All schools in Australia to be re-inspected
Despite the fact that Australia has a reputation for effective regulation of its international education industry, its Education Services for Overseas Students (Esos) Act has been amended, and all education institutions in the country have to re-register on Cricos (Commonwealth Register of Institutions and Courses for Overseas Students) by the end of the year. A full review of the Esos Act has also been ordered, with an interim report expected later this month.
Principally, schools will have to now prove that their principle purpose is to provide education, and that they can provide education of a satisfactory standard. The move follows concerns that some vocational colleges were primarily interested with profit or enabling graduates to apply for permanent residency (general skilled migration) by offering training in critical skills areas, such as hairdressing or hospitality. After a focus on Indian students in Australia in particular this year, which was sparked by violent attacks against some, the motivation of Indian students studying in the country was under the spotlight.
This already led to Chris Evans, Minister for Immigration, to comment, “The Australian government will adjust the [residency] programme to meet our national needs and not be driven by the education choices of overseas students”, warning that the renowned link between education and migration was not a given.
Minister for Education, Julia Gillard, said the various state governments had already started rapid audits of providers, “and these will be extended so that all providers working with international students will need to show they have the best interests of the students at heart and not simply a profit motive”.
The Esos amendment bill will also introduce new processes to ensure greater transparency and accountability of international education providers, including their use of education agents. How this will be managed was unclear at the time of going to press. One suggestion was that agent partners used by each institution should be publicly listed a suggestion slammed by Sue Blundell of English Australia. “This is an unrealistic proposal that will not contribute to addressing issues of current concern and may very well have implications in relation to trade practices and commercial confidentiality,” she said, as reported in Campus Review.
Autumn event season upbeat
The autumn workshop season in the UK was upbeat, despite a number of schools and agencies admitting that 2009 had been, in fact, a challenging year. Many UK schools reported a successful year, despite the general concensus being that 2009 business in the UK would be down on 2008 figures. Tony Millns at English UK said he believed UK numbers would be slightly down overall, although London schools in particular had benefited from the squeeze on unaccredited schools which meant more visa students in London seeking out accredited providers.
Ireland and Malta were two countries left reeling from a difficult year, although even here, a number of Irish schools felt that business had improved towards the end of summer after a very shaky June and July. There was a good agent turnout at both the Alphe and the StudyWorld events, and the usual buzz around the LTM Star Awards, which were hosted during the Saturday night of the Alphe UK event (see pages 54-62).
At StudyWorld and at a subsequent Accreditation UK seminar, the anger from UK schools over new visa rules barring the issuance of student visas to complete beginners (A1) was palpable. Under the new T4 system, only student visitor visas are now issued for level A1, which are only valid for six months. A comment made by Mark Lindsay of St Giles to Barbara Woodward, International Director of UKBA, in a seminar drew applause from the crowd. At the Accreditation UK conference, Jeremy Oppenheim, UKBA Director, told LTM that this issue would be revisited. Some nationalities in particular, such as Saudi students, historically would enrol as complete beginners and study long-term, and such markets have been severely affected by the new visa system.
Woodward also apologised during the English UK seminar for “quite significant IT problems” that had not helped visa issuance over the summer, with some countries such as India and Pakistan particularly affected.
Kaplan merges divisions under Kaplan International Colleges
Kaplan Aspect is no more, with the news that the Washington Post-owned corporation, Kaplan Inc., has decided to merge its English language and university preparation programme division into a single unit that will be rebranded as Kaplan International Colleges (KIC) with immediate effect.
Previously, KIC was the name given to joint educational partnerships set up with UK universities. David Jones, previously Head of Kaplan Aspect, will lead the new division as CEO of KIC. He said, “Bringing these two businesses together under one brand allows Kaplan to offer a more comprehensive range of high quality programmes, a wider choice of study locations for students and a more global reach in student recruitment.”
New schools for IH and Rennert
Rennert International, a US-based language school, opened an American English language centre in Istanbul, Turkey in October. The school is the third campus for the company, in addition to New York and Miami in the USA.
Cesar Rennert, Founder and Chief Executive of the company, said, “We love the city of Istanbul and its people and see the new location as a perfect fit for Rennert’s boutique language education.” He added, “We believe there is a need for a high quality school that offers American English and, additionally, can help transition Turkish students to American universities.”
Rennert will operate in partnership with Kik Egitim ve Danismanlik, a Turkish-based company, headed up by long-time English teacher and academic, Idil Kemerli. The new school will be located in the up-and-coming Findikli area, close to one of Istanbul’s main transportation hubs, and the home to an art school, a filmmaking school and the Istanbul Museum of Modern Art.
Meanwhile, the International House World Organisation has announced that a Bristol-based school, formerly The Language Project, has become an IH-affiliated school now known as IH Bristol. Joe O’Hagan at the school said the move would mean added benefits for IH Bristol students, such as access to IH online services and reassurance about quality provision. Director, Val Hennessy, added, “I have always wanted to create a place of excellence where students can be confident that they are getting value for money.”
Quality seal touted for Irish language schools
Ireland’s Education Minister, Batt O’Keefe, has signalled his intention to establish a quality mark (referred to as the Q Mark) for English language schools in a bid to clampdown on bogus colleges. Currently, the Acels board in Ireland offers accreditation for language schools, but this is not enforced by visa law and non-Acels schools are able to accept international students on to their programmes.
O’Keefe said he wanted the Q Mark to be in place by the end of 2010: “Our efforts to promote Irish education overseas must be backed up by a strong regulatory regime that reassures overseas students that our international education courses are high quality and that so-called rogue colleges can’t operate,” he said.
The Q Mark system would establish rules, he explained, such as minimum English language requirements for course entry requirements, grievance procedures for students and a requirement for a certain proportion of students to undertake exams within the timeframe of their courses.
Ireland is keen to win a greater slice of the international student pie. “The international education sector contributes e900 million (US$1.3 billion) to the Irish economy each year and supports thousands of Irish jobs,” commented O’Keefe. “Yet Ireland attracts less than one per cent of the international student cohort… Ireland should be better positioned to capture a far greater share of that high-growth global market.”
The move dovetails with plans for wider reform of Ireland’s international education sector, as it realises the inherent benefits of linking visa issuance to quality accreditation. Draft proposals have been submitted by Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, Dermot Ahern, outlining a system whereby there would be possible visa change, a tighter inspection regime across the whole sector, new guidelines on work placement or internships and a cap on the number of years students can study in Ireland, to counter the issue of some students spending years studying in the country. The suggested maximum stay for English language students would be two years, and five years for students in higher education.
David O’Grady, Chief Executive of Irish ELT body, MEI, stressed that these measures were still at the discussion stage, but he said that a new quality mark linked to visa issuance based on the UK system would be very exciting indeed. “The industry is dogged by cowboy schools abusing the system but this new reform will allow only quality-marked schools to obtain visas,” he emphasised.
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