|The UK's efforts to tighten up control of its immigration system continue, as the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) has announced it will control the register of genuine education providers that will be used when issuing student visas. Meanwhile, police raids have taken place on suspected bogus colleges and the Immigration and Nationality Directorate (IND) has checked up on suspect schools.
The Home Office announced earlier this year that a list would be set up by the end of 2004 of genuine schools only - including those that have been checked by IND (see Language Travel Magazine, July 2004, page 6). The register, which will now be controlled by DfES, will be made available to the Home Office to support staff in making their decisions on granting leave to enter the UK for study purposes.
Language schools that are already accredited by a recognised accreditation scheme, and those that receive public funding, will automatically be added to the register. Other schools will be required to undergo a registration process, details of which are to be released soon. Charles Clarke, Education and Skills Secretary, said, 'We are encouraging English language schools to seek accreditation with existing bodies such as the British Council or the Association of British Language Schools (ABLS). This is a positive step forward to ensuring we retain our reputation for high quality educational provision.'
He added, 'We know bogus providers are in the minority which is why we are working to make the [registration] scheme as straightforward and un-bureaucratic as possible for those [other] genuine providers, who will easily be able to provide evidence of their work.'
In the long-term, the UK government is expected to move towards a system of compulsory accreditation for all English language schools in the country. The proposed register is currently more general, incorporating all types of privately-operated colleges or schools.
Meanwhile, police officers have raided 12 addresses in London and Essex - including two suspected bogus colleges - in a coordinated operation against a student visa scam. And the Director of IND, Bill Jeffrey, has told a government committee that IND has inspected 400 institutions 'where there was doubt in our minds [about their genuine status]'. Suspicions remained about the genuine status of 100 of these teaching institutions, he revealed, and checks would continue on students in question.
A separate report carried out by the National Audit Office revealed that of a sample check, 37 per cent of students from Accra, Ghana, who came to study in the UK could not be traced, while there was evidence that some students from Beijing, China, were also failing to turn up at their stated school or college.
The UK government has declared that it will crackdown on all forms of visa abuse.
Four new schools for Eurocentres
Switzerland-based language school chain, Eurocentres, is opening an additional four schools to complement its present geographic representation, bringing the total number of schools in its network to 22. From September, new centres open in Brisbane and Cairns in Australia, and in Valencia in Spain. Meanwhile, from February next year, Eurocentres Auckland in New Zealand will also be open for business.
Gaby Billing, Marketing Manager of Eurocentres, said that the company was 'strengthening its position' in these markets.
'In addition to Eurocentres' system of auditing schools regularly in relation to very detailed quality standards, all these new schools are accredited by the relevant [national] accreditation bodies,' she added.
Eurocentres also has partner schools in Dublin, Ireland; Malta; Sydney, Australia; and Moscow and St Petersburg, Russia.
NZ canvasses student opinions
A survey of almost 3,000 international students studying in New Zealand has revealed that New Zealand was the first choice of country for just 62 per cent. The survey, commissioned by the Ministry of Education, also revealed that 22 per cent of students would not recommend New Zealand to their friends and family.
But generally, a student's stay in the country was well rated, with institutional facilities considered as good or excellent by just over half of students and academic progress considered to be good to average overall.
Students staying with host families were found to be very happy with their accommodation, and the cities of Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch received the most favourable evaluations as a place to live.
A common concern among students, however, was their lack of friendship and contact with New Zealanders. One in four students said they had no social interaction with locals. The Ministry of Education noted that improving relations between international students and members of the wider community warranted increased attention.
The students canvassed were studying at secondary, tertiary and English language schools throughout the country, and the majority - 45 per cent - were Chinese. However, Asian students were less positive about their study experience than others.
In terms of what attracted a student to New Zealand in the first place, a friend's recommendation meant more than advice from a teacher or agent. And New Zealand's best selling points were its safety, internationally recognised qualifications, and quality and cost of its education.
Most students used an agent, although only one-quarter were very or extremely satsified with the service they received.
Russians stranded in Florida
A small Florida town was thrust into the media spotlight earlier this year when 25 Russian students on a work and travel programme were stranded there without jobs or adequate housing.
The local mayor and police department got involved in the case and, thanks to media attention, most of the students - mainly girls - had been offered alternative employment at the time of going to press. All students were expected to be found jobs and rooms. When initially discovered by a resident of St Augustine, Florida, 18 of the students were living in two unfurnished apartments without jobs.
The media caught on to the story when it was suggested that the students would be deported since the company they were expecting to work for - Euro House Co. in nearby Destin - could not find employment for them. The US State Department then lifted restrictions so they could work anywhere in the USA, according to the St Augustine Record.
The students had been told to travel from Destin to St Augustine to find work with Old City Service by Euro House Co., which specialises in housekeeping jobs at local hotels. But the owner of Old City Service had no jobs, although she housed the students - at a cost of US$400 each - in the two apartments, according to press reports.
At the US Embassy in Moscow, a spokesperson said there were around 600 cases of jobs not being available on arrival each year and it was the students' duty in such cases to contact their sponsor organisation. And at Euro House Co., Anna Czerwien said that the students were told to wait a few weeks before arriving. 'We had jobs for them if they had waited,' she said. 'They knew what they were getting into.'
Australia steps up pace
Australia is stepping up the pace of its coordinated efforts to boost the fortunes of its international education industry. A new ministerial advisory body has been created of representatives from a range of institutions, including private language schools, Tafes and universities.
Brendan Nelson, Minister for Education, Science and Training, said he was confident this group would 'bring a range of expert advice' to the attention of the government. He added that the international education sector was now Australia's sixth-largest export earner, bringing AUS$5.7 billion (US$4 billion) a year to the Australian economy.
'Australia is a leading provider of international education services and seeks to maintain and enhance its position in an increasingly competitive global environment,' he said.
New book promotes Italian study
A British couple have spent a year in Italy researching and visiting Italian language schools of all types and sizes - and turned the results of their research into a book. Learning Italian in Italy has been published by How To Books in the UK detailing more than 200 language schools.
The authors, Simon and Louise Read, spent a year studying at the Università per Stranieri di Perugia and visiting other language schools at the weekend. They reported that during the course of their research, they found the quality of a school's brochure or website bore no relation to the quality of the school.
The book also details how to make the most of living in Italy.