|A positive direction?
What a lot can change in a short space of time. I happened to find myself re-reading my Opinion piece from the November issue last year, in which I commented on the apparent appetite being shown by various governments for greater involvement and backing of their respective education export industries.
It is a different story less than six months later, with the UK currently reviewing its student visa system with the threat looming that more stringent requirements may be introduced; a far cry from relaxing the rule barring complete beginners from entering the country on a student visa that I had suggested might eventually be achieved through industry mobilisation and a receptive official ear..... UKBA is also not endearing itself to the industry by suspending professional schools from its Register of Sponsors for alleged irregularities without any notice (page 6).
Meanwhile, in Ireland, there is disdain that the government seems to be stalling on its stated commitment to capture a greater share of the international education market, with educators claiming in the press that delays in visa issuance are costing them students.
While governments grapple with streamlining strategy and enabling export success while safeguarding political concerns related to that indefinable hot potato “immigration” (I notice that UKBA is referring to a Temporary Migration department now, at least reinforcing here the distinction between short-term and permanent migration), it is over to the education sector to yield more decisive news in this issue.
A large Canadian corporation, CIBT Education Group, has announced its acquisition of fellow Canadian corporation, KGIC Education Group, with plans to further realise its “corporate vision of exporting Western education to emerging countries in Asia” (page 6). Meanwhile forward-thinking universities are also getting in on the act: a New Zealand institution has taken over two local private colleges to enable greater through-traffic on to its programmes, and a US university severed its relationship with a resident IEP to forge its own Asian-centric English language department and plans (page 7).
Ultimately, governments worldwide have to balance the opportunities that international education brings both financial and cultural against the risks of abuse of a visa system. While they struggle with this, individual colleges are intent on moving in a positive direction.