|London Met students offered high court reprieve
Existing non-EU students at London Metropolitan University (LMU) have been allowed to commence studies for the current academic year following a reprieve from the high court.
As reported previously (see STM, October 2012, page 8), the UK Border Agency (UKBA) decision to withdraw LMU’s Highly Trusted Sponsor (HTS) status had left the institution’s non-EU students potentially facing deportation within 60 days if they were unable to find another course.
However, in a high court ruling, Mr Justice Irwin said he was moving to protect students from outside the EU who were already in the UK or about to arrive, and whose immigration status was in order. The temporary order covers students who had already commenced studies at LMU or were about to start.
In a statement, the agency said, “UKBA agreed to allow existing genuine students to continue studying at the university until their course has ended or the end of the academic year, whichever is sooner as long as they meet the right standards. But students who are here illegally and do not meet our immigration criteria will not be allowed to stay.”
A random sample of 101 of LMU’s international students by UKBA found that 26 had no right to remain in the UK, leading to the decision to revoke the HTS status.
The judge also ruled that students who had chosen to transfer to another university should not lose out financially. UKBA had already announced a UK£2 million (US$3.2 million) fund and a special taskforce to assist affected students find places at other universities.
The decision to revoke LMU’s HTS license has not been reversed, although the university has been granted permission to launch a full-scale challenge to the decision. LMU may not recruit any new non-EU students until the matter has been settled legally. The UKBA statement said, “Revoking the university’s license was the right course of action and we will continue to fight the university’s challenge at the full hearing.”
The university’s counsel, Richard Gordon QC, said there was a strong case that the UKBA decision was unlawful. “The financial impact on the university, and on its reputation and good will, are enormous. The impact on students’ education, financial position and the disruption to their lives is extremely significant.”
Alto celebrates two years
The Association of Language Travel Organisations (Alto) has celebrated the second anniversary of its establishment as an industry-specific professional association.
Alto Chair David Anthonisz said the association had grown over the past year, with 25 new members. “We were really proud to see that 29 per cent of the STM Star Awards nominees in 2012 were Alto members, which clearly shows our members’ reputation within the language travel industry.”
Further expansion is planned, but Anthonisz said the Alto Board intended to cap membership to maintain quality. Future plans include improving online networking opportunities, extending educational events with webinars and increasing members’ awareness of Corporate Social Responsibility.
Meanwhile, the latest Alto professional development seminar was held in London following the Alphe UK conference. Attendees heard keynote speaker Luis Huete, resident professor at IESE Business School, Spain, advise that businesses should rethink strategies every seven years in order to achieve loyalty and keep growing.
Huete also discussed staff relations and led group discussions about issues such as direct bookings and the brand value of agencies, with 78 per cent of delegates rating Huete as excellent or very good.
LAL announces new summer schools and partners
LAL Language Centres has added three new summer schools and two new partner schools to its portfolio for 2013, while also announcing an agreement with St Mary’s University College, London, to provide pathway programmes and promote the institution globally.
Two of the summer schools are based at UK independent schools: Sedbergh School, founded in 1525 in Cumbria; and Berkhamsted School, dating back to 1541 and located in the Chiltern Hills. A USA summer school has also been added at the University of California, Santa Cruz.
Additionally, LAL has announced year-round adult partner schools in South Africa and India. LAL Marketing Manager, Lesinda Leightley, said, “Bay Language Institute (BLI) in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, is set in a beautiful, safe boutique school, while Incredible English in Goa offers the serene and tropical holiday feeling to your English studies.”
Meanwhile, the pathway agreement means that LAL London can prepare students for undergraduate and postgraduate study at St Mary’s, located only a 15-minute walk away from the school. “We are honoured to be able to promote the outstanding facilities at St Mary’s University College to our agent network, as well as our potential and existing student body,” said Sam Bufton, Commercial Director of LAL Language Centres. “We already work very closely with St Mary’s in running our summer school there, so this was a natural progression. I look forward to helping St Mary’s attract new overseas students in the near future.”
New online homestay management system unveiled
A new online system to assist schools and agents in managing the homestay process has been launched by Dublin-based Homestay Technologies Ltd.
Through Homestaymanager.com, approved homestay families are invited by schools to upload profiles including photos, descriptions, location, amenities and date availability. The system is offered for free to providers, who can manage their homestay offerings, match students to families, view reports and manage payments. Agents, with the school’s consent, can access via a secure log-in, allowing them to view homestay details and make bookings themselves.
The company was co-founded by Debbie Flynn, who has 35 years’ experience in the study abroad sector, and Tom Kennedy, who co-founded the accommodation website hostelworld.com. Aidan Magennis, company CEO, said Homestaymanager.com would be recognised as the technology leader in the sector. “We expect our solution will turn a cost into a profit centre, giving providers valuable time and resources to concentrate on core business, driving efficiency and sustainable future income within the education travel sector.”
Conference season attracts new attendees
The 2012 StudyWorld London conference attracted a rising number of debutants, with around a quarter of the 850 delegates attending for the first time, compared with a fifth in 2011.
Additionally, twice the number of Director’s Passes were issued this year. “These changes in our demographic are really interesting,” said Siobhan Baccas, English UK’s Senior International Manager, responsible for organising StudyWorld.
“It’s looking like a year where agents and educators alike are looking to extend their reach. Higher numbers than usual are seeking a new group of business partners, while those who are in a very secure position are still looking for that extra edge. It made for a very interesting event,” Baccas added.
Reassurance was given over the future of the UK’s Extended Student Visitor Visa (ESVV) for courses of between six and 11 months. Erica Thurbon from the UK Border Agency told delegates during the seminar programme she could say “with great confidence” that there was “no agenda or plans” to take away the ESVV.
Meanwhile, this year’s ICEF Higher Education Workshop in Dublin, Ireland, saw 34 per cent more institutions in attendance than in 2011 as well as overall growth of 23 per cent. A total of 234 delegates included 75 higher education institutions and 15 exhibitors from 22 countries, and 104
agents representing 93 agencies from 50 countries.
The growth reflects the continuing efforts of higher education institutions to work with agents. “My institution is in [the] process of moving to a multi-agency recruitment strategy. This workshop has been key to my institution making this change,” said Clayton Smith from the University of Windsor, Canada.
EC launches new UK schools
Global English language provider EC has announced the opening of a new school in Oxford, UK, while the former EC London school site will be transformed into EC Covent Garden 30+. Both schools are set to open their doors in January 2013.
The new EC Oxford school will be located on Gloucester Green in the heart of the city, near many of the famous museums and colleges. Plans for the school include: 15 classrooms with interactive whiteboards, a student lounge, a computer area with 17 student computers, a library, free Wi-Fi and EC’s signature design throughout.
“As a city famous for its prominent university and academics, Oxford is the ideal destination to learn English,” said EC Executive Chairman, Andrew Mangion. “EC Oxford is centrally located and will boast a sophisticated and modern interior within a classical Oxford-style building. With a boutique feel and world-class facilities, we will be setting new standards in Oxford. I am thrilled with the design and features of the school and am anxiously anticipating its opening this upcoming January.”
After EC London moved to new premises in Euston earlier this year, the former site in Covent Garden is to become a school for students over 30 years of age. Centre refurbishments include a newly designed open-plan reception on the first floor, 11 classrooms, a self-study room, a student lounge, an EC café, free Wi-Fi and access to 16 computers. Lessons and activities will adopt a more “age-appropriate tone” with attractions including the Royal Opera House, Theatreland and Soho.
“We have many students aged 30+ who love the adult school but would prefer to be in class and socialise with other students of a similar age rather than those in their late teens and early twenties who are at a different stage in their lives,” said Laura Bowkley, Centre Director. “EC Covent Garden is a brand new concept offering exactly this environment and, based on feedback from our agents and students all over the world, I am confident that it will be a huge success.”
The addition of these two UK centres will leave EC with a total of 17 English language centres worldwide.
English UK assists students stranded by closure
The sudden closure of a Bournemouth language school led to English UK finding courses with alternative providers for around 70 students.
At the time of writing, 69 students from SNT International College had already been placed on similar courses with nearby English UK member schools. A further 18 students had not replied to English UK messages, and another 20 had not yet arrived in the UK. The students were stranded when SNT closed its doors without prior warning earlier this year.
English UK held an emergency meeting to reassure SNT students and collect details of courses, accommodation, payments and language levels. English UK rules mean that in the event of the closure of a member school, displaced students will be placed with alternative providers without cost. The Student Emergency Support Fund also compensates students for any advance accommodation payments that may have been made and lost, and reimburses host families that have not received accommodation fees paid to schools.
English UK Chief Executive Tony Millns said the owners had not contacted English UK. “The owners seem to have simply disappeared and left the school to collapse. This is an appalling way to treat students, staff, and anyone owed money,” said Millns. “But closures are rare, and we had no hesitation about moving in to help the students as quickly as possible.”
According to local press reports, the owners, who have not yet been located, had only purchased the school in January this year.