June 2003 issue

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BC's spotlight on the UK

The British Council has launched a bold new photo campaign that aims to highlight modern and youthful aspects of British culture to appeal to prospective students. The striking photos are in a booklet that is to be distributed in British Council teaching centres overseas. The images will also be used in a set of posters and postcards.
The collection of photos includes images of Soho in London, Welsh beaches and Scottish countryside. Overall, the photos intend to encapsulate the experiences Britain can offer young visitors, and a large proportion of photos feature urban scenes. The target audience is 16-to-24 years.

Richard Law at the British Council, who was responsible for developing the campaign, said it was the first time students studying at the teaching centres had been targeted in such a campaign. ''It is based on research we did in overseas centres, which showed that for many young students it is the UK lifestyle and the chance to have exciting new experiences that motivates language travel, just as much as their educational aims,'' he said.

Meanwhile, the British Council held its first ELT Innovations Awards ceremony earlier this year for English language teaching centres and product developers. The ceremony, which highlighted progress and advances made in the field of English language teaching across UK companies, awarded three overall prizes, called ''Eltons'', for excellence and innovation.

Awards went to the University of Warwick, for its Listening to Lectures CD-Rom, which features 89 video excerpts of real-life university lectures; the Flo-Joe website, which provides online exercises and revision help for students preparing for the Cambridge Esol exams; and BBC Worldwide, for Goal, an integrated media course based on a football TV drama.

''Teaching methods have become increasingly sophisticated, with UK providers looking to engage students wherever they may be in the world,'' said Cherry Gough at the Council. ''The 'Elton' awards are designed to recognise the most innovative and effective methods of helping students improve their English.''

The awards are set to become an annual event in the UK.

Canada sees student growth

International student numbers in Canada increased in 2002, according to the Canadian Education Centre (CEC) Network, despite a change in immigration rules that distorted the statistics.

As students were able to study for up to six months without a study permit (student visa) from June 2002 onwards, the actual number of study permits issued overall dropped by seven per cent last year, according to Citizenship and Immigration Canada. But the CEC Network end of year report indicates that there was nevertheless a good increase in the number of permits issued from some countries and it reports increases in student enrolment numbers at a majority of language schools.

India was a key country that flourished in 2002, witnessing an increase of 67.4 per cent in study permits issued compared with 2001. CEC India attributed the rise to India's fast growing economy and Canada's appeal as a study destination. Vietnamese study permits were also up by almost 30 per cent on 2001, and increases in permit issuance were also noted from Thailand, Indonesia, Turkey, Malaysia and Korea.

Brazil and Argentina fared less well, with both the number of study permits and temporary resident visas - which are the tourist visas some nationalities need to study for under six months - declining in 2002. Mexico, an important market for Canada, saw the number of study permits issued rise in the period to June 2002 and then drop significantly - a factor that CEC Network says is explained by the fact that short-term study has always been indicative of the Mexican market.

Finally, as students in the southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong, Guangxi, Fujian and Hainan must now apply for study permits via Hong Kong, there was a corresponding decline in applications from China in 2002 (15.5 per cent) and 17.3 per cent rise out of Hong Kong.

In a further report, CEC Network looked at strategies for attracting international students and analysed strategies in competitor countries. Conclusions were that there must be some national ''policy capacity'' at federal level to compete with aggressive recruiting strategies overseas. Funding for education export promotion is low, and CEC Network's government grant is also being phased out in March 2005.

Other recommendations made by the report were improving facility for skilled students to apply for permanent residence in Canada and a strategy to attract mainly, although not exclusively, third-country international students currently in the USA, given the tightening of immigration scrutiny taking place there at the present time (see story right).

Visa delays into USA

College officials in the USA have complained to the government that international students applying to study in or re-enter the USA to continue with their studies are suffering from severe backlogs and delays in the visa issuing system.

A key problem is that students studying in some science and engineering fields are now subject to close scrutiny from immigration officials, due to an expanded Technology Alert List. The process of visa authorisation can now take months.

At least 20 instances have been cited of students unable to return to continue with their research projects. Princeton University's President, Shirley Tilghman, speaking at a hearing before the US House of Representatives, said this delay was also affecting graduate classes taught by overseas students. She warned that international students would apply elsewhere and the USA would lose its lead role in international research unless such obstacles were removed.

Tilghman advocated using a temporary validation system for foreign students travelling overseas for a limited time. Janice Jacobs at the State Department said such a plan was on the drawing board. However, problems are likely to remain in the meantime. Despite assurances that most new visa applications are handled in 30 days, and of increased visa staff and the use of new technology, Jacobs said, ''In the post-9/11 environment, we do not believe that the issues at stake allow us the luxury of erring on the side of expeditious processing''.

Meanwhile, the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS), responsible for immigration, has been dissolved and replaced with the Department of Homeland Security. There is concern that the department's Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services now has to liaise with a separate customs enforcement bureau on matters relating to Sevis.

More efforts to improve ability in Japan

Japan takes its nation's English language ability very seriously, and following plans to launch English language-medium high schools (see Language Travel Magazine, October 2002, page 5), the Education Ministry has now announced that it will subsidise sending 1,000 high school students abroad each year to improve their English language skills.

The idea is part of a five-year plan for improving English language education at high school that was unveiled earlier this year. A nationwide study of English curricula is to be undertaken to determine the best teaching methods, and governments at national and local level are to hold intensive training, to ensure English teachers meet a quality level, according to the Japan Times.

Overseas training programmes for teachers are to be expanded, and the Education Ministry will provide information about where students can study overseas and partially subsidise travel expenses for about 1,000 students for the 2003/2004 academic year. The government will also ask universities to include a listening comprehension section in university entrance exams in the 2006/2007 academic year.

Malta first to say yes to EU

Malta has become the first of 10 prospective European Union (EU) entrants to vote in favour of joining the EU. Despite some opposition from Maltese worried about losing their independence, a majority of 53.65 per cent voted yes to EU membership in March.

Feltom, the association representing English language schools in the country, was backing a yes vote, underlining that members' interests would be better catered for once Malta was an EU member. A spokesperson said, ''The industry depends on countries of the enlarged EU for some 80 per cent of all [English language] students. It is in the interest of all [schools]' to facilitate market access to their services.''

US citizens urged to be cautious overseas

Administrators at a number of US schools and colleges that participate in study abroad programmes are cautioning students to keep a low profile overseas. This follows advice from the State Department that citizens abroad face an increased threat of anti-American violence since the war in Iraq began.

US news sources reported that advice included avoiding wearing baseball hats, attending demonstrations or behaviour that draws attention. Many schools said that interest in study abroad remained as high as usual and no problems had been experienced. However, to be on the safe side, one school advised students to say they were Canadian.

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