Diversity needed in US English programmes

02, February, 2015


EnglishUSA welcomed 226 representatives from schools and university programmes across the US to their third annual Professional Development Conference (PDC) last month, where increasing diversity was a key issue for many schools.


Heidi Vellegna from the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation (CEA) and Vice President for Standards at EnglishUSA, presents a snapshot of members to the room.


The conference, held over two days in San Francisco on January 22 and 23, aimed to help improve best practices on Intensive English Programs (IEPs) by inviting speakers from many institutions to give seminars on various topics, including advocating on campus, building a summer programme and technology in the classroom.

One topic of conversation among delegates was the overwhelming number of Saudi students on IEPs via the King Abdullah Scholarship Program, with an attendee from one school commenting that Saudis represented 80 per cent of their international student intake. King Abdullah passed away at the age of 91 on the second day of the conference, leaving providers with some questions about the future of the scholarship.

In a presentation showing a snapshot of members, EnglishUSA revealed that 53 schools said that Saudi Arabia was the number one country represented in their student intake, while 15 schools said China was their number one, and 11 said Japan.

The second largest source country for 19 schools was Brazil. Saudi Arabia was second for 10 schools, while South Korea was second for nine schools.

The majority of responses of the survey came from university-based public IEPs and may not be representative of the ESL sector as a whole in the US.

In total, there were 40 different sessions across the two days, as well as an update from the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP), who indicated that there would be upcoming draft guidance on student employment and interim draft guidance on student absence and annual vacation.

Other talks came from Amy Carter at the US division of English-language test provider Ielts and Samuel Vetrak, CEO at StudentMarketing.

In his session, Vetrak highlighted that Saudi student weeks had increased by 140,000 in the US from 2012 to 2013. Brazil is also up due to the Science without Borders programme, while China is seemingly “cooling down”.

The markets that US IEPs should focus recruitment efforts on, according to Vetrak, are China, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam, Turkey, Mexico, Kazakhstan, Russia, Libya, Brazil and Iraq. He also suggested that in order to diversify in these countries, schools should consider partnering with agents, meeting with them three times a year in order to track performance and evaluate.

After the event, Donna Myers, Director of ELS Language Centers-Nashville, VP for Outreach at EnglishUSA and organiser of this year’s PDC, said that in 2015, there is going to be a greater focus for the organisation to find ways to reach out and get members involved.

She added, “As our membership grows, we expect this conference to grow as well. We’re considering increasing the number of sessions so we can keep the individual sessions small because we understand that attendees really enjoy being able to talk to each other.”

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