UK tries to assert control over student visa process
The UK Border Authority (UKBA) is reported to have handed back increased powers to immigration officials to deny or accept international students as the new Points-Based System (PBS) descends into disarray.
Following the hastily-staged review of the PBS, which was still being considered at the time of going to press (see LTM, February 2010, page 6), and some unfavourable media reports about a hike in the number of bogus students arriving in the UK under the new visa system, the government is desperately trying to act to quell fears of more not fewer bogus migrants in the country.
The Daily Telegraph reported that the financial clause proof of funds in a student’s bank account to cover course costs plus monthly living costs was being abused by some applicants, who would simply borrow the money to satisfy visa rules and then return it to dubious lenders before embarking on their journey to the UK (as warned by Tony Millns of English UK and reported in our previous story). Adequate funds, appropriate language level and a place at an accredited school had been the main criteria that had to be met in order to be issued a visa under the new PBS, rolled out in April.
As a result of such concerns, Phil Woolas, Immigration Minister, has reportedly granted border agency staff the powers to inspect bank accounts on-the-spot during interviews conducted at airports. Meanwhile, on February 1, all Tier 4 student visa applications from North India (New Delhi, Jalandhar and Chandigarh), Bangladesh (Dhaka, Sylhet and Chittagong) and Nepal (Kathmandu) were temporarily suspended as a result of an upsurge in applications. This followed reports of similar action in Fujian province in China.
In another bid to retain control, UKBA suspended 52 schools and colleges from its Register of Sponsors in January, meaning they were unable to issue the confirmations of enrolment needed by new visa applicants. No specific reasons were given or timeline indicated as to when the suspension would be investigated and revoked.
There was consternation and shock in the English UK community, which represents over 400 of the accredited operators in the country, that the suspensions happened suddenly in January without reasons given and without allowing the schools many of them well regarded any immediate means of redress. Inevitably, there was an impact on business, although one affected school pointed out that all existing students continued to be taught well; only new applications or visa extensions were affected.
Neil Harvey, Director of Temporary Migration at UKBA, wrote to stakeholders to explain the action, citing “a high rate of no-shows and drop-outs” as typical attendance irregularities that led to the action. He promised prompt reinstatement if the irregularities were explained, but the UK sector was left with a bitter taste in its mouth amid fears of heavy-handedness to assuage political concerns.
CIBT takes over KGIC Education Group in Canada
Canada-based CIBT Education Group has signed a Letter of Intent to buy out KGIC Education Group in Vancouver, Canada, early in 2010. KGIC Education Group is made up of seven English language schools and business colleges in Canada (also known as King George International Colleges) as well as KGIC training centres and branch offices in China, Brazil, Japan, Korea, Taiwan and Mexico. In 2009, KGIC enrolled over 6,400 students.
Toby Chu, Vice Chairman, President and CEO of CIBT Education Group, said, “The addition of KGIC to our member group of companies will most certainly increase our exposure to the global education market and further realise our corporate vision of exporting western education to emerging countries in Asia and importing international students to study in Canada.”
Perhaps CIBT’s best known brand is Sprott-Shaw Community College, and Chu commented that this school, together with KGIC, are “commonly viewed as two of the largest private education players in Canada”. CIBT owns a network of business, technical and language colleges with presence at over 40 campuses including in Australia, Canada, China, Jamaica, New Zealand, the Netherlands, the Philippines, South Korea, the UK, USA and Vietnam.
Michael Henniger, Marketing Director at KGIC Education Group, told Language Travel Magazine that the school would retain its brand after the purchase. “The goal is to take KGIC to a truly international brand by expanding heavily into Asia,” he said. “CIBT has expressed interest in opening KGIC training centres in China.” On the operation side, there will be very little change at KGIC. Henniger said, “CIBT recognises the strength of the brand and the success it has enjoyed over the past 14 years. The continued expansion of KGIC will be guided by the current KGIC staff.”
KGIC opened two new campuses in Boston, USA and Halifax, Canada earlier this year. Henniger added that they would open further campuses in the USA over the next two years. “In terms of course offerings, KGIC will continue to focus on its current offerings and especially promote the English for Post-Secondary Education programme as a pathway for students who wish to enter post-secondary education in Canada,” he said.
Aoraki Polytechnic in NZ buys college and language school
Aoraki Polytechnic in New Zealand has bought Aoraki International College (AIC) and Aoraki English Language College in a bid to increase the number of international students studying in the Timaru area of the country (on the south island).
Kay Nelson, Chief Executive of Aoraki Polytechnic, said, “By adding the experience of Aoraki Polytechnic as a provider of quality and relevant education to the work of the existing colleges we believe we will provide an attractive option to the international student market.”
AIC Director, Adrian Kerr, said that after 11 years of operating both businesses, he was pleased that he could pass it on to “allow the business to grow and meet its full potential”. He said over 2,000 students had passed through the doors of both institutions (most of whom attended the language school).
AIC’s programmes will be assimilated into the polytechnic over the first three months of the year and new courses are expected, added Nelson.
Eight Geos language schools in Australia go into administration
GEOS English language schools in Australia have closed down after administrators were called in by its Japanese owners. An estimated 2,300 language students from around the world have been affected by the closure of the eight schools based in Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Cairns, Melbourne, Adelaide and the Gold Coast, while 390 employees have also lost their jobs.
Administrators Ernst and Young said in a statement, “The financial state of the companies is such that the schools are not able to be reopened. We are continuing to investigate and will report to key stakeholders in due course.”
A report in The Australian newspaper claimed that the Japanese owners of Geos had been diverting revenue from the collapsed schools to overseas operations. A financial audit by the Victorian Registration and Qualifications Authority raised concerns about the finances of Geos Melbourne last December.
As all of the schools were members of EA’s Tuition Assurance Scheme, all students affected will be able to finish their course at another school.
ELS Language Center closes in the USA
ELS Language Center at Southern Oregon University (SOU) in Ashland, OR, closed its doors last year as the university announced it would launch its own intensive English programme from January.
SOU Provost, James Klein, said that the new English programme was part of the university’s strategic plan to boost enrolment, revenue and student diversity. The university forged a partnership with Henan University in China in October last year to recruit international students and hopes to increase international student numbers at the university to five per cent of the total student body.
ELS at SOU was preceded by the American Language Academy, which folded in 2004 after more than 20 years at the site.
Navitas expands in Australia and enters US
Navitas is to set up a university pathway college on the main campus of Western Kentucky University (WKU) and has signed affiliation agreements with the University of Massachusetts Lowell and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth in the USA to provide undergraduate pathway and pre-masters programmes to international students. Navitas has also been selected by La Trobe University in Melbourne, VIC, Australia to manage and operate the existing La Trobe University International College (LTUIC).
The college at WKU is due to open in September 2010 and, along with the agreements with the two other US universities, marks the company’s first business dealings in the USA. Rod Jones, CEO of Navitas, said, “We are committed to establishing a footprint in one of the world’s largest education markets and believe this partnership complements our entry into the USA.” Jones added that he expected the new college at WKU to break even within 18 months. “By accessing the universities’ teaching and other facilities, as well as accommodation and administration amenities, we are able to minimise capital costs and maximise existing services,” he said.
A formal agreement between Navitas and La Trobe University was expected in early 2010 regarding the operation of LTUIC, which offers English language and pathway programmes for students wanting to study at the university.
La Trobe University Vice Chancellor, Professor Paul Johnson, said, “Navitas has demonstrable experience and commitment to delivering high quality education to international and Australian students and we believe Navitas is the right choice for LTUIC.”
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