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US: UBridge partners with SMC on pathways

The PIE News - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 05:05

Elite pathway provider University Bridge has announced an expansion in Southern California via a partnership with Santa Monica College. The company’s fourth location in the US will welcome its first cohort in spring 2020.

With two campuses in California – at the College of Marin and College of San Mateo – and Piedmont Virginia Community College, Virginia, the University Bridge location at Santa Monica College will be the provider’s third in California.

“We expect UBridge at Santa Monica College to be our largest campus”

Boasting 82% of transferring students in the past three years attending a top 40 US university, the UBridge model provides a potential transfer path to every US university, according to the company.

Despite falls in new starting international students in the US, UBridge has been expanding and growing student recruitment numbers since its inception in 2013.

“We are proud of our growth given the overall declining US numbers and tough political climate over the past few years,” UBridge co-founder Andrew Ullman told The PIE News.

“We believe we have done that because the US is a great place to study and our program is extremely compelling – you don’t have to give up your dream school when you attend UBridge.

“You can transfer into any university when you are done, from small, regional schools all the way up to Harvard.”

The company’s recruiting staff has long been asking for a southern California location, Ullman explained, adding that the launch is a “no-brainer”.

“We expect UBridge at Santa Monica College to be our largest campus over the next few years,” he said, taking into account the demand for study in California.

“Santa Monica College transferred over 600 students to UCLA alone last year and have sent more students to the UC system than any other community college for 28 straight years.”

Community colleges – previously lauded as USA’s secret weapon – is the “best path” for students to get settled into the US higher education system, Ullman added.

“The more desirable a US university is, the less likely that school is willing to allow a traditional pathway provider to operate on campus,” he said.

“[Community colleges] are a natural fit for a transfer-based program because community college students are expected to transfer out.”

With fewer students in a class, students can get their English language skills up to speed, while UBridge’s CollegeCare® offer provides concierge services to students, giving access to student counsellors in-person every weekday, Ullman explained.

The company also provides student housing, transportation, events and activities in order to help create a community for students.

With experience at CEG and INTO pathway programs, Jonathan Whitehouse will be leading on global recruiting for UBridge.

The spring term begins February 18, 2020, and UBridge is able to accept overseas students until January 5 for the initial cohort.

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Canada removes biometrics exemption for in-country int’l students

The PIE News - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 04:00

The biometrics requirement exemption for students already in Canada ended this week, the latest change in a series of updates from the Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada government agency.

International students, including those wishing to extend their permit, will now have to travel to one of the country’s 56 Service Canada locations to have their photo and fingerprints taken as part of the application process unless they have already had their biometrics taken by the IRCC in the last 10 years.

“It is another expense for international students on top of what they pay now”

“Fingerprints and photo collection are recognised as one of the most reliable ways to identify people and are used by more than 70 countries worldwide,” said Marco Mendicino, the Canadian minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

“We will enhance the efficiency and integrity of the immigration system in Canada.”

But for students in more remote areas, the need to travel may be an issue.

“Although I do understand the importance of it… it is another expense for international students on the top of what they pay now,” Makhbuba Ergasheva, international student advisor at Vancouver Island University, told The PIE News.

“It is a time-consuming process for international students and costs C$85 on the top of the existing $150 processing fees for study permits.

“VIU students now have to travel to long distances to have biometrics done since there is no biometrics service listed for Nanaimo,” Ergasheva added.

Similar concerns were raised when the IRCC rolled out biometrics requirements for international students outside Canada.

The increasing prevalence of collecting biometrics globally for visas is also creating issues for outbound students who attend colleges outside of major cities that host visa application centres.

“One thing that we struggle with are the barriers to having to travel to get to Montreal or Ottawa. Our students have to go there several times to get their visas for certain countries,” said one education abroad advisor during a session at the recent CBIE conference.

“One thing that we struggle with are the barriers to having to travel to get to Montreal or Ottawa”

Since June 2019, international students already in Canada have also needed to file permit applications and renewals online, with a few exceptions for post-graduation work permits.

Additionally, study permits for pre-requisite studies will be issued for the length of the program plus one year. Students can’t work off-campus while studying these types of courses.

“Probably the best part of the study permit’s assessment updates is that students no longer need a new study permit between levels of education,” added Ergasheva.

Aside from Quebec, which will still require students to get a new Quebec Acceptance Certificate, students are no longer required to obtain a new permit if the current one is still valid.

They also don’t need to do so if switching between designated learning institutions, although they must inform the IRCC of this.

“The new policy saves a lot of trouble for students who complete their high school studies and plan to pursue their studies in college or university,” Jing Yao, international advising and articulation specialist at Douglas College International told The PIE.

“It was not uncommon for some of them not to extend their study permits as they thought they could keep using the same study permits, which were still valid, or they started to extend their study permits too late.

“For this group of students, we felt very sorry for them as they could not start their college studies as planned because they did not have a study permit for post-secondary level,” Yao added.

“With the new policy, this group of student have more time to extend their study permits and, for most of them, they can still study in college even though their extensions are still in process.”

“With the new policy, this group of student have more time to extend their study permits”

Also announced this week was a new immigration pathway for international graduates of eligible post-secondary institutions in Saskatchewan who want to start a business in the west Canadian province.

Those who are approved will have to operate and manage a business in Saskatchewan for at least one year and own at least one-third of the equity in a qualified business in order to be eligible for a provincial nomination for permanent residence.

“This new category will help encourage international students to make Saskatchewan their home once they complete their studies,” said the province’s Advanced Education minister, Tina Beaudry-Mellor.

“It will also help create new businesses and jobs, as well as keep Saskatchewan competitive in attracting and retaining international students and investment,” added Immigration and Career Training minister, Jeremy Harrison.

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US unis dominate in world’s first MOOC rankings

The PIE News - Fri, 12/06/2019 - 02:19

The first-ever world university rankings based on the performance of massive open online courses was released this November, with US universities taking seven of the top 10 spots. 

The rankings were compiled by online learning resource website MoocLab, who evaluated institutions on the basis of the number of MOOCs provided, the provision of learning pathways, micro-credentials, degrees and the institution’s average world ranking.

“This is testament to the hard work of our colleagues across the business and broader university”

Over 200 universities across the world were assessed, all of which offer courses on the three leading MOOC platforms – Coursera, edX and FutureLearn.

“The World University Rankings by MOOC Performance aim to provide performance information and comparisons to potential students across the core areas of university MOOC activity,” said Carolyn McIntyre, founder of MoocLab.

“With the increasing number of higher education institutions delivering MOOCs and MOOC-based credentials and degrees, I am excited about the opportunities these rankings will provide in supporting universities to evaluate their MOOC performance, set strategic goals and enhance their MOOC-based offering,” she added.

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The top spot was taken by Delft University of Technology in the Netherlands, followed by the University of Pennsylvania, which was one of seven US universities in the top ten.

Others include the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, the University of Michigan, the University of Washington, the University of California, Berkeley, Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

While the rankings were largely dominated by the US institutions, Coventry University in the UK and Deakin University in Australia, also made the top 10. 

“We are hugely proud to have been ranked fourth,” said professor John Latham, vice-chancellor of Coventry University.

“Having only been in the market for two years, we have outperformed many other well-established brands both within the UK and internationally, and this is testament to the hard work of our colleagues across the business and broader university.

“We are still in our infancy, but we will grow our proposition significantly, leading the transformation of the global online education market,” he added

A total of 20 countries featured in the top 100, but US universities dominated with 38 institutions listed. The UK and Australia both accounted for 11% respectively.

After North America (42%) and Europe (31%), Asia was the third strongest region for universities providing MOOCs, representing 14% of all universities listed in the top 100 with Latin America tailing the league table with just two universities.

Since 2015, the number of universities across the world delivering MOOCs has increased by over 85% and there are over 70 million people taking courses across Coursera, edX and FutureLearn.

FutureLearn currently partners with 18 universities listed in the top 100 including 2 in the top 20 and 2 in the top 5.

“I’m delighted to see so many of our partners in the top 100,” said Simon Nelson, chief executive of FutureLearn.

“We are extremely proud to partner with universities that share the same commitment and passion for providing exceptional and invaluable online courses that enable people to learn for the love of learning, as a pathway to further education, or to develop skills to further their careers.”


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Aus: Short-term study abroad boosts prospects

The PIE News - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 10:08

More than four out of five Australian graduates participating in a survey believe short-term study abroad has had a “positive” or “extremely positive” impact on their career, according to a new report by the International Education Association of Australia.

With an earlier report from the IEAA stating that 24% of Australian students now undertake mobility programs,’Career outcomes of learning abroad – short-term programs’ is based on responses from over 3,300 graduates regarding their views on how short-term study abroad has improved their job prospects.

“It’s easier to fit in a short-term program than a semester exchange program”

“The growth in short-term programs has really opened up access to learning abroad for students who might not have otherwise had the opportunity,” said Davina Potts, the report’s author and chair of IEAA’s Research Committee.

“The cost is less prohibitive and the prospect of going overseas for a few weeks – as opposed to re-locating for a whole semester – can be much less daunting for students who are the first in their family to travel overseas.”

Students who were the first in their family to attend university made up 41% of short-term study abroad participants, while 44% were of low or medium socioeconomic status.

“First in family students are more likely to undertake an internship or a study tour and are more likely to study in Asia,” Potts told The PIE News.

“This may be influenced by proximity or funding available through the New Colombo Plan, or by timing – it’s easier to fit in a short-term program than a semester exchange program.”

While 63% said that the experience had improved their long-term job prospects, respondents also added that study abroad served as “a good discussion point in job interviews with prospective employers”.

One noted that they “gained a lot
 of interviews and job opportunities after graduation because of how impressive and interesting the study tour looked on [their] resume”.

The type of program also played a role in impact, with participants in international internships and practicums reporting higher levels of skills development, career impact and greater relevance to their current job.

However, some concern still exists that employers do not fully understand the benefits of short-term study abroad.

While colleges and universities can help to increase awareness among employers, students choosing the right program is also important.

“Employers do not get excited by seeing that a potential employee studied abroad. The mere act of studying abroad gives no favours and promises no transformation,” Jeremy Bassetti of Valencia College in Florida told The PIE.

“Employers want to see what the candidate actually did with their time abroad, what they learned, and how those experiences abroad translate into valuable and desirable qualities for the employer.

“Did they gain foreign language proficiency? Did they volunteer for non-profits? Job-seekers should emphasise the concrete skills, and soft skills, they acquired.” 

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Finland: Vietnam is biggest source market

The PIE News - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 09:12

Vietnam is the biggest student source country for Finland, according to newly available statistics reflecting intake for the 2018/19 academic year.

And international student enrolment has remained consistent year on year in Finland, with almost the same number enrolled: 20,237 compared with 20,362 in the previous period.

“We have a lot of students coming from Asia, and also African countries”

Given that there was a reported drop in interest in the country (according to StudyPortals data) when Finland decided to introduce fees in 2017, the latest data reveals a consistent performance.

The actual drop in enrolments has been marginal, from a high of 21,061 students in 2016/17.

Speaking with The PIE News earlier this year, Joanna Kumpula, manager of the Study in Finland campaign, acknowledged that numbers had seen a slight dip while the market adjusted to a new fee-paying era.

“Universities had a lot of things to settle concerning scholarships and how to build tuition fee structures and so on,” she said.

Petra Yli-Kovero, degree manager of Saimaa University of Applied Sciences, spoke to The PIE about international interest in their programs.

First, interest started when the education was free,” she explained. “It was free of charge for everybody.”

She added, “We have plenty of Vietnamese students in many universities in Finland and word of mouth is really important, well, everywhere in Asia, but also in Vietnam, students have their own networks [that build enrolments].”

The most populous student nationalities in Finland are from Vietnam, Russia, China, Nepal, and then others in the top 10 include India, Bangladesh, Estonia, Germany, Pakistan and Iran.

Sara Åhman, from Centria University of Applied Sciences, commented, “We have a lot of students coming from Asia, and also African countries.”

Nigeria, Ghana, Cameroon and Kenya all feature in the top 20.

Åhman noted that word of mouth marketing was quite important and added, “Nepal has been one of the biggest countries [at this institution]. We have had a long history. And then also these days Bangladesh seems to be popular.

“We are a small city, but we have a quite large community of Bangladeshi people.”

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UK: reintroduction of PSW praised as gov’t reveals study visa growth

The PIE News - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 06:49

The number of UK Tier 4 sponsored study visas granted increased by 16% in 2019, with stakeholders welcoming the government figures as the “first good look” at this year’s recruitment and acknowledging the post-study work re-introduction for the positive figures.

UK government statistics revealed that in the year ending September 2019, 276,889 Tier 4 visas were granted – marking a rise of 37,510 on 2018 figures.

“With a stronger post-study work offer we are going to see even more growth”

According to the Office for National Statistics, immigration for study is the most common reason for non-EU citizens moving to the UK.

While India saw an increase of 11,820 Tier 4 visas granted in 2019 – a 63% rise on 2018 figures – China remains the largest sending country with 119,697 visas granted.

Together, China and India accounted for more than half of all non-EEA Tier 4 visas granted – 43% and 11% respectively, the statistics show.

Saudi Arabia has also seen a rise in visas granted, recording an extra 988 in 2019. This reflects a 12% increase on last year’s figures and brings the total number of visas to 9,123.

The US and Hong Kong are the remaining two largest source countries of students to the UK, with 14,987 and 9,095 visas granted in the year ending September 2019.

The countries are stable with +1% and -1% granted visa changes, respectively.

Matt Durnin, global head of Insights & Consultancy at British Council noted that the year-on-year growth is beginning to return to peak figures in 2009.

“This is our first good look at what recruitment has looked like in 2019,” he said.

It’s a very positive story, he explained, adding that overall he expects “just under 20% year-on-year growth”.

“With a stronger post-study work offer we are going to see even more [growth],” Durnin said. However, he challenged whether it is was “the right growth” for UK institutions.

“The question is, who is that going to benefit? And is it? What does concern me a bit is across all of the major English speaking study destinations, we do see a softening of admissions criteria.”

Other nationalities which do not feature in the top five sending countries have seen a 4% rise, bringing the total to 93,437.

Southeast Asia has seen “moderate growth”, Durnin continued.

“There were a couple of bright spots in Indonesia and a much more positive story from Vietnam. We have seen over the years, for South Asia, India is definitely back. And it’s going to grow tremendously next year as well.”

“What does concern me a bit is… a softening of admissions criteria”

Study at higher education institutions represents 86% of the total of those on Tier 4 visas. According to the UK government, sponsored study visa applications for universities increased by 14% to 222,047, making it the highest level on record.

However, since September 2011, the number of Tier 4 visa application for the further education sector fell from 100,371 to 13,223 in the latest year.

“The continued increase in the number of international students choosing to study in the UK is evidence of the quality of our education sector and the experience it offers to those coming from overseas,” UKCISA chief executive, Anne Marie Graham said.

“It also shows how campaigns such as #WeAreInternational are critical to the success of the international education strategy, ensuring we attract students from all countries and regions as well as maintaining the numbers of students from China and India.”

With partnerships across a range of UK universities including the University of Aberdeen, Lancaster, and Durham among others, pathway provider Study Group sees the indicated jump as “extremely promising”.

“While America has traditionally been the most popular international location for Chinese students, the ongoing US-China trade war and controversies on US campuses have driven many Chinese students to UK universities instead,” said Study Group UK and Europe managing director, James Pitman.

“Similarly, in Australia, increasing hostility towards Chinese students is encouraging many to look to the UK.”

Echoing Durnin’s comments, Pitman lauded the announcement of the re-introduction of the UK post-study work visa.

“[The announcement] has also contributed significantly to the sudden boost in students from India who had previously been applying to Australian institutions,” he said.

“The government is reversing policies which previously positioned the UK as unwelcoming”

In both China and India, Study Group has “robust sales and marketing teams on the ground”, and the latter country has the potential to be the second-largest source of international students in the world, he added.

“It is great to see that the government is reversing policies which previously positioned the UK as unwelcoming of international students,” Pitman observed.

The “positive recruitment environment” for UK universities will mean universities will “be able to alleviate financial pressures and provide cultural and diversity benefits on campus by opening their doors to a wider range of international students”, he concluded.

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Arab researchers consider emigrating

The PIE News - Thu, 12/05/2019 - 04:18

The majority (91%) of researchers working in Arab countries want to emigrate according to a survey conducted by Al-Fanar Media, a publication focused on research, education, and culture in the Arab world.

A total of 650 researchers working in the 22 countries of the Arab League took part in the research, answering questions about the obstacles they face.

“The root cause is the environment that doesn’t support doing science”

Respondents were asked if they would like to move abroad for a permanent research position, with 91% of researchers responding ‘yes’.

Europe (68%) and North America (55%) were named by participants as the regions they would most like to emigrate to.

The total exceeds 100% because respondents who said they would like to leave were allowed to choose more than one answer.

The top five reasons cited by researchers for wanting to move abroad were more opportunity (80%), better research facilities (57%), more academic freedom (43%), better salary (42%) and to escape corruption and bureaucracy (37%).

“I’m not astonished because I know the situation in some Arab countries is bad for researchers,” Abdelhamid Nechad, an economist at the Ecole Supérieure du Commerce et des Affaires in Casablanca, told the publication.

The survey paints a troubling picture of research in Arab countries, despite large investment into universities in the region.

Over half of respondents (52%) said their university doesn’t provide free access to academic journals and 47% said they lack a reliable internet connection on campus.

84% of researchers said they spend their own money on their research.

“The root cause is the environment that doesn’t support doing science,” said Rana Dajani, associate professor at Hashemite University in Jordan, and a Radcliffe fellow at Harvard University.

“In order to do good science and to have the patience, and passion, and persistence, you need to be inspired by other scientists.

“It’s about attending conferences, exchanging ideas and listening to what’s new. This largely doesn’t exist here,” she added.

Al-Fanar Media reported that motivations to leave varied by country within the region.

In the Gulf countries of Bahrain, Kuwait, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, 81% of participants said they wanted to leave, compared to the regional average of 91%.

Conversely, 95% of researchers in the conflict-affected countries of Yemen, Syria and Libya, wanted to leave. These countries represented the region’s highest rate.

Noting some limitations to the survey, the authors of the report said that “because the survey’s focus was on the challenges that researchers in the Arab region face, people with negative opinions about the research climate in Arab countries may have been more motivated to complete the survey.”

Al-Fanar Media is a nonprofit news organisation launched in 2013 as a project of the Alexandria Trust.

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