October 2003 issue

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ETA bomb hits Sampere school

A Spanish language school, Estudio Internacional Sampere, was hit by one of this summer's bombing campaigns by ETA, the Basque separatist group in Spain. One of two bombs targeted at the southern Spanish holiday destinations of Alicante and Benidorm in July exploded very near the school in Alicante, injuring students and teachers in the building.
Sadly, one teacher who was pregnant lost her baby, while other students injured as the bomb exploded during a Spanish lesson - taking place close to the bomb's target, the Hotel Bahia - are reported to be recovering from their injuries. At the time of going to press, Juan Manuel Sampere, Director of the school group, commented, 'Two of the casualties are making good progress and everything points to a recovery in the near future. The other casualty, a German, is resting at home and intends to resume Spanish studies [soon].'

One of the injured students, from the Netherlands, was reported to be unconcious initially following the bomb blast. The school building was damaged in the explosion and classes had to be continued in another building, lent to the school by the Jesuit Fathers. Sampere thanked his partners around the world for their messages of support and care following the 'dreadful ordeal'. 'We pass on our heartfelt gratitude for the support,' he said.

A warning was reported to have been sent by ETA about the bomb in the hotel, but the bomb went off earlier than advised, according to press reports.

Sampere said that lessons continued 'barely 48 hours after the bomb explosion'. He spoke of an air of determination as well as sadness. 'Students and teachers held a party to celebrate the fact that the casualties were making favourable progress and their own close shave,' he said. 'It was an unforgettable occasion.' Pending the results of a structural survey of the school building, a decision will be taken about whether the school will return to its original site. Sampere said that he was unsure about returning to the building.

The Basque separatist group, ETA, has run a bombing campaign against the Spanish tourist industry since 1979, in its bid for an independent Basque state, although generally, there have been few casualties. But in the past two years, eight people have died in attacks against tourism targets. Last year, similar campaigns were reported to have had no impact on student choice about study destination (see Language Travel Magazine, November 2002).

Visa changes planned in the UK and USA

Students from 10 countries who plan to study in the UK for longer than six months will need to obtain a UK residence permit prior to arrival, from November 13. The new requirement is being phased in in stages, with Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Japan, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, South Korea, the USA and Malaysia the first countries to be affected.

Applications can be made by post, in person, or in some cases, online to the nearest British Consulate. The regulation change coincides with new high security stickers being used in passports across Europe, as opposed to the old ink stamps. UK Home Officer Minister, Beverly Hughes, said, 'This new initiative will help tackle immigration fraud and forgery. Genuine foreign residents will also benefit by having more robust evidence of their status in the UK to show employers and the authorities.'

The new requirement would help passage through immigration control too, stated the Home Office, because individual eligibility to remain in the UK would have been checked prior to arrival.

The fees for entry clearance issued overseas are currently UK£36 (US$58) for a student and UK£75 (US$121) for a work permit holder. The 10 countries chosen initially to follow the regulations send the largest volume of long-term visitors to the UK. The same regulations will be introduced to other countries during the next two years.

Meanwhile, in the USA, new rules being ushered in in January will see all travellers who need a visa to enter the country being fingerprinted on arrival and departure. This equates to about two-thirds of all overseas visitors entering the country. The fingerprints will then be matched against a list of known terrorists and visa status abusers.

Asa Hutchinson at the Department of Homeland Security said, 'Our country will be made much safer and our immigration system will be given a foundation of integrity that has been lacking for far too long.'

New UK quality group launches

Twelve independent language schools in the UK have teamed up to compete with language school chains and groups. Joining under the umbrella name of Quality English, the schools offer 'the convenience and advantages of working with a group, combined with personal service and attention delivered by locally-managed language schools', according to Trevor Williams of International School, Exeter.

A central website will offer online booking facilities at any of the schools and school members will be represented as a group at trade events and on outbound sales missions. The Quality English logo will also be displayed on all members' promotional materials. From next year, overseas English schools 'of exceptional quality and reputation' in other English-speaking countries are also to be invited to join.

Current members include: Beet Language Centre, Bournemouth; Cambridge Academy of English, Cambridge; Cicero Languages International, Tunbridge Wells; Eastbourne School of English, Eastbourne; Eckersley School of English, Oxford; English Language Centre, Brighton; Frances King School of English, London; Lake School of English, Oxford; London School of English, London; Melton College, York; the International School, Exeter; and Wimbledon School of English, London.

OISE Group buys Pilgrims in the UK

The Canterbury-based UK language school, Pilgrims, merged with the OISE group in June this year, becoming a new member of the high quality school chain.

The OISE group claims to be the largest privately-owned language school group in the UK, and its latest acquisition brings the total number of UK schools in the group to nine. It also owns schools in Spain, Australia, the USA, France and Germany.

Managing Director of OISE, Till Gins, commented, 'The collection of premium brands in the group will allow us to meet the overwhelming needs of agents throughout the world: one contact as a gateway to a variety of different courses, all designed and delivered with professionalism.'

At Pilgrims, Managing Director, Paul Humphreys, said, 'Being part of the OISE group will create many benefits for the company as we constantly strive to push the boundaries of customer care and our humanistic approach to teaching.'

Pilgrims will retain its name and identity, in keeping with the OISE ethos.

Free money for students in Australia

The Australian government has amended a law to entitle foreign students to claim money owed to them from their employers if they earned more than AUS$450 (US$291) per month.

Under Australian law, employers are required to put funds for employees earning over this amount into a superannuation account as a retirement fund. Given that the majority of foreign students return home after their period of study, until now, they have never received the money.

Now, they are entitled to apply for these funds when they leave Australia permanently. Students are encouraged to visit the website of the Australian Tax Office, where they can fill in an online application form if they believe they are eligible. The change is retrospective and applies to anyone who has ever visited Australia on an eligible temporary resident visa.

Some 275,000 foreign nationals apply to visit and work temporarily in Australia each year. They include working holiday makers, international students and visiting professionals.

Immigration rule change in New Zealand

New Zealand has amended its immigration laws in a bid to foster the successful settlement of migrants in the country. Patrick Ibbertson, Chairperson of the Association of Private Providers of English Language (Appel) said that the changes would not affect English language students.

A new Skilled Migrants category of visa is being introduced and applicants will now be expected to have a job offer that is relevant to their qualifications or work experience to be eligible to apply for permanent residency.

Ibbertson noted that having educational qualifications gained in New Zealand would remain a positive factor in the decision-making process.

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