By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

An exciting week here at Study Travel Magazine as we take great pride in announcing the nominees for the STM Star Awards 2014.

If you haven’t received the August issue of STM, you can see the special Star Awards 2014 supplement online. This contains the full list of shortlisted providers and agencies; a special quiz based on the logos of some of this year’s nominees, a gallery of last year’s gala dinner and a few comments of thanks from those lucky enough to be shortlisted.

We also have an introduction for a special category this year: a posthumous lifetime achievement award for the much-missed Udom Ditsamroeng, who as former President of Tieca and Treasurer of Felca worked tirelessly to improve standards within the international education industry. I would urge you to read the heartfelt tributes from his Felca colleagues.

It is only a few weeks until the awards ceremony at the London Hilton Park Lane Hotel (August 30 to be precise), and now that the nominees have been unveiled, excitement will be building in the industry. Start thinking about your tuxedos and posh frocks, ladies and gentlemen!

And for a bit of fun this year, why not have a go at guessing the winners in our special quiz?

Elsewhere this week, we have an interesting story from Nepal, which has seen spectacular growth in the number of students applying for the No Objection Certificate from the country’s Ministry of Education, a document that students need to obtain in order to study overseas. The 28,126 applications received in the 2013/14 fiscal year was a record high, the ministry said.

Most pleasing of all is the central role that agents have played in this growth. As one agent contributor to the story highlighted, the agency business is a key industry in the capital city of Kathmandu, and agency adverts are very prominent in the national media.

Other reasons cited for the increase included more favourable visa climates in Australia and Japan (two countries that have enjoyed strong growth from the Nepalese source market), and the burgeoning middle class in Nepal.

Also we reported on a worrying development from the USA, where a system glitch at the State Department has caused reduced visa-processing capacity and a subsequent backlog. At the time of writing, immigrant visa cases were being prioritised. At this busy time of the year for the study abroad industry, we can only hope that the system is quickly restored back to full capacity.

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