November 2002 issue

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UK workshops draw in crowds

The Alphe Workshop and the Arels International Language Fair held in the UK at the end of August, in London and Brighton respectively, both proved a success with agents and institutions that visited the events.

In London, a change of venue for the Alphe Workshop went down well with attendees, while the event itself was praised for its usual good organisation, quality agents and relaxed atmosphere. "I've been very pleased," commented Nathalie Philippe of Formalangues agency in France, at the event. "It's a small workshop but I think it's better, the fact that there are less people [means] you have more time to speak together. There's been lots of interesting schools and [my schedule] has been almost full."

Fellow agent, Betty Wolff, from BEW Network in Argentina, added, "Because of the situation in South America, we need more colleges and universities and online programmes and not so many language schools, and that's been good for us [here]."

Institutions attending the workshop praised the good mix of agents and educators. "A lot of care goes into keeping the right kind of numbers," said Martin Von Schuppler from International Quest in the UK. "The quality of agents as usual has been of a very high calibre." Cassandra Everts, Marketing Manager at the University of Auckland's English Language Academy in New Zealand, added, "It's been outstanding, an excellent event. I never thought I would be able to meet so many agents from so many countries that we [can't] travel to."

In Brighton, the Arels International Language Fair was bigger than ever, with higher education institutions and independent schools from the UK attending for the first time. "Delegate numbers were just under 900," confirmed Abby Penlington, Marketing & Public Affairs Officer at Arels.

The three-day event included "talkshops" about school and agent relations as well as two days of appointments between institutions and agents. This year, schools remained at designated tables for both days, instead of agencies at tables for the second day, and most delegates welcomed the new arrangement.

"It may be more tiring, but anyway, you have to work," commented, Krasnomika Stasiak- Osiecka, of AB Centrum agency in Poland, who said the higher education representation this year was not really relevant for her, because "not so many people [in Poland] can afford to send their children to university abroad". Gabriella D'Urso, of International Language School in Italy, said she attended the fair every year. "The fair is really full [this year]," she said. "People seem to be really interested."

Dale Lockhart, Director of the Canadian College for English Language in Canada, said he preferred the format at the fair this year. "It's been easier to make appointments in advance," he said, "and there seems to be more agents and schools than there were in the past."

Representing the higher education sector, Stuart Bannerman from the University of Dundee in Scotland, who attended for the first time, said, "I will certainly go back to Arels because, as an [English language] provider, it is the event of the year."

Andrew Gillespie, at independent school d'Overbroecks College in the UK, added, "I was very pleased with the event and I was delighted to meet so many agents in such a short period of time. It felt very productive."

Revised visa rules for Australia

Efforts by key associations in Australia to push through changes to make the student visa legislation more workable have been rewarded. New revisions to the legislation come into effect on November 1, with revised assessment levels for a number of countries. Notably, the stringent category, assessment level (AL) 4, has been downgraded to AL3 for some countries and education sectors. Schools had been concerned that the high Ielts score needed by potential English language students from AL 4-rated countries was a deterrent to study (see Language Travel Magazine, September 2001, page 6).

Students from Bangladesh, Fiji, India, Iran, Nepal, the Philippines and Sri Lanka are all now AL3, although students from Vietnam, China, Laos, Lebanon, Jordan and Pakistan remain AL4. Other countries, including Korea, Mexico and South Africa, have shifted from AL3 to AL2, which means there are fewer restrictions on the acceptable sources of funds that students need to demonstrate and no requirements to have the funds for at least three months prior to application.

Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia (EA), said, "We are particularly pleased to see Korea changing from AL3 to AL2 as Korea is a major Elicos market." She added, "We believed the previous allocation of AL3 status did not reflect the fact that the majority of Koreans are genuine students." EA was also pleased that the default rule for countries not individually listed in the visa legislation has been amended. Now, all such countries, except three, have been moved to AL2. "This improves the industry's opportunity to develop these emerging markets without undue barriers in place," said Blundell.

However, there are still some problems that schools hope to resolve. EA is in discussion with the Department of Immigration, Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs (Dimia) about its decision to limit the ability to switch from a tourist visa to a student visa when in Australia to students from AL1 countries only. Blundell said that additional hurdles included the high benchmarks set by the financial requirements and the need for AL3 level students to take an Ielts test prior to English language study if they planned to continue on to university afterwards.

From 1 November, all AL3 students can enter the country to study English and apply for a further study visa once in the country, if they demonstrate sufficient funds for 12 months study. Previously, only students enrolled for at least 40 weeks could do this. But, for those applying for English and university studies together, an Ielts score is required. "Our issue is that there shouldn't be a minimum Ielts requirement for Elicos courses," said Blundell.

Youth hostel association works with UK school

The UK's Youth Hostel Association (YHA) has teamed up with a London-based company, English [Out There!], to offer its clients English language courses ranging from a few days to several weeks in length. The programmes, which teach English both in and out of the classroom, will be promoted via the International Youth Hostel Federation (IYHF) and its 4,500 hostels worldwide.

Available in London only, lessons will eventually be offered in key UK locations. Jason West, Owner of English [Out There!], said, "We are delighted to have become partners of the YHA. The partnership will hopefully take quality English language learning to a much wider audience."

Fiyto welcomes new sub-group

The Federation of International Youth Travel Operators (Fiyto) approved the creation of an association for work experience providers at its annual conference this year. The Global Work Experience Association (GWEA) held its inaugural annual general meeting in October during the World Youth and Student Travel Conference (WYSTC).

The aim of GWEA, which is in the process of accepting members and forming a constitution, is to promote the work experience sector locally and globally, to set standards of best practice and to liaise with governments to support members. "Work experience is the fastest growing sector in the world of youth travel today," commented David Stitt, a member of the GWEA steering group.

New scholarship scheme for Europe

A new scholarship scheme, Erasmus World, has been launched by the European Union to attract more foreign students to study in Europe. From 2004, the scheme will offer up to 4,200 students a scholarship for two-year Master's programmes. Students will apply directly to European universities, and may be recommended to receive a scholarship.

The programme has a budget of US$200 million and students receiving a scholarship will have full costs covered including their airfare to Europe, tuition costs and a living allowance. A Europe-wide commission will make the final decision about which students are to receive the scholarships, and a geographical balance will be aimed for.

"European universities receive too few students and visiting scholars from other continents," said Viviane Reding, the European commissioner responsible for education. "Erasmus World is the instrument that Europe needs'. to be a winner in the globalisation of education."

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