|A word in the ear
It feels like there is a lot going on in the industry at the moment, as our November issue seems jam-packed with news that is really exciting or interesting; such as various governments getting involved in the sector.
In Ireland, the government is suddenly talking about “capturing a far greater share of the high-growth global market”that is international education (page 7), while in Australia, the entire Esos Act that governs the international education industry is being improved and amended (page 6). And one of our agent respondents in our regular Industry Issues section tells us of a Canadian “Student Partner Program” initiated in India this year that has seen visa processing streamlined and a resultant surge in student visa applications (page 9). Higher education institutions in Canada back up these claims of an upswing from India (page 21).
In the UK, visa issues this year were, on the whole, problematic rather than successful, as the introduction of the T4 visa system hit a variety of hurdles (although our same agent correspondant noted improved processes in India!). However, at seminars held in the UK earlier this year, British schools seemed stoic about delays and teething problems, but were clearly hugely frustrated about the new rule stating that complete beginners cannot enter the country on a student visa (student visitor visa only). This led to some impassioned remarks being made to UKBA officials who faced industry representatives (page 6).
The opportunities organised by English UK and Accreditation UK for sector representatives to speak to UKBA officials might lead to an opportunity for change. I felt that in both seminars, the officials really took heed of the concerns of educators, who are the end-users of government regulation, as are the students.
Likewise, in the USA, AAIEP organised congressional visits in October after meeting with lobbyists during their advocacy day. Members seem to understand the importance of putting a word directly in the right ear.
The Accreditation UK seminar also wanted to engender debate about the future of the unit, as well as take stock of current trends. With accreditation now linked to visa issuance (and so more or less compulsory), there is a danger that being accredited simply does not have the same cachet anymore. I personally think some form of differentiation might help, although this is easier said than done. But if accredited schools share this view, a word in the right ears might help.