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October 2002 issue

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Operation Columbus helping students in UK

Police in Cambridge in the UK have introduced photo ID cards for foreign students studying in the city as part of Operation Columbus, which is an ongoing scheme designed to protect students while they are studying in the UK and reduce victimisation.

At present, the cards are only available to students aged over 18 who are attending one of the 16 participating schools in the Cambridge area. It is hoped that the ID cards will lessen the problems students may face gaining access to the city's pubs and clubs. The cards also encourage students to report any incidents of crime that they may experience.

Details on the card include a student's nationality and language details, an emergency number, the address details of the school they are attending and personal details that will be useful in cases of emergency. 'A number of language schools have [wanted] an ID card like this since [Operation Columbus] was introduced two years ago,' commented the scheme's Coordinator in Cambridge, Keri Jenkins. 'Columbus and these new ID cards provide an opportunity for [students] to enjoy themselves to the maximum, while providing vital information on how to ensure their safety.'

Other aspects of Operation Columbus, which have been adopted by a number of regional police forces, include an educational video, a good practice manual and a personal safety guide (see Language Travel Magazine, March 2000, page 6). While there have been some reported incidents of students being harassed or attacked in the UK - in the Czech Republic, TV Nova reported an incident of Czech students beaten up and robbed in Oxford in July - UK police forces claim that the Columbus scheme has reduced the number of incidents year on year.

In Devon and Cornwall, police report a 30 per cent reduction in crime against foreign students in 2001, with reported incidents down from 192 in 1999 to 135 in 2001. PC Simon Dell commented, '[Operation Columbus] sends out a strong message that the police will not tolerate any crimes against foreign students.'

In Eastbourne in Sussex, uniformed and plain-clothes police officers have mixed with foreign students at events and made their presence aware to potential criminals. 'Under the guidance of Operation Columbus, Sussex Police pay particular attention to individuals who have a history of ongoing intention of committing criminal activity against this sort of vulnerable group,' said Eastbourne Neighbourhood Inspector, Brian Donald.

Language schools in Eastbourne are also being given an ultraviolet pen so that students can 'invisibly' mark property such as mobile phones and personal stereos. Martin Stevens, Eastbourne's Commander Chief Inspector, said, 'The proactive police action so far has proved a success with many offenders being arrested and prosecuted for a wide variety of offences including robbery and assault.'


Sevis site up and running

The website that must be used by all US schools registering foreign students under the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (Sevis) has gone live and is being used by a range of institutions. On its first day of operation in July, the website recorded 730 visits and issued 260 temporary user IDs to various institutions, according to the Washington Times.

By January 30, 2003, all schools accepting international students are expected to be recertified (if appropriate) and using Sevis to report electronically when students enter the country, change addresses, change fields of study or are expelled or leave the institution.

Many schools accepting international students in the USA have to apply for certification via the Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) before receiving a user identification and password to use the Sevis system. However, other accredited schools that signed up before August 16 did not have to undergo certification and avoided paying the certification fee. All such institutions, including language and vocational schools, have been approved by the INS for the last three years to accept foreign students and are accredited by an organisation recognised by the Education Department.

The approval process in place for other institutions is intended to make them prove that they can provide the education a foreign student has applied to receive. 'We are going to make sure that those who enter our country to attend a college actually do what they have agreed to do,' said Terrance O'Reilly, Associate Commissioner for Field Service Operations at the INS. He added, '[Sevis] is about guaranteeing that our foreign students live up to their bargain and don't head off to places unknown.'

A US Justice Department report published in May expressed doubt that the system will be ready to deal with all students by January, although the INS has claimed it is confident it can meet the deadline. 'Sevis is up and running, but in a fairly primitive form,' commented Terry Hartle of the American Council on Education. 'Until batch processing is available, most institutions won't be able to use it efficiently.'

Multiple 'batch' processing will enable schools to submit information about more than one student at a time. INS officials were still developing software specifications for this at the time of going to press. However, Hartle acknowledged that the INS has made 'remarkable progress' with Sevis so far. 'Frankly, they have made progress no one could have expected them to achieve a year ago,' he said.

The US Justice Department's report also highlighted the need for the INS to act on the information it receives from Sevis about foreign students. Enforcement agents are likely to be dispatched to track down students violating their status. O'Reilly said the enforcement side of the Sevis operation would evolve as it became clear how many agents were needed. 'I would like to get as many [agents] as possible out on the street,' he said.

The INS is also developing a computerised entry and exit system that will alert the agency if any foreign visitor has not left the country by their visa expiry date, according to Federal Computer Week. This is scheduled to be in place by the end of 2005.


Membership boost for Ialc

The International Association of Language Centres (Ialc) has significantly increased its membership with the addition of 13 new members. Ialc now has five new member centres in the USA and Canada, three new centres in Australia, two from the UK in the key locations of Bournemouth and Oxford and one from Germany, Portugal and Ireland.

'Ialc continues to grow as a quality-driven organisation,' commented Odile Migieu of Cork Language Centre International in Ireland, newly elected President. Also new on the Executive Board are Vice President, David Diplock of LSC Language Studies Canada, and Barbara Jaeschke of GLS Sprachenzentrum in Germany, who takes up the new position of Ialc Promotions Director.


Japan makes super effort to improve English ability

Super English language high schools are now up and running in Japan as part of the government's efforts to improve the English language abilities of the nation. The 18 schools were chosen from 50 candidates, according to their educational plans, such as utilising the Internet at school, teaching subjects such as science and maths in English and setting up partnerships with English- speaking schools overseas.

In a further move, intensive English language training is to be provided for all 60,000 English teachers at junior and secondary schools from 2003. As the government's languages drive continues, so the number of private English language learners has increased. Nova, a large chain school in Japan, reported student numbers are up by 30,000 this year. Takashi Yoshimura, Marketing Director of Shane English Schools in Japan, added, 'Adults are studying English now, not just to be fashionable, but to help them find a job or to get a promotion. They are really serious.'


New work regulations in Germany

New rules governing the length of time that overseas students can work for in Germany are set to be introduced in January 2003. At present, foreign students can work for up to 90 days, but the rule is likely to be extended to 180 half-days. If students wish to work for longer than this maximum tariff, it should also be possible, as long as permission is sought first from the local employment office.

'This reform is of utmost importance to foreign students because the majority of them fund themselves,' said Dr Hans-Dieter Rinkens, President of Deutsches Studentenwerk, an organisation representing different student service providers.


Currency

1xUS$ =currency*

Argentinean Pesos 3.590
Australian Dollar 1.882
Brazilian Real 3.084
British Pound 0.638
Bulgarian Leva 1.978
Canadian Dollar 1.594
Chilean Pesos 698.97
Chinese (PR) Yuan 8.279
Czech Koruny 30.89
Danish Kroner 7.542
Egyptian Pound 4.645
EU Euro 1.015
Hong Kong Dollar 7.799
Hungarian Forint 248.92
Icelandic Kronur 85.266
Indonesian Rupiah 9094.3
Israeli New Shekels 4.707
Japanese Yen 119.21
Maltese Lira 0.430
Mexican Peso 9.788
New Zealand Dollar 2.178
Norwegian Kroner 7.637
Polish Zloty 4.174
Russian Rubles 31.560
Singaporean Dollar 1.755
Slovakian Koruny 45.059
South African Rand 10.429
South Korean Won 1186.4
Swedish Krona 9.562
Swiss Franc 1.474
Taiwanese NT Dollar 33.580
Thai Baht 42.066
Turkish Lira 1,624,980.5
Venezuelan Bolivar 1,352.6

*Rates are subject to change and should be used as indications only. 05/08/02

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