Australia acts on Esos review
All education providers in Australia that enrol international students will have to disclose to students the amount of commission they pay to agents, after certain recommendations made in the recent review of the Education Services for Overseas Students (Esos) Act were adopted by the Australian government in March.
The findings of the review Stronger, simpler, smarter Esos: supporting international students undertaken by former politician Bruce Baird, were published earlier this year. Other recommendations that have been adopted by the government include introducing financial penalties for a broad range of non-compliant behaviour by schools; and prohibiting a provider from enrolling a student who is currently studying with another provider and who has yet to complete the first study “period” of their initial course.
Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, said that many of the recommendations in the review were general in focus. She commented, “It will be critical for the government to continue to consult with the international education industry regarding the implementation process.”
Further recommendations in the review, currently not taken up by the government, include financial penalties for providers whose offshore agents act unethically and the prohibition of commission payments to anyone securing the transfer of any students that are currently studying onshore (aimed at student ‘poachers’).
The Esos Amendment Bill, which was passed by Parliament on 22 February and received royal assent on 3 March, also requires all international education providers to undergo a re-registration process by December 2010. Under the re-registration process, providers will have to prove that their principle purpose is to provide education and that they have the capacity to provide education of a satisfactory standard.
Providers will have to undergo different levels of quality assurance assessment depending on their perceived levels of risk. Some providers, for example, that have been assessed by another quality assurance provider, will be automatically re-registered with Cricos on the basis of their application form. Others, including new providers, will be required to undergo self-assessment, provide documentation to support the application or receive a site visit. The bill also requires providers to publish and keep up-to-date a list of all agents they use, both in Australia and overseas.
Blundell said that current Neas accreditation for language schools would meet the needs of re-registration and “the majority of colleges should not be required to jump any further hurdles”. She added, “It seems the focus will be on the [vocational] sector.”
In February, Education Minister, Julia Gillard, announced that an extra AUS$5.1 million (US$4.7 million) will be made available to the Esos assurance fund that is used to refund students affected by the unexpected closure of colleges while they are in Australia.
Canadian rule change affects Mexico
Mexican student numbers at Canadian language schools have dropped over the last nine months after Canadian visa rules were changed, requiring Mexicans to apply for a visitor visa to enter the country.
The new visa rules were introduced in Canada last July affecting visitors from Mexico and the Czech Republic in response to increasing rates of refugee claimants from these two countries. Since the new rules were introduced, the number of Mexican visitors to Canada have decreased by over 50 per cent, according to Statistics Canada. A total of 153,440 Mexican visitors entered Canada between July and December 2008, while in the same period in 2009, this figure had decreased to 74,316.
Ken Gardner from Vancouver English Centre in Canada said that the new rule had caused problems for their school, although things had been improving recently. “Initially, the sudden imposition of a visa requirement for Mexican citizens during our peak season resulted in many postponements,” he said. “Although some of our students cancelled their programmes, many others successfully reapplied for visas. I am happy to report that the situation seems to have normalized and the rejection rate is now reasonable. The number of Mexican students is currently near the normal level of 10 per cent.”
Han Steen from Universo Educativo in Mexico said that disorganisation at the Canadian Embassy in Mexico City immediately after the new rules were introduced also caused problems for students. “This resulted in an initial 25 per cent [visa] rejection rate, improving to below 10 per cent at the end of 2009,” he said, adding that other study destinations were benefiting as a result.
“The visa requirement by Canada does appear to be correlated to a 15 per cent shift to study elsewhere. These countries include USA, Ireland, France, Australia, New Zealand, the UK and Malta where we just sent our first five students. We expect this shift to remain for the future, thus opening up other language markets significantly.”
LTM celebrates 20 years
Language Travel Magazine celebrates its 20-year anniversary this year. The magazine has gone from strength-to-strength since its inception in 1989 and is now part of a range of products owned by independent publisher Hothouse Media.
Scott Wade, Director of Hothouse Media, said, “The magazine has changed a lot since the beginning. Along with Language Travel Magazine, we publish Education Travel Magazine, organise seven Alphe agent conferences a year, have developed online products such as Meeting Manager, Your World on Monday, InTouch and Studyzone and also run the annual Star Awards.”
UK introduces ‘highly trusted sponsor’ list for schools
The UK government has introduced its Highly Trusted Sponsor Scheme for education providers enroling student visa holders under Tier 4 of the points-based visa system.
Schools could apply to be added to the highly trusted sponsor list as of 22 March, as long as they fulfilled a range of criteria, including having a proven track record for monitoring their overseas students. Only schools on the new list will be able to enrol international students on courses at National Qualifications Framework level three or on courses that include work placements.
A sponsor applying to be added to the new list must prove that they have a minimum of six months as an A-rated sponsor and must have no more than two per cent of their students failing to enrol on their course within one month of the course commencing and no more than five per cent of their students failing to complete the course. An application to be added to the highly trusted sponsor list costs schools UK£400 (US$603) and the list was available to view from April 6th.
All sponsors will also be required to conform to the UKBA’s Sponsor Recruitment Practices guidelines, which require schools to ascertain the financial status and educational background of students as a means of assessing whether their application to study at the school is genuine. Guido Schillig from Anglo-Continental School in Bournemouth said that the document moves almost entirely the responsibility of assessing a potential student’s intentions, and whether a student is genuine, to Tier 4 sponsors in place of UKBA staff. “The primary purpose and business of a language schools is the teaching of the English language,” he said. “Staff employed in a language school are not trained or qualified, unlike UKBA entry clearance officers, to make meaningful judgements about the genuineness of documents or the genuineness of a potential migrant’s intentions. Therefore, language schools are the incorrect bodies to make such judgements.”
English UK is currently instigating a judicial review of the home secretary, Alan Johnson’s decision to prevent students with beginner’s English from entering the country for English language courses. Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, said, “It’s clearly absurd requiring students to know English before they come here to study it. We are already seeing evidence from agents, who book students onto courses, that they are saying the UK doesn’t want students any more.”
Meanwhile, in a protest against changes to T4 that relate to work rights and language levels introduced after a review in February (see LTM April 2010, page 6), Millns led a delegation of around 100 association members to lobby parliament at the beginning of March drawing support from 20 MPs including the Shadow Minister for Immigration, Damian Green (Conservative) as well as MPs representing key areas such as Oxford, Bournemouth, Poole and Brighton.
Geos NZ gets new owner
The former manager of Geos Christchurch has become the new owner of the three language schools formerly known as Geos New Zealand.
Justin Mastoyo, new Owner and Director of the group, said that the three schools, located in Christchurch, Wellington and Auckland, will be known as New Zealand Language Centres and will all continue to operate as going concerns. Mastayo added, “I am able to reassure everyone that the Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch schools are to all remain open and will operate as normal. There have been no administrative or teaching staff changes and our students will continue to receive the quality teaching and support Geos New Zealand is known for. We are ready to move into a fresh and exciting period of development and expansion.”
The Japanese-owned Geos chain was recently rocked with the closure of all eight Geos language schools in Australia (see LTM, March, page 7) amid accusations that advance tuition fees had been diverted to the parent company in Japan. New Zealand has a system in place whereby advance fees paid by students are held in an independent trust fund, which prevents this situation from occurring.
Shane Global Cape Town closes down
Shane Global language school in Cape Town, South Africa, has closed down due to “operational reasons”. The school is part of the Shane Global language school chain that also has schools in London and Hastings, UK, although these are reported to be unaffected by the closure.
Craig Leith, Chairman of Education South Africa (EduSA), said that the 23 students studying at Shane Global Cape Town had been relocated to another EduSA member school. “This was arranged so as to cause as little disruption as possible for the students,” he said, adding, “We wish to emphasise that this is not a reflection in any way on Cape Town as a destination or the industry in South Africa.”
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