This week, we interview Mark Algren, President of the University and College Intensive Programs (UCIEP) association in the USA, regarding activities, trends and challenges for the sector.

What is UCIEP?

UCIEP is a consortium of professional ESL Intensive English Programs based at and governed by Universities and Colleges in the U.S.A. Sponsoring Programs and agencies often look to UCIEP for support in placing and receiving international students.

What has the association been up to over the past 12 months?

In the past year, we have welcomed the following new members after undergoing a rigorous qualifying review and site visit: Rowan University (New Jersey), Gonzaga University (State of Washington), and the University of Minnesota.

As an association, UCIEP member directors regularly attend the NAFSA conference in order to exchange ideas with other professionals in the international education arena.  At NAFSA 2014, UCIEP hosted a special meeting with leaders from IIE (The Institute for International Education) about the Brazilian Science without Borders Program, which is administered by IIE. UCIEP will also be represented at the 2014 CONAHEC Conference to support the 100,000 Strong in the Americas Initiative sponsored by the Government of Mexico.

What does UCIEP think of the second round of draft guidance recently issued in relation to conditional admission and pathway programmes?

This is a complicated issue to respond to as some of our member institutions offer conditional admission in a variety of forms while others do not at all.  UCIEP members follow strict immigration policies and their programmes are staffed with professional faculty and staff. The new SEVP guidelines will help clarify how university and commercial programs meet immigration policy.

Did the computer glitch at the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs earlier this year affect students waiting for visas at member schools?

Very few students planning to attend UCIEP member programs appear to have been affected by the computer glitch in the US Department of State Bureau of Consular Affairs.

What other challenges do member schools currently face?

A challenge UCIEP member schools currently face is distinguishing the professional quality of our members’ Intensive English Programs (proven for approximately 50 years) as compared to some of the new proprietary programmes and models. It is important that leaders in higher education understand this distinction. The English language teaching professionals must be included in all conversations, especially at the very beginning, regarding pathway programmes, language proficiency requirements and language programme curricular change at their institutions.

What activities does UCIEP have planned for the future?

The consortium conducts an annual two-day professional development retreat for directors of member programs each February. Additionally, we are offering peer site visits of UCIEP member schools.

What are your predictions for members, in terms of international enrolments, over the next 12 months?

While a few members have reported slight enrolment declines for autumn 2014, many are experiencing continued growth.  We expect special/short-term programmes in Intensive English Programs to increase next year.

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