March 2005 issue

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UK conference looks at global industry

Going Global, a conference organised by the British Council and intended to stimulate debate about international education issues, was held late last year in Edinburgh, Scotland. Key speakers included the new Chairperson of the British Council, Neil Kinnock, and the government's then-Education Secretary, Charles Clarke.
The conference's aim was to discuss issues such as transnational education, marketing, the role of English language in the world, government strategies relating to international education, e-learning and student trends. Tom Walsh at the British Council reported, ''Going Global attracted some 600 delegates from 55 countries. The quality, scale, overall content and organisation of the event were generally very highly appreciated, as was the venue in Scotland's capital city.'' He added that the conference's scope was ''wide-ranging: from marketing for international students to the role of international education in development''.

During the conference, language researcher, David Graddol, revealed preliminary findings from his research, The Future of English. He forecast that two billion people - one third of the human race - could be learning English by 2010-2015 .

Clarke used the conference to reassure those working in the UK industry that his department would work closely with the Home Office to improve student visa processes. He also pledged to offer more support to students in the UK and to work with the British Council to help students with scholarships, when challenged by Kinnock to start another initiative to bolster international students in the higher education sector.

One of the stands sponsoring the event was Dubai Knowledge Village (DKV), which was aiming to illustrate the potential for education to cross national borders. ''It was a very productive conference,'' said Abdulla Al Karam of DKV. ''The conference was [lookings at] the expansion of education models outside their countries of origin and DKV, with its collection of 15 academic institutes from nine different countries, showcased one of the ultimate examples of an international institution.''

Ireland rescinds work rights

International students hailing from countries outside the European Economic Area (EEA) will not be able to work part-time for 20 hours a week while in Ireland from 18 April onwards, unless they are studying for at least a year and will gain a recognised higher education qualification. The decision, announced by the Irish Minister for Justice, Michael McDowell, was made in light of visa abuse, he said.

Submissions are being made to the Department of Education and Science for changes to the new rule in the hope that the clause relating to qualifications can incorporate the English language teaching (ELT) sector. Tom Doyle at MEI~Relsa said, ''We have suggested Acels [Advisory Council for English Language Schools]-recognised qualifications be included as qualifications recognised by the Minister for Education and Science.. [and] that the time restriction be reduced to 24 weeks.''

The impact otherwise on non-EEA students would be significant, with The Irish Times reporting an estimated loss of e100 million (US$130 million) in Ireland's language teaching sector. The effect on the valuable Chinese market would be particularly felt, and goes against government policy to boost numbers from China.

''Allowing all students access to the labour market made sense when [the law] was introduced in 2000, but it no longer does, with the evidence of widespread abuse in the sector,'' McDowell said in late December. ''The changes being implemented will eliminate the attractions for those who seek to abuse the system.''

McDonnell added that he will put additional resources into improving visa services for students. The move comes in response to the report, Internationalisation of Irish Education Services (see Language Travel Magazine, January 2005, page 6), produced late last year, which recommended such changes to develop and support quality in the international education sector.

Meanwhile, a new statutory body, Education Ireland, is to be set up, also in response to the report's recommendations. According to John Lynch of the International Education Board of Ireland (IEBI), it is envisaged that the IEBI and Acels, which accredits English language schools, will combine their roles to form the new statutory agency. Other recommendations made, such as ushering in mandatory regulation for English language courses of more than three months and a quality Education Ireland mark, are expected to be adopted in due course.

Lynch said he thought the government backing of a central agency for the international education sector ''a great step and [it] will propel us on to much greater development in this area''. A further change to be ushered in is that students on short-term courses can only remain in Ireland for a total of 18 months, if they seek permission to remain, once in Ireland.

OISE add Regent to their group

School group OISE, which operates its own-brand schools and others, has bought out Regent, a language school chain with seven centres throughout the UK. As has been the case with its other acquisitions, OISE will operate Regent separately under its own brand and OISE sales offices will not promote Regent schools but continue to sell OISE branded schools only.

Geoff Hardy-Gould, Managing Director of Regent, commented, ''This is an excellent deal for both Regent and OISE. It gives Regent increased strength in the global marketplace and gives the OISE Group another strong brand and increased market penetration.'' The other brands owned by OISE are Pilgrims, Basil Paterson, Central School, Newbury Hall and Harven School of English, all in the UK. ACE in Madrid, Spain, is also a member of the group.

Previously, Regent had been owned by a small venture capital firm and Peter Taylor, representing the vendors, said, ''The board of Regent Education Group felt that OISE was by far the most suitable strategic partner for Regent. The OISE directors have many successful years' experience of the ELT business and this can only help drive Regent onwards.'' OISE Owner and Chief Executive, Till Gins, will act as a Director of Regent, alongside Hardy-Gould and Finance Director, Andrew Meyrick.

Open Doors: ELT demise

English language student enrolment figures for the 2003 calendar year have taken a tumble compared with the previous year, according to the latest Open Doors survey, which measures the number of international students entering the USA each year. In the previous year's survey, relating to 2002 intake, 51,179 students were recorded across 174 institutions, whereas in 2003, Open Doors data reveals that just 43,003 students were registered across 181 institutions. As the data is already over one year old, the current state of the market could be even worse, as the impact of the new Sevis fee, introduced last year to fund the Sevis student tracking system, is widely believed to be a further deterrent to international students.

In terms of the main countries of origin, Japan, Korea and Taiwan remained unchanged in their respective positions of first, second and third biggest providers of students for the English language sector, but both Japan's and Taiwan's market share decreased on the previous years. When looking at the data by student weeks, Korea was in fact the most significant source country, narrowly followed by Japan, and these two countries accounted for 51.4 per cent of the total student weeks recorded, which was 495, 939 weeks. Again, Japan and Taiwan lost market share in terms of student weeks.

Markets that performed well in 2003 include France, Turkey and Korea. Among those markets that have seen the most significant declines in student numbers are the Latin American countries of Brazil, Mexico and Venezuela.

Swan School of English, UK, closing

A language school in Oxford, UK, is closing down in the spring, citing ''current market trends and increasing competition from state-funded courses'' as reasons for the closure. The Swan School of English has been running for 40 years and its staff has developed in-house teaching materials and written successful ELT books, according to H A Swan, Co-Founder and Principal of the school.

She said, ''The pressure to change [operations at the school] and not, we feel, for the better, has become too strong. To continue to be commercially viable we would inevitably have to lower our standards. We would like the Swan School of English to be remembered for what it has achieved and are not prepared to compromise [on the issue of standards].''

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