Canadian embassy strikes delaying student visas
Strikes by foreign service officers at Canadian embassies have caused delays in student visa processing and damaged the busy summer season, with the Russian outbound market particularly affected.
The action, relating to pay disputes between the Professional Association of Foreign Service Officers (Pafso), and the federal government, has led to walkouts by immigration officers. Tim Edwards, Head of Pafso, told CBC News that the number of visas issued at major centres in June dropped by 60 to 65 per cent, with over half of the 51 application centres exceeding their 14-day processing target.
Russian agency Students International contacted Study Travel Magazine to advise that strikes in Moscow were having a significant impact on summer business. Igor Mishurov, Deputy Director, said as of early July the company had already lost around 50 students due to delays.
In an open letter to Canadian educators, delivered to STM, Mishurov wrote, “The year 2013 has had two polar tendencies: growth in the number of students, but huge delays in visa issuance to Canadian summer language courses.”
Questioning the timing of the strike, Mishurov added, “The Canadian Government and educational institutions invest into the Russian market much more than other countries. What will become of these multi-million dollar investments when agencies say, ‘We are fed up with your Embassy’s bureaucratic hurdles?’”
Although this year’s strikes have exacerbated delays, Mishurov said summer visas have been a long-running issue. “It was estimated that last year we recruited 300 students less than targeted because of visa delays. Last summer, when the visa procedure was taking up to three months and some visas for summer courses were issued in October, some agencies closed down their Canadian destinations and even whole regional offices. This year, it seems the Embassy is working hard towards turning these some into many.”
The Association of Russian Education Advisors (Area) supported Mishurov’s letter, said Board Member Anna Ryzhova, an agent working closely with Canada. “The clients of the agencies are mostly upset by the uncertain timing frame for the files to be considered by the Embassy and unexpected extension of the processing time in the middle of the high season for short-term study trips.”
A Citizenship and Immigration Canada statement said contingency plans were in place to provide a minimum level of service, with priority given to humanitarian applications.
Other markets are also suffering from longer processing times. Maria Gabarra, Executive Director of Brazilian agency association Belta, said members had experienced delays, although this was mostly caused by seasonal demand rather than strikes. Visas were taking between 20 and 30 days to process, she said, compared with the usual 10-day timescale. She added there were cases of clients postponing trips and changing destinations.
Concerns have also been expressed over the forthcoming academic year. “International students depend on receiving their study permits in a timely manner to plan for educational success in Canada,” said Jonathan Champagne, National Director of the Canadian Alliance of Student Associations (CASA). “We are worried that students waiting for permits will start their courses late or be denied admission altogether.”
At the time of writing, Pafso had just rejected conditions placed on an arbitration process by the government and the strike was continuing.
EC Cambridge moves to larger premises
Language school EC Cambridge, UK, has moved to brand new premises on Burleigh Street in the city centre, after previously operating from two smaller locations.
The new building spans three floors and incorporates 14 classrooms, seating up to 14 students each and equipped with interactive whiteboards. Facilities include a larger reception area, a new student computer lounge and free Wi-Fi throughout. “True to the EC brand, spaces will be modern and airy, with plenty of natural light,” said a company statement.
“EC Cambridge has always been one of our most popular schools, and in our previous, smaller premises we were unable to fully meet this very high demand,” said EC’s CEO, Michael Xuereb. “As ever, we were careful to select a new building capable of offering a comfortable, high-spec learning environment in an extremely central location with convenient access to all the city has to offer.
“We are very excited about this move, and confident that going forward, EC Cambridge students can be assured of an even better experience in this incredible city.” The new premises was set to open on 2nd September.
Experience English rebrand for ELC
The ELC group of English language schools and summer schools in the UK has rebranded as Experience English ELC.
Experience English will act as an umbrella brand for the English language study division owned by the Tui Group, with three of the year-round schools reverting to their former names: The English Language Centre York, Manchester Academy of English and Hampstead School of English, and ELC Edinburgh rebranding as Edinburgh Language Centre.
Richie Morgan, Director of Schools at Experience English and formerly Principal at ELC Edinburgh, said the new brand would bring stability moving forward. “We are consolidating as a smaller product aimed at high quality. All of the year-round schools are Eaquals accredited. Having undergone lots of investment in quality, all schools will be teacher training centres as well,” he said.
The junior summer centres, meanwhile, will be branded as Experience English Young Learners for 2014. The company has retained three of the centres operated under the company’s former EAC Junior Division brand: Edinburgh Telford, London Bridge and London Cobham. Junior programmes are also available at the year-round Manchester and York schools, and a new centre is being opened just outside Oxford.
The junior arm of Experience English would be scaling back, said Morgan, moving away from high volume and group bookings and government contracts, and focussing on more individual bookings.
Morgan and Kevin McNally, Business Development Director and formerly Principal of Hampstead School of English, will be assuming greater responsibility for the operation of the Experience English brand. Bookings will be accepted by the individual schools.
Language in London refurbishment launch
Language in London UK, has unveiled its newly refurbished school at an event attended by agents.
Director Stuart Rubenstein led a tour of the school, and explained each room had a unique design to encourage different types of natural interaction, while features include whitewalls entire walls that can be written on and apple technology that can be integrated with students’ own devices.
“Our aim is to provide real-life learning and that means we either take students out into the real world on our Cultural Experience course, or bring the real world into the classroom,” said Rubenstein. “And that classroom needs to reflect how we interact in the real world and not look like a classroom.”
Rubenstein said agent feedback had been positive. “One agent at our press launch said, ‘Just get me a video and this school will sell itself.’” He added, “Our teachers love the new design and technology. They say it makes it easier for students to express themselves and improve their English.”
The refurbishment programme will be extended to the group’s other schools, with work due to commence in Dublin, Ireland, in September, and Totnes, UK, subsequently.
IEG acquires Academia Columbus
The Madrid-based Ideal Education Group (IEG) has announced the acquisition of the Academia Columbus chain of language schools in Latin America, adding to the group’s portfolio of Spanish language teaching brands that includes Enforex, Don Quijote, Solexico, eduSpain and Enfocamp.
Formerly owned by the Thebing Travel Group, Academia Columbus has centres in Mexico, Ecuador and Costa Rica.
Antonio Anadón, Founder and President of IEG, said, “Since its founding, IEG has continued to expand and develop during each phase of the organisation’s growth and now continues to expand by integrating the prestigious chain of Academia Columbus schools into the group, a company that has 13 years of experience in the world of teaching Spanish and that enjoys an unquestionable international prestige.”
Academia Columbus will be managed as an independent company by Inge Groeneveld, who will continue as the Marketing & Product Director, and Katrin Uphoff will continue to lead the sales and booking office. “We will maintain the brand and operate the way we did before,” Groeneveld said. “But the schools will benefit from being part of a big, successful family.”
Academia Columbus also announced expansion plans. with new schools expected to open in Cartagena and Bogotá, Colombia.
Senate passes immigration bill and eases J-1 fears
The US Senate has passed an immigration reform bill, bringing closer measures that would increase the availability of post-study work visas and migration routes for international students.
Under the bill, overseas students that earned PhDs at American universities would be eligible for green cards, and overseas students that complete a master’s degree in the STEM subject fields would be eligible to petition for one. The bill also exempts colleges from caps on H-1B temporary worker visas, meaning they would be able to freely recruit foreign researchers.
President Obama called on the House of Representatives to pass the bill. Passage through the Republican-dominated House is not expected to be smooth, although opposition is not thought to relate to education provisions.
After intense lobbying from sponsors and agents involved in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, the final Senate bill changed proposed measures that, as previously reported (see STM, September 2013, page 7), threatened to severely curtail the scheme.
A draft bill proposed to redefine exchange visitors as “workers” and sponsors and agents as “foreign labour recruiters”. However, the final bill removed such definitions, and would allow sponsors and agents to collect fees from the programme. Michael McCarry of the Alliance for International Education and Cultural Exchange welcomed the amendments, although expressed concerns about measures to limit programme fees within two years and other enforcement and liability issues.
QE announces new missions for 2014
Quality English, incorporating the Quality Education brand, has announced its mission destinations for 2014 with events in Brazil, Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan along with the traditional European roadshow as well as a change in the format of the events.
“Participants already take part in small, focussed agent workshops where productive meetings take place in calm surroundings,” said Carolyn Blackmore, QE Chief Executive. “From now on, they will also enjoy a more comprehensive range of activities including in-depth market briefings pre-departure, and a selection of the following: seminars and presentations, panel Q&As, as well as receptions and other networking opportunities at the destination.”
The missions (dates to be confirmed) will visit Almaty, Kazakhstan, for the second time, following an inaugural visit in 2010, and Baku, Azerbaijan, for the first time. “We are gradually focussing on non-mainstream destinations because that is what our members tell us they appreciate being set up for them,” said Blackmore.
The Brazil mission will comprise of an event in São Paulo as well agent workshops in Belo Horizonte and another city. The European roadshow will take place as usual in November.
Meanwhile, the Quality Education brand for independent colleges (teaching international students in English) has added a further two new members: The International Travel College of New Zealand and Strathfield College in Australia. The Quality English language schools brand has also welcomed Manhattan Language, USA, and Bristol Language Centre, UK, as new members.
BC mulls changes to K-12 international education
British Columbia (BC) secondary school boards and independent high schools engaged in international student recruitment have dismissed proposals of fixed agent commissions and programme fees, according to the publication of roundtable discussions by the province’s Ministry of Education.
The ministry has identified two key priorities for the future of secondary international education in BC: providing quality assurance and increasing international enrolment by 50 per cent by 2015/16. A total of 125 delegates from districts and schools participated in the roundtable discussions on proposals to achieve these targets.
The suggestion of fixed agent fees was dismissed by participants as they argued that relationships with agents had been built up over many years, and smaller and rural districts reported that they needed to offer higher commissions in order to be able to compete with the larger urban programmes. For similar reasons, participants expressed concerns over proposals of fixed province-wide tuition fees.
Many of the school boards related that capacity limits in terms of schools space, accommodation and educational support services would make 50 per cent growth unrealistic, and recommended a revision of the target.
There was general agreement that a quality assurance framework would be helpful, as long as it allowed for regional variables. The valuable role that agents already play in this area was noted in the report: “A number of participants indicated that market forces provide quality assurance to some degree, as recruiting agents are not likely to send students to programmes that they believe are not offering quality educational services adequately.”
The Ministry said that policy options will be finalised using the roundtable results and further consultations.
Academia Columbus also announced expansion plans. with new schools expected to open in Cartagena and Bogotá, Colombia.
Malvern House partners with British university in Cyprus
Language school Malvern House Cyprus has announced a partnership with the University of Central Lancashire in Cyprus (UCLan Cyprus) to provide pre-sessional language programmes.
Under the agreement, Malvern House will offer pre-sessional, General English and exam preparation courses to both domestic and international students at the recently opened UCLan Cyprus. “I am extremely pleased to announce a partnership between Malvern House Cyprus and UClan Cyprus which will provide a range of new English language courses,” said Dr Lee Chatfield, Rector of UCLan Cyprus.
“Whether providing support for students wishing to join our joint UK-Cyprus degree programmes or offering international students the opportunity to improve their English language skills, all students will benefit from taking an established Malvern House course in our modern university facilities on the idyllic island of Cyprus,” he said.
UCLan Cyprus is offering joint-award full degrees in a range of subject areas and students are able to transfer to the main campus in the UK after one or two years. Chatfield said that the English-delivered courses met the requirements of the regulatory bodies in both countries.
“Cyprus is finally being recognised for its quality in English language learning,” said Yiota Kontoloucas, Director of Malvern House Cyprus. “The English language industry has seen a phenomenal growth due to its high standard of education stemming from British roots.”
Malvern House is also the official representative of the university responsible for marketing and student recruitment in several markets including: Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Belarus, Serbia, Brazil and Korea.
New brand for LSBF language school chain
The London School of Business and Finance (LSBF) has rebranded its group of language schools as The Language Gallery, and will expand its portfolio of programmes.
Under the new brand, the schools based in Manchester, London and Birmingham in the UK and Toronto in Canada will introduce courses in other languages, Celta teacher training programmes and executive English packages with modules from LSBF’s courses. The Language Gallery has also unveiled a range of ESP courses including English for Oil and Gas, Medical English and Legal English.
“This isn’t just a name change; the rebrand has involved comprehensive improvement of our existing services, and the introduction of new courses,” said Fay Drewry, Managing Director at The Language Gallery. “Our new courses offer students an even greater variety of options, as well as foreign languages. At The Language Gallery, we aim to provide students with the education and facilities necessary to ensure they achieve more throughout their student experience.” The Language Gallery also plans to launch three more language schools in 2014.
OE CD data shows overseas tertiary study growth
The number of international students
enrolled in tertiary education outside their home country increased to 4.3 million in 2011, according to the latest data released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD).
The Education at a Glance 2013: OECD Indicators figure of 4.3 million represents an increase of five per cent over 4.1 million in 2010, with the total more than doubling since 2000.
The USA was the top destination and helda steady market share at 16.5 per cent, while the UK in second place retained a 13 per cent share, followed by Germany on 6.3 per cent, France on 6.2 and Australia with 6.1 - slipping from third place in the 2010 indicators. Slight increases in market share were recorded by Russia, Japan, Spain, South Africa, Korea, Switzerland and the Netherlands. Some 53 per cent of all overseas students worldwide in 2011 were Asian.