||The UK introduces new rules for foreign student visas
The UK Home Secretary, Theresa May, has announced changes to the Tier 4 student visa system that will require all institutions wanting to sponsor overseas students to be classed as ‘highly trusted sponsors’ by 2012 and become accredited by a statutory education inspection body by the end of 2012.
Other changes include the cessation of work rights for student visa holders studying at private institutions. Students studying on degree courses will be able to work for 20 hours a week during term time while those at public sector FE colleges will be able to work for 10 hours a week. Post-study work rights will also be restricted so that from April next year, only those who have the offer of a skilled graduate level job from an employer licensed by the UK Border Agency will be allowed to stay in the country after their university course. Students will also not be allowed to bring their dependents with them unless they are postgraduate students at universities or government-sponsored.
English language levels for university degree students will also be raised to upper intermediate level (B2) while the level of English required for other courses will remain at intermediate level. May said that she expected the introduced measures to “reduce the number of student visas by 70 to 80,000 a reduction of over 25 per cent”.
Tony Millns, CEO of English UK, said that the association welcomed many of the measures introduced in May’s announcement. “Overall the package of measures is more targeted than the original proposals, and we shall be looking to work with UKBA and Ofsted to make sure that the majority of our member colleges who already have Highly Trusted Sponsor status can continue with that under the new arrangements.” Millns also pointed out that the UK’s international education sector had had five years of continuous change and sought reassurance from UKBA that there would be no further changes for two years in order to restore confidence in the country as a study destination.
Another change that has yet to be clarified by the UK government is the plan to streamline the requirements from low risk countries and prioritise resources on high-risk students.
Ireland launches ‘Education in Ireland’ brand
A new ‘Education in Ireland’ brand was launched during a conference in Dublin at the end of March, which was attended by 80 stakeholders in the ELT sector in Ireland.
Orla Battersby, Head of Education in Ireland with Enterprise Ireland, launched the brand, which will promote higher education and EFL under the same umbrella. Other attendees included the new Irish Minister for Education Ruairi Quinn, David O’Grady, CEO of Marketing English in Ireland and Sue Hackett, Accreditation and Co-ordination of English Language Services.
The brand aims to double the number of international students in Ireland by 2015 and uses the tagline ‘World-class Standards, Warmest of Welcomes’. The initiative will promote Irish education in China, India, Saudi Arabia, Brazil and the USA.
Minister Quinn said, “Our success depends on the quality of our offer and our ability to tell our story internationally.”
Tax issue progress in Malta
The Maltese government has agreed to offer a partial rebate on its two per cent tax hike on accommodation providers.
The VAT increase, from five per cent to seven per cent, came into effect in January this year, and a number of schools complained that they had already taken bookings from students for accommodation and required a grace period to absorb the extra charges into their prices.
Now, a partial rebate will be paid back to those in the industry, according to the Times of Malta, which will be capped at e1.5 million (US$2 million).
Canada announces plans to introduce new immigration system
Citizenship and Immigration Canada has announced planned changes to Canada’s student visa system that are due to come into place in March 2012.
The plans were announced at the recent Languages Canada conference in March and include restricting the issuance of student visas to only those studying in an institution registered with Citizenship and Immigration Canada and the Provincial Territories. Students would be linked to a particular study institution during their time in the country and would be required to study at that institution for the duration of their visa. The institutions themselves would be required to ensure that students kept to the conditions of their visa and as well as conform to minimum standards for hosting international students.
A presentation outlining the plans at the conference stated that the changes would result in “greater confidence among immigration officers in bona fides institutions” as well as “a resources shift in the assessing bona fides of institutions to processing”.
Australian visa discussion paper
Michael KNight, a former Australian politician heading up the strategic review of student visas, has released a discussion paper on the subject and called for submissions from interested industry groups.
Some of the issues raised in the paper include visa charges, the number of assessment levels, visa processing times, English language levels, work rights during and after study and proof of funds to cover living costs. The paper also pointed out that 16 private education providers closed down in 2009 and a further 33 in 2010, leaving 11,686 students displaced.
Study Group acquires Pacific Gateway in Canada
Study Group has announced the acquisition of Pacific Gateway International College’s Canadian centres in Toronto and Victoria. From April 1, the two colleges will be operated by Study Group’s international English language training brand, Embassy CES.
Sean Hale, Managing Director of Embassy CES, said, “We are commencing work to ensure there is a seamless transition for current Pacific Gateway students and staff in these schools. And we will soon commence work on equipping these schools with the state-of-art language teaching technology that is a key component of all Embassy schools globally.”
Study Group has also announced that that they are to form a partnership with Imperial College Business School in the UK, part of Imperial College London, to deliver its distance learning MBA programme. The company will provide support services such as student recruitment and online enrolment for students. Marcel Cohen, Distance Learning MBA Programme Director, said, “By partnering with Study Group we benefit from the significant existing international expertise and support networks, while ensuring the continuing quality of student applications.”
ESL buys two German language schools
Swiss-based ESL Language Schools, part of ESL Education, has purchased two language schools in Germany, IH Freiburg and Prolog (also known as IH Berlin).
ESL already owns two French language schools for adults in Montreux and Lyon and also operates eight holiday camps for juniors in Germany, France and Switzerland. ESL has bought the schools in Germany in order to develop its German language teaching facilities, which were started four years ago.
Alain Vadi, Co-founder of ESL Language Schools, said, “We aim at maintaining the same level of excellence in the teaching of German as the one we have reached in the teaching of French in our schools in Lyon and Montreux.”
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