March 2002 issue

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USA tightens up security


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Acompromise bill on border security has been introduced in the USA calling for the implementation of the Student Exchange and Visitor Information Service (Sevis) tracking system, previously known as SEVP, by January 1, 2003.

The bill also ushers in strict new regulations for nationals from certain countries that are deemed to be sponsors of terrorism by the US State Department. Potential students from Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan and Syria will be required to pass background checks prior to visa issuance. All foreign students will be required to supply additional information, such as the names of people who could verify information about them and their home country address.

Nafsa, Association of International Educators, welcomed the provisions of the bill, which is expected to pass smoothly through the Senate. The association said the new regulations introduced "responsible controls while avoiding unnecessary and extreme provisions". No mention was made within the bill's provisions for the funding of the scheme in the long-term, although US$36.8 million in state funds has been allocated to the programme's development (see Language Travel Magazine, February 2002, page 4). Victor Johnson, Associate Executive Director for Public Policy at Nafsa, commented, "Nafsa, along with our colleague associations, will continue to seek ways to eliminate the fee [to be paid by students], or failing that, to reduce it and make it easier to pay."

Other provisions of the bill, which is a compromise negotiated between Senators Kennedy and Brownback, and Senators Feinstein and Kyl (who proposed initial reforms last year, see Language Travel Magazine, January 2002, page 6), include a requirement for all schools to report student "no-shows" to the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) within 30 days of the end of the enrolment period; and an electronic means of notification and verification regarding various aspects of student status - including new information such as field of study and port of entry.

Until Sevis is in operation, there are some transitional procedures that the bill requires to be put into place, the cost of which will be funded by the state. These include requirements that the INS notifies all institutions when a student accepted by them has entered the country; reporting of non-attendance of students to the INS; and notification from the State Department of student visa issuance. The Brownback-Feinstein bill also relates to other aspects of border security, such as a feasibility study for a North American perimeter security programme.

Jose Mendez, International Director of Zoni Language Centres in New York, welcomed the move to develop Sevis, but cautioned, "Our main concern now is to know what process to follow." He said that, to date, no information about Sevis' implementation had been forthcoming from the INS. "If we do not inform all our agents and contacts abroad, then we might lose some business."

He added that he was also concerned that the state government was trying to intervene with INS regulations, as one state Senator proposed that student "no-shows" be reported to state law enforcement agencies as well as the INS. Senator Lavalle, whose legislation will be considered, also proposed a fine of up to US$1,000 per instance for institutions that failed to comply.

CEC Network pushes for government interaction

The Canadian Education Centre (CEC) Network urged all delegates at its annual conference last year to sign a letter to Canada's Prime Minister calling for more governmental involvement in the area of international education. Anne Stockdale, Director of Communications at CEC Network, explained that it was hoped the initiative would "increase government attention to the area of international education", as Canada currently lacks a national export promotion strategy. A letter with 186 signatures has been sent to the Prime Minister.

Other initiatives introduced at last November's annual conference, which took place in Halifax, Nova Scotia, included the attendance of speakers from other international bodies who gave presentations to Canadian education providers. Stockdale said that one of the most popular sessions was about global marketing strategies and individual market response in competitor countries. This session was co-presented by Jill Griffith, Assistance Director, Government Relations at Nafsa; Jenney Scott, Director, Education Promotion at the British Council and Tony McKittrick, Manager of CEC Australia, who is familiar with marketing activities in Australia and New Zealand.

"CEC Network intends to continue the trend of adding outside speakers to future conference programmes," said Stockdale.

A total of 240 delegates attended the conference last year, and, according to participants' evaluation, 96 per cent of attendees rated the conference as good, very good or excellent.

An Agent Fair was also held after the conference, which was attended by 129 agents from over 40 countries. Agents were reported to be of high quality, with a serious interest in promoting Canadian programmes.

"Despite [some] concerns that the events of September 11 would negatively impact [on the event], the Agent Fair was successful by all accounts," said Stockdale. "Last-minute cancellations, due to visa problems, health concerns or other [reasons], were nicely balanced with the number of late and on-the-spot agent registrants."

Paulina Reyes, of Enlaces Mexico-Canada in Mexico, said the fair was well organised and in a beautiful destination. "Schools know we are reliable thanks to CEC's support and recommendations," she added.

Korean expenditure on study abroad rises

According to the Ministry of Finance and Economy in Korea, the amount of money sent or spent overseas from Korea surged in 2001, with US$12.8 billion being sent overseas to friends or relatives or spent on overseas travel expenses, including tuition fees for studying abroad.

The figures relate to the period from January to November and indicate a seven per cent increase in overseas travel expenses. The ministry attributed the rise to deregulation of financial controls, pointing out that the government had axed the US$5,000 limit set on overseas cash transferrals and the US$10,000 per case limit which had been in place for overseas tourism spending.

EdNZ extends links with Latin America

Education New Zealand (EdNZ), recently participated in a governmental mission to Latin America to extend business links with countries in the continent. EdNZ Chairperson, Lester Taylor, said he believed the mission would have significant benefits for New Zealand and for international education in particular.

The delegation, led by New Zealand's Prime Minister, visited Mexico, Uruguay, Brazil and Argentina. The group met fellow governmental contacts and in Sao Paolo, Brazil, an education and tourism event was arranged. "Agents in Brazil commented that interest was growing rapidly for [New Zealand] secondary schools and English language study," said Taylor. "One agency said they had more students than they had places available in institutions."

IDP launches online application system

IDP Education Australia is launching an online application system for all students interested in applying to courses at Australian universities, including English language courses. For no charge, students can apply to any university via the Internet and then receive post-application support via overseas IDP offices.

According to John Hilvert, IDP Communications Manager, "Not only will this streamline recruiting [for institutions], it will enhance the capacity of institutions to reach suitable applicants by integrating it with IDP's on-the-ground counselling and processing systems." For students in countries where there is no local IDP outreach office, there are secondary support systems available. Hilvert added, "We are also introducing a 24-hour, seven days a week pre-application counselling service, including a phone line for online applicants."

Other English language and foundation programmes are expected to be included in the next phase of the project this year, so all types of programmes will be available online. Multiple applications are possible for the student, while for institutions, IDP states that one of the benefits of this centralised service is a lack of paperwork.

The new IDP venture is similar to the service offered by privately-run US-based website, Embark.com, which allows students to apply online to many education institutions in the USA. Embark.com says that agents can use the system during counselling procedures, and according to Hilvert, agents can also be incorporated into the IDP system once it is up and running.

"Travel agents and educational consultants are an obvious market for us to partner with," he said. "We'll explore offering consultants an agreed commission on all effective referrals. Our system is designed to enable this. But first, we'll be focusing on usability, integrity and effectiveness."