China Normal University, has been approved by the Ministry of Education and will admit undergraduates from 2013. The New York University Shanghai will accept 300 students in its first year, with 51 per cent coming from the Chinese mainland. An initial range of seven majors will be taught in English and a brand new campus in the Pudong Lujiazui financial area is being constructed. Yu Lizhong, President of New York University Shanghai, said, “This is an important advance in developing China’s higher education and boosting its internationalisation.”
News in brief
Cambridge Esol unveils Facebook English game Cambridge Esol has created a social media game to help English language learners improve their skills. Players of Academy Island, available on Facebook, guide an alien landing on Earth through daily life by using English to communicate with society. Lorna Pedersen, Digital Marketing Manager at Cambridge Esol, said, “Educational computer games can be a really good way of exposing learners to the English language and this has been the driving force behind Academy Island. We’ve worked with experts to create an environment which encourages learners to improve their key language skills in a progressive but fun way.”
Four new members for Ialc
The International Association of Language Centres (Ialc) has announced four new members, which were introduced recently at the association’s 2012 workshop in Toronto. Jeffreys Bay Language School in South Africa, the European School of English in Malta and its sister school, The Executive Training Institute, and Taronja School from Valencia, Spain, have joined the association. Ialc President, Alexandra Borges de Sousa, said, “I am delighted to welcome these excellent schools into Ialc. Each offers high quality language training in a unique setting and enhances our global network.”
Japanese universities seek new markets
Universities in Japan are looking to India and the Middle East to recruit international students, as international recruitment figures remain subdued.
Japan had a large presence at the recent International Education Conference and Exhibition in Saudi Arabia, with 18 universities and seven language schools in attendance. According to Japan Student Services Organisation (Jasso) figures, in 2011 there were just 336 Saudi students at Japanese universities, with the Middle East overall only representing 0.7 per cent of the international student body.
Meanwhile, the new Bangalore recruitment office of the University of Tokyo is the first for a state-run Japanese university in India. The university had only 35 Indian students in 2011 compared to over 1,000 from China. The private Ritsumeikan University, which had no Indian students last year, has also opened an office in New Delhi.
As the 2012 academic year commences, institutions are reporting mixed international enrolments. The University of Tokyo has quoted a one per cent decline, while Waseda University’s School of International Liberal Studies, one of Japan’s most internationalised programmes, is reporting a 25 per cent drop.
This year’s enrolment is the first real test for the tertiary sector following last year’s earthquake. The timing of the disaster was just before the 2011 academic year and most students had already enrolled. Overall, international student numbers fell 2.6 per cent in 2011. However, larger declines have been felt in training colleges, university preparatory colleges and private language schools, and are expected to have a knock-on effect on universities. .
BSC and London Nest open new residence
British Study Centres (BSC) has unveiled a new student residence, in a partnership with London Nest, featuring four double and four twin en suite rooms, with a large kitchen and courtyard area for socialising. James Baker, Director of BSC’s London school said, “We are thrilled with our new superior student house and feel it gives our students an excellent standard of accommodation in a brilliant area of London.”
James Herbertson, London Nest Director, said, “We are delighted to work with BSC to give their students the accommodation they need. Students want en suite, close-to-the-centre accommodation that’s independent, year round.”
Scottish colleges call for Highly Trusted Sponsor reform
Scotland’s Colleges, an organisation representing the country’s college sector, has called on the UK Border Agency (UKBA) to relax Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) regulations for institutions with smaller numbers of international students, after two colleges had licenses revoked and others were downgraded.
The revocations for Cardonald College and Stow College, both in Glasgow, were due to HTS rules that came into effect last year. The rules state that 85 per cent of non-EU students at HTS schools are required to complete their courses, and that no more than 20 per cent of visa applications from the school may be refused by the UKBA. The two colleges will need to wait until later in 2012 to reapply, meaning they may not recruit non-EU students on Tier 4 Student Visas until then.
John Henderson, Scotland’s Colleges Chief Executive, said in a letter to the Secretary of State for Scotland, “Colleges understand the reasons the rules exist. The issue lies in the applicability of these rules to what are institutions with smaller cohorts of international students than more often is the case with universities. The proportional measures of compliance can mean that our members risk losing their status due to circumstances often out or their control.” Only six colleges in Scotland have more than 100 international students, Henderson explained. “It can only need a handful of students to have their circumstances change before the college falls foul of the targets,” he argued.
Henderson also appealed for existing international students at Cardonald and Stow to be allowed to complete their studies. Following the license revocations, those that had already commenced studies were given 60 days to transfer to another provider or leave the country.
Kingswood opens new adventure centre
Kingswood Outdoor Education and Adventure Centres has opened the doors of its new flagship UK learning facility. The 50-acre Dearne Valley Centre, located near Doncaster in Yorkshire, is one of the largest outdoor learning facilities in the UK and has been adapted to provide onsite accommodation for 320 students.
Facilities include three IT labs, a bush craft area that has been designed to help visitors learn about the natural environment, and an outdoor classroom designed to encourage pupils to work in and gain inspiration from the natural surroundings. Activities such as high and low ropes, zip lines and climbing towers offer graduated levels of progression.
Kingswood Head of Education, Matt Healey, said, “We hope our programmes go beyond the traditional outdoor activity centre and offer pupils the opportunity to learn through doing and in doing so, gain confidence through the success.”
Kingswood provides a range of courses for international students at nine centres in the UK and one in France. It is part of the Education Travel Group and operates the Camp Beaumont summer camps.
Envisage International relaunches finance aid tool
Envisage International Corporation has relaunched IEFA.org, its international education financial aid resource with a new look, additional functionality and new resources.
The core of the site remains the listings of international scholarships and grants, which have been updated and will be continuously monitored. New advanced search options will allow students to find grants geared to their school, interest, destination and origin. A comparison tool is provided to allow students to search for international student and study abroad loans, based on their citizenship and school. A blog will also allow users to interact and keep up-to-date with important information.
Keith Clausen, President of Envisage International Corporation, said, “IEFA.org has helped countless students pursue an international education over the past 14 years. We wanted to ensure that it remains the most comprehensive, useful and targeted resource for international financial aid and funding.”
Virgin Atlantic is to relaunch flights to Mumbai, with a daily service from London Heathrow set to commence from this October. The carrier dropped the route in 2009 following falling demand and increased competition. The route is served by British Airways and Air India, but has since grown to become one of the busiest routes from Heathrow. Steve Ridgway, Virgin Atlantic Chief Executive, said, “Virgin Atlantic is proud to be flying to Mumbai again, linking this wonderful city to our key destinations of London, New York, Boston, Washington and Chicago.”
A couple of new connections between Turkey and the UK have been announced. Atlasjet has already commenced flights between London Stansted and Istanbul Ataturk Airport, becoming the first connection between the two airports. Meanwhile, from the summer Turkish Airlines will be running four flights per week from Istanbul to Edinburgh.
Etihad Airways has unveiled new plans and regional agreements that will allow the carrier to establish more of a foothold in the South American, European and Asian markets. The airline has announced that its first services into South America will commence soon, as well as a new connection to Ho Chi Minh, Vietnam. Etihad President and SEO, James Hogan, said, “This is a logical next step for us and will mark the sixth continent we serve and our coming of age as a truly global airline.” Meanwhile, an expansion of the airline’s codeshare agreement with Brussels Airlines will now include services to the French cities of Lyon, Marseilles and Toulouse. Hogan added, “We look forward to continuing to work with Brussels Airlines to also enable passengers from various points on their network to travel to Abu Dhabi and further afield.” Additionally, a Memorandum of Agreement with China Eastern Airlines, encompassing various codeshare and reciprocal benefits, has also been announced.
Qantas and China Eastern Airlines have announced a US$198 million joint venture that will lead to the launch of Hong Kong’s first budget airline. Jetstar Hong Kong plans to commence operations from next year, with both companies owning an equal stake. Short-haul budget flights to Japan, Korea, mainland China and Taiwan are expected to be among the first routes. Alan Joyce, Qantas Chief Executive, said the partnership was “a historic opportunity to continue the successful expansion of the Jetstar brand in this region”.
British Airways has added a number of new routes from London City Airport, as well as announcing other services. A flight to Venice from London City airport has been scheduled to commence from September. Also from the airport located in the Docklands area of the city the most centrally located of London’s airports BA has instigated services to Mahon in Menorca, Spain, and to the French destinations of Quimper in Brittany and the Loire Valley. Meanwhile, BA has launched a new service to Algiers from London Gatwick Airport. Additionally, the British flag-carrier has expanded its summer capacity to several destinations, with long-haul flights including Hong Kong and Riyadh, and additional short-haul capacity to many European capital cities boosted.
Spanish budget airline, Vueling, has unveiled a new permanent operating base at Rome-Fiumicino Airport. Initially eight routes will be serviced from Rome: Nantes, Barcelona, Malaga, Ibiza, Menorca, Mallorca, Valencia and Paris. The company has previously established international bases at Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Toulouse, France, and is looking to replicate the company’s expansion from those locations. “This is the first step to consolidate the growth of Vueling in Rome and Italy,” said CEO, Alex Cruz.
Latvian national airline, airBaltic, has increased the number of flights on its network across Europe, the Middle East, and Russia. The services from Riga to Zurich, Amsterdam, Munich and Brussels will all increase from daily to 12 times per week. A number of services have been reinstated from Riga for the summer, including Venice, Athens, Budapest, Nice and Dublin.
United Airlines has added a daily non-stop service from New York Newark to Buenos Aires, Argentina, to its schedule, complimenting the carrier’s existing connection between Houston and the Argentine capital. John Slater, United Airlines’ Vice President Sales for the Americas, said, “The New York/Newark-Buenos Aires route gives East Coast travellers direct connections between two of the major business and tourism destinations in the Americas.”