EnglishUSA members debate pathway issues

09, October, 2014

English USA held their second Intensive English Programme (IEP) Stakeholders Conference giving members a valuable opportunity to discuss visa and programme issues with the affiliates of the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), as well as other hot topics.

Carlos Robles, President of Belta and Vice President of Felca hosts a session on working with Felca accredited agents.

The annual two-day event was held in Washington, DC, and entered its second year with 93 US schools and universities represented, over double that of its first year.

President-Elect of English USA, Caroline O’Neal, also at EC English, said, “I'm pleased with the level of influence our association has been able to show at this event by bringing together speakers from heads of our key accrediting bodies to key affiliates from the SEVP.”

The conference began on October 1 with a talk from the SEVP about their new draft policy guidance in changes to pathway programmes, which sparked comments against the proposed measures by many delegates in the room.

Schools were concerned about the rigid terms that the SEVP plan to use to define a pathway programme and that, in fact, many courses are “much more complicated than SEVP boxes”, as one delegate described, adding that pathway programmes are continually evolving.

Tim Futoran, Policy Section, SEVP, responded by stating that their terms are defined so specifically for “data integrity”, otherwise there are gaps and flaws in the system. Futoran also highlighted that any schools with comments or suggestions on the draft guidance had until November 10 to submit feedback to the SEVP.

During her talk on IEPs and bridge programmes, Dr Fanta Aw, President of Nafsa, spoke of how much progress had already been made in international education in the US by working with the SEVP, and encouraged schools to keep this relationship strong.

Schools spoke about the unfair way international students can be treated in the US compared with native students, to which Roman Peacock, Analysis and Operations Center, SEVP, responded, “Sorry, that’s the law. To come to the States is a privilege.”

However, Dr Aw remarked that the US “needs to shift the narrative” on international students, describing the current mood as “schizophrenic”, which accrued much agreement from delegates.

Other talks included one from Carlos Robles, President of Belta and Vice President of Felca, on How Best to Work with the Felca Agents’ Association, and Trends in Accreditations from Judy Hendrickson, Deputy Executive Director, ACCET and Dr Beata Schmid, Senior Vice President, EF International Language Schools.

After the event, O’Neal said, “[English USA] can be proud of the fact we created space for a dialogue between the key stakeholders. This event has really brought together those stakeholders with them conversing and collaborating with one another.”

William Dantona, Immediate-Past President of English USA and ALCI Program Director at California State University, Chico, concluded, “We're looking forward to continuing this kind of event going forward and adding more quality, as well as encourage engagement and collaboration – it's just so very important.”

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