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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
Updated: 2 months 1 week ago

Tsinghua U launches int’l learning platform

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 07:10

Tsinghua University in Beijing launched an international version of its online learning platform XuetangX on April 20 that will be made available to students and teachers around the world who have been impacted by the coronavirus outbreak.

XuetangX was first launched in 2013 as part of the university’s strategic plan for online education, although it hosts courses not just from Tsinghua but also from other universities around China and has developed partnerships with institutions abroad such as the Open University in the UK.

“The scale, scope, and depth of online education in Chinese higher education are unprecedented”

Its international version has an English language interface and there are plans to add Russian, Spanish, French and Japanese versions soon.

“In order to overcome these difficult times faced by all countries in the world, China wholeheartedly supports the introduction of an international version of a Chinese higher education online teaching platform,” said director of the Ministry of Education’s higher education department, Wu Yan.

“By doing so, China can contribute to the fight against the epidemic in the sphere of higher education.”

In addition to MOOCs, XuetangX offers live broadcasts, certifications and online degree classes.

More and more students in China have either returned to school or expect to do so shortly following the suspension of all in-person classes due to the coronavirus outbreak. Almost 1,500 colleges and universities switched to online learning.

“The scale, scope, and depth of online education in Chinese higher education are unprecedented, setting off a ‘learning revolution’ and breaking important new ground in the field of higher education,” the university noted on its website.

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Don’t neglect 2021 int’l student recruitment pipeline, HEIs urged

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 04:08

Higher education institutions and governments must be willing to challenge their assumptions about international education delivery and focus on maintaining a strong student recruitment pipeline for 2021 and beyond in order to recover from the crisis, according to a panel of education specialists discussing the impact of Covid-19 on the sector.

Speaking at the Universal College of Learning webinar ‘Covid-19: What does this mean for International Education Providers?’, experts said that while many institutions have responded to the immediate issues with mitigation measures – such as online learning, financial support through loans, and deferred or altered study periods – 200 million students globally remain unable to access their higher education.

“If you’re recruiting for 2021 it’s not advisable to take your foot off the pedal”

Addressing the immediate need is a significant challenge in itself, participants were told. However, it’s not the only one for providers, with prospective students already shying away from their future international education plans.

Chris Strodes, Market Research and Data manager at QS said their research showed two-thirds of prospective students reported Covid-19 has affected their plans to study internationally.

“At the beginning of April, 61% of students said their plans have definitely been affected, while another 30% said they’re unsure what this pandemic will mean for their international study plans.”

He said of the affected students, 63% said they will defer for a year then continue as planned, 11% will study elsewhere, 10% will cancel their plans altogether, and 17% are still to decide based on factors such as travel restrictions, and outcomes of language testing.

Strodes said it is vital institutions do not neglect their pipeline of future international students and recruiting for 2021 should be happening now.

“Our data shows the average enrolment journey is 10 months from first contact to enrolment, with an average three to five inbound enquiries [made from the prospective student]  and 15 to 30 outbound [to the student].

“If you’re recruiting for 2021 it’s not advisable to take your foot off the pedal and wait and see what happens because it’s not going to be as simple as turning the tap back on in October or November and getting those recruits in for semester one 2021,” he noted.

Strodes said there is also the added challenge of not being able to rely on face-to-face events like recruitment fairs and open days.

“Where possible there needs to be a pivoting of these events into digital events in order to replicate the traditional journey as closely as possible.”

Institutions also need to understand market shifts: for example, Strodes explained, QS data shows that overall enquiries are slightly down for the first quarter but inbound communication has increased – so fewer people showing interest, but they’re asking more questions, requiring a higher level of service.

Providers should also be examining where enquirers are coming from and comparing this data to last year’s to see if it has changed, Strodes counselled, as well as what courses are gaining or losing interest.

“What everyone should be doing is taking stock of their data and using that to personalise their communications and the ways they’re reaching out.

“There’s going to be a slightly smaller pool of international students to rely on, however, the demand is still going to be the same from institutions which means there’s going to be more competition. So, how do you compete amongst more competition? You provide more personalised services.”

“How do you compete amongst more competition? You provide more personalised services”

He said over the coming months there’s going to be an expectation to do more with less – so now is the time focus on what gets the best results to maintain a strong pipeline of international students for 2021 and beyond.

Economist and international education specialist, Keri Ramirez of Studymove, said recovery planning should also be on the radar of international education providers, listing three principles to be guided by.

Constant forecasting, he said, is something all organisations need to be doing on a quarterly – and in some cases, monthly – basis, to aid in the development of a range of scenarios and contingency plans.

The second principle, Ramirez explained, is flexibility and the ability to adapt.

“We really need to be flexible in the way we’re operating. By identifying our limitations we can start to see just how flexible we are, and what can and cannot be done.”

Ramirez said while some changes aren’t feasible, it’s worth examining things such as entry requirements, online learning delivery and changes to the academic calendar.  “At least an assessment of that will really help in the plan for recovery.”

The third principle, Ramirez said, is certainty, but acknowledged that this will be a challenge given the current high level of uncertainty.

“We need to provide students, parents and education agents with as much certainty as possible. I think it is important just to say, ‘look if you’re not able to start in February, we’re going to have this option for you, or we’re going to have a clear refund policy for you’.

“All this additional information is going to be very, very well received and is really going to help us move forward,” he noted.

Going a step further,  International Education administrator, Francisco Marmolejo, said international education providers can’t just go back to the way things were, and it is time to consider how to operate in the “new normal”.

He said the world is facing a significant economic recession on the heels of the Covid-19 crisis and the sector needs to change in anticipation.

“We need to challenge many of the assumptions we have. Do we need the traditional way to measure the ability and competencies of students? Do we need to think that face-to-face learning process should continue being the norm? Do we need to consider that all the academic content that we include in our academic programs still are valid and needed?”

Marmolejo said all these questions, and ideas such as micro-campuses and “zero semesters” must be considered, using a participatory approach to include a range of stakeholders including teachers and education agents.

“This will require more important decision making – based on evidence. Many times we base our decision on anecdotes and I think it is time to base more decisions using data,” he said.

“There is no doubt that this unchartered territory for all of us is going to be both challenging, but at the same time fascinating.”

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UK TNE a “success story” in Malaysia, report finds

Mon, 04/27/2020 - 02:03

UK degrees offered in Malaysia – the second-largest host country for UK transnational education – have been praised as being both relevant to the local market and employment needs, as well as meeting the expectations of the UK Quality Code for Higher Education, according to a new report.

A review by the UK’s Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education – conducted in close engagement with the Malaysian Qualifications Agency – found that the quality of UK qualifications being delivered in Malaysia was similar to those delivered in the UK.

“UK TNE provision in Malaysia provides students with a high-quality experience”

“UK branch campuses offer degrees that are equivalent to those offered in the UK, with the same academic standards and the same content with appropriate contextualisation,” the report noted.

Franchised programs, typically designed by the UK university, are “essentially the same” as the same program delivered in the UK, while dual-award programs in Malaysia will remain popular from the students’ perspective due to perceived enhanced employability opportunities.

UK higher education in Malaysia is a success story for UK universities, for Malaysia as a country and, most importantly, for students taking UK degrees in the country, QAA stated.

QAA’s executive director of Operations, Vicki Stott, said the review “highlights how UK TNE provision in Malaysia provides students with a high-quality experience”.

“It’s been achieved through an investment in staff development; systems to enable the student voice to be heard and responded to; effective communication and partnership relations; and recognition of the local context,” Stott explained.

“These qualities will support UK TNE provision as it moves into a post-pandemic world.”

QAA is developing separate advice for UK TNE providers to maintain and uphold the quality standards, which will be published on its Covid-19 response page.

TNE management processes in Malaysia are “generally well developed”, ensuring standards and quality are equivalent to similar provision delivered in the UK, the report stated.

Over 50% of all non-local programs in Malaysia lead to a UK degree, with the vast majority provision taking the form of franchise or validation partnerships with local providers, it continued.

The report, however, noted that there had been a decrease in TNE student numbers in the past few years, brought about largely due to an increasingly competitive market, a developing local higher education sector and changes in local regulations.

Head Education (Malaysia) at the British Council, Prabha Sundram, suggested the report needs to be considered when analysing the post Covid-19 implications on UK TNE provision in Malaysia.

“[It] will subsequently aid us in co-creating mutually beneficial ways of supporting the TNE sector throughout this rapidly evolving situation, and beyond,” Sundram explained.

Both MQA and QAA are “fully committed to strategically work together towards enhancing the quality of higher education in Malaysia and the UK within respective legal mandates, quality assurance policies and frameworks,” deputy CEO, Malaysian Qualifications Agency, Khairul Salleh bin Mohamed Sahari, added.

TNE was also the focus of a recent webinar, in which educators urged HEIs to hone their TNE provision to mitigate the potential changes in a post-coronavirus educational landscape.

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Canada lifts limits on “essential” workers

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 07:12

The Canadian government has announced that it will lift work limits for international students whose jobs provide an “essential service”,  in a bid to support the country’s workforce in key areas.

As part of the temporary rules, students will be able to work in excess of 20 hours a week while classes are in session – provided they are working in an essential service or function, such as health care, critical infrastructure, or the supply of food or other critical goods.

“International students who are already present in Canada will help meet the challenges of the pandemic”

The measures will remain in place until August 31, according to Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada.

“Immigrants, temporary foreign workers and international students are making important contributions as frontline workers in health care and other essential service sectors,” said minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship, Marco Mendicino.

“We know and value their efforts and sacrifices to keep Canadians healthy and ensure the delivery of critical goods and services.”

In a statement, the department said that during the Covid-19 outbreak, workers in certain roles and industries have been under considerable pressure.

“The government recognises that international students who are already present in Canada will help meet the challenges of the pandemic,” it said.

Statistics Canada reported that in 2017–2018, more than 11,000 international students were enrolled in health-care programs at Canada’s universities and colleges, representing about 4% of healthcare students at that time.

The department said that international students and their employers should consult Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada guidance to determine if the work the student is doing would allow them to work more than 20 hours per week during the academic session.

The move comes after the Canadian government announced a CAD$9 billion support package for post-secondary students and recent graduates. The plan will help provide the students financial support through the summer and help them start their careers.

New measures will see the creation of the Canada Emergency Student Benefit, which would provide support to students and new graduates who are not eligible for the Canada Emergency Response Benefit. However, it will not benefit international students in Canada.

According to CTVNews, CESB will only be available for Canadians studying in Canada or Canadian citizens who are completing their post-secondary degrees abroad.

“To promote a sustainable economic recovery, we need a strong workforce and good job opportunities for young people,” said the prime minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau.

“That means giving them the support they need to continue their studies and encouraging them to serve their communities. Together, we will get through this difficult time.”

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Interest in studying in Germany grows as Covid-19 response praised

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 06:42

While an increasing number of students who would have been heading to the UK and the US this autumn say they are considering changing their study plans, many are turning to destinations such as Germany that have responded better to the coronavirus pandemic.

“Germany’s popularity among international students is growing based on the first results in dealing with Covid-19. Germany has one of the best health care systems in the world,” said Akos Kiraly, director of marketing and recruitment at Lancaster University Leipzig.

“More demand does not mean more enrolment in this situation. There are still a lot of mobility obstacles in place”

“I anticipate that Germany’s international student numbers will grow even stronger in the near future, especially from the EU, as many students will need to look for alternative options within the EU with English-taught programs.”

The world’s two top study destinations – the US and the UK – haven’t exactly been praised for their handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Borders remain closed in the US, while the UK remains on lockdown with no end in sight.

Whether students choose to study in Germany over other destinations, however, may have more to do with these destinations and their ongoing response to coronavirus.

Despite free tuition, top institutions and English-taught programs, Germany attracts fewer international students than its more expensive counterparts.

“Public health is not the only relevant factor. For example, I do believe Italy’s popularity will actually grow,” said Study.EU founder Gerrit Bruno Blöss.

“Our statistics already indicate student interest at previous levels. The country was hit hard, but Italians showed remarkable morale, and thanks to social media everyone worldwide took notice.”

Additionally, Edwin Van Rest, CEO of Studyportals, said Germany “stands to benefit”, but is cautious about the overall impact.

“More demand does not mean more enrolment in this situation. There are still a lot of mobility obstacles in place,” he added.

Meanwhile, new data from DAAD and DZHW shows that the number of international students in Germany continued to rise in 2019, reaching 394,665 international students overall.

In 2015, 207,804 Bildungsausländer (foreign students who did their high school qualifications outside Germany) were studying for a degree at German universities. By 2019, this number had risen to 276,122.

Graph: DAAD/ DZHW

Germany has a more diverse range of sources of international students than other top destinations. Although China still makes up 13.2% of the international student body, with 39,871 Chinese citizens studying in Germany last year, the top 10 source countries account for only 45% of all international students.

This is compared to the US where 71.6% of international students come from the 10 largest source countries, and 65% in the UK.

After India in second position, the third most common source country for international students in Germany is Syria (4.3%).

Around three out of four international students in Germany are studying at bachelor’s or master’s level. Berlin, Saxony and Thuringia have the most international students, with the latter two having overtaken Saarland and Brandenburg since 2014.

Interestingly, it’s not just in-person classes though that are getting more attention right now.

“We are also seeing a higher number of international students enrolling in online programs at German universities”

“We are also seeing a higher number of international students enrolling in online programs at German universities,” said Gent Ukehajdaraj of Studying in Germany.

“It also means international students can get a German degree without having to apply for a visa or spend significantly more money to come to Germany, while at the same time having access to all the benefits that a German degree offers such as the post-study work visa. We think distance learning will be a ‘new normal’ after the pandemic ends.”

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The impact will be dependent on what you do now

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 03:22

There has been so much written about the impact of COVID-19 on the university sector, much of it focusing on a reductive view of a post-pandemic world. The narrative is focused on domestic students not returning, international students staying away and black holes in university finances.

I have no doubt that all of these predictions will materialise across all institutions to a greater or lesser degree.

The impact will be dependent on what you do now.   

UUK and the sector more broadly have been lobbying government to ensure that these difficulties are acknowledged and that some sort of short-term arrangements are put in place to support the integrity of the HE system.

I have worked in the sector for almost 20 years and one might think that this is just the latest in a series of perfect storms that have buffeted universities in their long history.  But this storm is different and is wreaking havoc on all of our assumptions and preconceptions – from student behaviour to the economic outlook, the world we are preparing our students for and the research we do.

There will be winners and losers but to just focus on the negative misses the opportunities that the current crisis could present and limits university responses to the crisis, creating an even greater challenge from which many may not survive.

“The risk of paralysis through endless analysis and a lack of decision making will exacerbate the situation”

With so much uncertainty, the risk of paralysis through endless analysis and a lack of decision making will exacerbate the situation.  Universities now need to act on three fronts to keep moving forward and prepare for a range of eventualities which we can start to visualise.

Front 1 – Resilience and crisis management.

In March and early April, the focus was rightly on resilience and crisis management – moving students and staff to remote working, securing buildings and everything that entailed. One of the biggest shifts has been the mass move to online.  This has happened at pace and the platform market is one of only a few sectors continuing to enjoy growth.

Most of the university leaders I have spoken to in the last few weeks have been delighted and somewhat surprised at the speed at which they have been able to move operations off campus and online and how they have supported staff and students in the transition. They also recognise that many of the solutions are fine for now but will not be sustainable in the longer term.

Just like the shift from chalkboard to smartboard, the move from lecture theatre to Zoom has been equally underwhelming and not matched with new approaches that use the full potential of the available technology. PowerPoint slides and recorded lectures do not create a great student experience. 

“What happens outside the lecture theatre is as important to students as the lectures themselves”

For students, the decision to attend a campus-based university is absolutely about the courses they will study and the brand and reputation of the institution. It is also about the freedom to be themselves, the sense of community and the engagement that going to university offers.  What happens outside the lecture theatre is as important to students as the lectures themselves.

Front 2 – Business as (Un)usual.

You will want to work with your COVID Response teams and your staff and students to understand and build on what has worked well and what is not sustainable for the longer term.

Are your systems and processes robust enough to function if the recovery takes longer or changes the size and shape of your organisation?  What are the implications for staff and students (and the institution) who have discovered that they can do their job and learn remotely?   

The two big priorities over the next six months will be graduating current students and attracting and securing students for the new academic year.

What do you need to do now to maximise your intake in a world where travel is restricted, the economy and public finances in disarray and confidence significantly reduced?  How do you demonstrate to students, carers and parents that such a significant investment in your university at this time is a good choice and will deliver a great experience and value for money?

Front 3 – Embracing the new reality

The world will never be the same again and the current crisis will impact the sector for at least the next three academic years.  I also believe it will lead to permanent change.  This means every strategy in place will need to be revisited.

This creates the opportunity to think differently. Competitive advantage and exceptional leadership are critical for organisations to weather storms and come through successfully. This means having the confidence and foresight to act decisively and embrace new situations rather than hoping that everything will return to normal and work out.

“Think about every aspect of your offer.. the courses your offer and the markets you target”

When I speak with universities about their goals and aspirations, the response is consistent.  They want to have the very best student experience; they want to play a key role in their communities, and they want to attract great researchers and extend knowledge and knowhow.

This doesn’t change as a result of COVID-19 but the environment does – your competitive landscape, where and how you play, the way you organise yourself to win and how long it might take will all now be different.

Think about every aspect of your delivery, from professional and support services to research, the academic offer, the student experience, the courses your offer and the markets you target.

COVID-19 shouldn’t undermine the role of universities but enhance it. The digital demon is truly out of the box and will be hard to put back. Embrace it and make it work for you, your students, your communities and the economy.

Julie Mercer is a partner at Cairneagle Associates, a strategy and management consultancy. Prior to this, Julie worked for the NAO for 10 years followed by 22 years at Deloitte where she led UK and Global education practices. She has over 30 years’ experience in advising on strategy, policy reform and operational restructuring; Julie now leads Cairneagle’s Higher Education practice.

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“The dream continues” says Brazilian sector

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 02:29

“O’sonho continua” – the dream continues – is the message international education professionals have sought to spread to Portuguese-speaking students and partners via an online video.

Featuring a group of Brazilian marketing and business managers from across the sector, the project was created out of a desire to send a positive message that could “touch people’s hearts in a time of change”, according to Carlos Eduardo Martins, business development manager at Berlitz Manchester.

“We felt that something needed to be done in order to support and bring hope and a positive message to everyone”

It also wanted to “bring solidarity, unity and hope” while the coronavirus continues to disrupt international study plans.

In a joint statement, Priscila Campos from BROWNS English, Connect International School’s Roberto Bihari, Tatiana Cavarsam from Good Hope Studies and Martins said the industry needed a positive message.

“The idea behind the video was to unite and support every human being, especially those from the international education industry,” they said.

“We felt that many people from our market were stressed out, with a lot of worries and concerns. So, we felt that something needed to be done in order to support, bringing hope and positive message to everyone.”

The group idea came when the friends were discussing how important it is to remain positive in difficult times.

“This situation demands positive minds, positive hearts, a lot of solidarity, so we can pass through this faster and stronger,” they explained.

“Despite the postponement of some projects, others will be created. Everything is cyclical, and this cycle will also end, and let us be ready to live our dreams with even more intensity,” participants said in the video.

“We know it is going to be a rough time for agents, schools, and students, especially the ones that had planned their programs in the short term, but this is something transient, and we really believe once all this situation has come to an end, we will be here strong as usual. Providing support as we always did, providing training, attending fairs,” the group added.

The video has had many thousands of likes and shares, the group added, and has “influenced not only other marketing manager groups in Mexico, Colombia, Australia and Russia, as well as agents, that started to create their all positive message videos to their student”.

“We truly believe that it gave extra motivation to everyone to hold tight during the storm, as well as, many students are understanding the importance at this stage to postpone and not to cancel.

“As we say on the video, it is a cycle that will be over soon, and as some dreams are being postponed, new ones as being created during this time, so the dream must go on.”

The full list of participants:

1 – Carlos Eduardo Martins – Berlitz Manchester & Dublin / Choices International

2 – Eduardo Novik / Envirotech Education

3 – Flávia Aguiar / ILSC Education Group (ILSC Language Schools and Greystone College)

4 – Anderson Pacheco e Mariana Carone / Southern Lakes English College – SLEC & Southern Institute of Technology – SIT

5 – Tatiana “Tati” Cavarsam / Good Hope Studies

6 – Priscila Campos/ Browns

7 – Diogo Scherer/ International House Sydney city, Bondi, Darwing, Melbourne & ihBC

8 – Camila Viana / St. George International College

9 – Roberto “Beto” Bihari – Connect International School

10 – Murilo Fernandes – GISMA Business School

11 – Antonio Pessoa Junior – SSLC, SSC & VICCC

12 – Pablo Pereira – Edvisor

13 – João Paulo Campos – Expanish / France Langue

14 – Vitor Alvarino – UMC (Upper Madison College)

15 – Erica Pereira – LAL Language Centres

16 – Camilian Branco – Global Village

17 – Fabio Carola – Humber College

18 – Tatiana Menitti – ILAC

19 – Francielly Gnoatto – Entrepreneur Education & Imagine Education Australia

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Fire Tech offers free classes in Oman and UK

Fri, 04/24/2020 - 00:47

Fire Tech, which offers technology-focused courses for children and teenagers on subjects like coding, robotics and even Minecraft, is offering 15,000 students in Oman and 5,000 students in the UK free Python lessons in both Arabic and English.

The 25-hour curriculum includes instruction on flying simulated drones, creating chatbots, designing smart cities and coding video games.

“This has been an opportunity for us to expand”

“We started working with Oman in 2018 as an academic partner to the National Youth Programme for Skills Development,” explained Fire Teach CEO, Jill Hodges.

“At that time we ran a very prestigious residential to teach digital communications, hardware, design and coding to 200 students.  They wanted to run something new for 2020 and we agreed on an online Python Programming learning experience for 15,000 of their students.”

Like many others in the space, Fire Tech has shifted to purely online learning over and in the last three weeks alone taught over 500 online classes.

Hodges said she is encouraging agents to partner with more online schools as a way of helping to weather the havoc coronavirus is wreaking on the sector.

Tensions between agents, students and language schools regarding refunds for in-person classes that are now being delivered online is ongoing.

“We’ve gotten great feedback from parents, who need some structure so they can work, and kids, who love seeing online education that’s engaging and fun,”  Hodges continued.

“This has been an opportunity for us to expand and make our courses available to more people both geographically and financially.  We’d been testing some initiatives to use blended learning to create some lower price point courses and the current environment was a very strong catalyst to accelerate that.

“We are working with groups from around Europe, plus India and Asia to set up times and in some cases custom groups that work for them.”

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U Auckland retains top spot in Impact Rankings

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 09:37

Australasian universities have topped the second edition of Times Higher Education’s Impact Rankings, which assess the social and economic impact of universities using metrics based on the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

New Zealand’s University of Auckland took the number one spot for a second consecutive year, while the top four was rounded out by Australian institutions: the University of Sydney, Western Sydney University and La Trobe University.

“The contribution universities make has never been more important”

The global ranking was launched in 2019 to measure the broader impact of universities and highlight the work that demonstrates the differences they can make such as providing inclusive and equitable quality education, achieving gender equality, and championing environmental sustainability.

Universities are assessed against each of the 17 SDGs, which were adopted by the UN in 2015 to provide a framework for developing the world in a sustainable way.

“Placing first overall for the second year running reaffirms the University of Auckland’s strong commitment to sustainability and making a positive social impact through its partnerships, research, teaching, operations, community engagement and knowledge transfer,” a statement from the University of Auckland read.

“We are particularly pleased that this announcement, on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day and within the context of the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly acknowledges the contributions our people are making towards health and wellbeing (SDG 3), life under water (SDG 14) and life on land (SDG 15).”

University of Sydney vice-chancellor and principal, Michael Spence, said he was heartened by the result at a time when the impact of higher education institutions on ‘wicked’ problems was so evident.

“The contribution universities make has never been more important – with climate change, unprecedented bushfires and the coronavirus affecting us all.

“It’s our staff, along with students, who are working tirelessly with colleagues around the world, with industry, community and with government to solve these unprecedented challenges and I’m thrilled they have been recognised and acknowledged with this ranking,” he added.

The rest of the top 10 is made up of the Arizona State University (Tempe), University of Bologna, Canada’s University of British Columbia, University of Manchester, King’s College London and Australia’s RMIT University.

 

Overall, the ranking included 766 universities from 85 countries.

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More US unis drop SAT/ACT requirements

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 07:46

Cornell University is the first Ivy League university to become ACT or SAT exam test-optional, joining an ever-growing list of US schools that are dropping the requirement for fall 2021 admissions in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Earlier in April, the College Board – the not-for-profit organisation that gives the SAT – and ACT announced the cancellation of all immediately upcoming administrations of the SAT and ACT standardised exams, which are required components of the majority of US college applications.

“We want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time”

The College Board said its top priorities are the health and safety of students and educators.

“Public health officials have made clear it currently is not safe to gather students in one place, and many states have closed school for the rest of the academic year. As such, the College Board will not be able to administer the SAT as planned on June 6,” said the College Board in a statement.

However, the organisation said it will ensure students have opportunities to take the SAT to make up for the lost administrations, “giving them opportunities to show their strengths and continue on the path to college”.

“We know students and educators are worried about how the coronavirus may disrupt the college admissions process, and we want to do all we can to help alleviate that anxiety during this very demanding time,” said College Board CEO, David Coleman.

“Our first principle with the SAT and all our work must be to keep families and students safe. The second principle is to make the SAT as widely available as possible for students who wish to test, regardless of the economic or public health circumstances.”

The College Board added that in “the unlikely event that schools do not reopen this fall”, it will provide a digital SAT for home use, much as the organisation is delivering digital exams for three million Advanced Placement students this spring.

ACT said it will also offer a remote proctoring option, allowing students to test at home on a computer, and that it would launch the test-at-home option in late fall/early winter 2020 as part of its national testing program.

The exam cancellations prompted a large number of institutions to suspend the test requirements or make it optional, including Pepperdine University in California, which announced it is test-optional for undergraduate international students and US students studying outside of the country for the 2021-2022 academic year.

“Given the widespread cancellation of standardised test-taking opportunities around the world this spring and uncertainty about future test dates, Pepperdine University will allow prospective undergraduate international students to apply with or without standardised test results,” it stated on its website.

The university statement explained that though formerly required, standardised exams were reviewed in their context and “not deemed equivalent to a student’s academic performance in their own education system”. However, students that have already taken the exams and feel they enhance their application are “welcome to submit self-reported scores for admissions consideration”.

“The rigour of the curriculum and performance is already the most critical component of the academic review, and many education systems have equivalent exams, such as AP and IB, GCE Advanced Levels, French Baccalauréat, Indian Higher Secondary School Certificate, etc.,” the statement continued, adding that proof of English proficiency will still be required from all international applicants.

More recently, the University of Richmond in Virginia announced it would also be providing a test-optional admission path for first-year students entering in 2021, while Cornell University stated that students seeking to enrol and beginning in August 2021 can submit their applications without including the results from ACT or SAT exams.

However, Cornell added it is not adopting a “test-optional admission” policy permanently, and that applicants with no test results might more often be asked for additional evidence of continuing preparation.

“Many education systems have equivalent exams”

It also stated that it is currently unable to analyse proposals from ACT and the College Board for offering expanded at-home and other online testing during 2020.

“While we affirm each of the test-makers’ qualifications, research, and intentions, this method of testing can’t yet be validated as an indicator of college success during the upcoming cycle,” it wrote.

“Also, though we again credit the efforts the agencies will undertake, it seems likely that differences in access to technology and timing will mean some students will have less chance to succeed through these online testing opportunities than others.”

Meanwhile, student-run nonprofit Student Voice is urging more schools to adopt test-optional application policies for fall 2021 with its #TestOptionalNOW campaign.

Sign the petition to call on universities to go #TestOptionalNow for 2020-21 admissions. https://t.co/5XqWxRN1Oq

— Student Voice (@stu_voice) March 23, 2020

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China: African students caught up in crackdown

Thu, 04/23/2020 - 02:56

International students and English teachers from Africa studying and working in the southern Chinese city of Guangzhou found themselves caught up in a crackdown on African passport holders this month. They have been blamed for spreading the coronavirus in Guangdong’s provincial capital.

According to the country’s Ministry of Education, in 2018 81,562 students from Africa were studying in China, accounting for 16.57% of the international student body.

Guangzhou is home to several universities, including Sun Yat-Sen University, which is ranked among China’s top 10 HE institutions in THE’s 2020 rankings.

“There are reports of foreigners being sealed in their apartments despite testing negative”

The crackdown began after five Nigerian businessmen living in an area informally dubbed Little Africa tested positive for Covid-19 on April 7. Local media often states that Guangzhou is home to over 300,000 Africans but other estimates put the number closer to between 10,000-20,000.

Over the next few days African passport holders – including English teachers and international students – were forced from their homes by landlords and refused access to shops to buy food.

They were further denied access to hotels, which resulted in dozens sleeping on the streets and receiving food and support from charities.

“We’ve just been down there a couple of hours ago distributing water, food and blankets. It’s sickening,” noted one volunteer.

“Also there are reports of foreigners being sealed in their apartments despite testing negative, having done their 14 days or not having been out of the country. Alarms are being put on doors that alert the police if they are opened.”

One English teacher reported that police had arrived at their home around midnight and placed them and several other South Africans in quarantine.

Another South African teacher on a work trip to the city from another province said they were forced to sleep in the toy room at the school because she couldn’t find a hotel that would take her.

Students living on campus were less affected but according to reports, still face discrimination.

“Police are visiting the bars in our street, we are all being told to check every customer’s passport,” said one bar owner.

“If it’s an African passport we are not allowed to let you in and we have been told to advise our African customers to go back home and quarantine.”

By April 10, African embassies had joined together to hold an emergency meeting with Chinese authorities, while back home some politicians were calling for Chinese people to be thrown out of their countries in response.

The following day, the US Consul General in Guangzhou sent an email to US nationals in the city in which it advised: “African-Americans…to avoid the Guangzhou metropolitan area until further notice.”

On April 12, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian addressed the situation.

He stated that “the Guangdong authorities attach great importance to some African countries’ concerns and are working promptly to improve their working method”, that “African friends can count on getting fair, just, cordial and friendly reception in China” and reminded people of the assistance China had given to several African countries when they had Ebola outbreaks.

Caucasian and other Asian non-Chinese living in the city have also reported being denied access to services.

“I got stopped and denied entry to the metro today, so it’s starting to affect other foreigners as well. But it’s not as bad as what the African community is dealing with at the moment,” noted one resident of the city.

“Due to the impact of foreign epidemic, foreign friends are prohibited from entering the supermarket”

Another posted a photo on WeChat showing a supermarket sign that read, in Chinese and English: “Due to the impact of the foreign epidemic, foreign friends are prohibited from entering the supermarket!”

Some local residents have hit back on social media saying that the treatment of Africans is not racist or discriminatory but simply “protecting China from coronavirus”.

Despite China’s push to establish closer relations with African nations, Africans in the country say they have long experienced discrimination at the hands of authorities and local businesses. Negative attitudes also extend to black North Americans and Europeans, who can experience difficulty finding teaching jobs due to a belief they are not “real” native English speakers.

Over the weekend, a number of recently reopened scenic areas in the city were shut down once again, suggesting Guangzhou is bracing itself for a second outbreak.

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Covid-19 effects on admissions will be limited if education in China presented objectively

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 10:28

In the previous 24 hours before April 23, there were 10 new confirmed cases of covid-19 reported in the mainland of China. Six of them were from abroad, according to reports from CDC China, in which case the people have been put into medical treatment directly from the airport at local hospitals. Another four local cases were reported in Heilongjiang and Guangdong provinces. Among the 338 affected cities, now 318 are safe and sound, as all the patients have been cured and left hospitals.

During these days, I have received lots of messages from my colleagues around the world. Taking this opportunity, I would like to express my sincere gratitude for your care for me and my family: Thank you so much!

Will the coronavirus effect Chinese universities’ international recruitment?

My answer to this question is, “effects will be limited, and could hardly last if we present China objectively to students – especially focusing on the encouraging results of counter-measures the Chinese government used to respond to this ongoing epidemic”.

Facing distorted or exaggerated remarks about China in the media, we would like to cite a saying: “The wise man knows he knows nothing, the fool thinks he knows all.”

When applicants ask us coronavirus-related questions, how should we reply? As most of my friends have asked this, I have decided to summarise my observations and to share it with you.

1. The Chinese central and local governments have been updating the confirmed cases of coronavirus and its related districts every 24 hours to the public. And they have been opening the medical treatment solution too.

2. The Chinese government has been providing “free treatment to all coronavirus patients”, Chinese and foreigners alike.*

3.  Chinese hospitals are well equipped and they know how to deal with the disease. Now all the countries will take into consideration the medical treatment advice from China and WHO, as Chinese hospitals have cured more than 78,000 patients as far. And Chinese Traditional Medicine,like “lianhuaqingwen”, is proven to be 91% effective for Covid-19 patients with mild symptoms.

4. The Chinese Public Health Emergency System functions effectively during this epidemic. With reports from confirmed patients, it can track almost all the people who might be at risk of being infected, and implement proper quarantine medical observation.

5. The Chinese Ministry of Education has set up a covid-19 Emergency Management Plan on campus.

6. A Chinese coronavirus vaccine is in the clinical test (Phase II) stages.

During the fight against coronavirus, new fields of studies like 5G, AI, Big Data, and UAV have sufficiently helped Chinese medical teams to work beyond the distance and to save lives together. Chinese universities will surely increase their investment in the further development of these fields and programs.

“The tuition fees in China are relatively low compared with European or American institutions”

Chinese universities keep taking international recruitment and international education as a channel for global communication rather than a business.

For this reason, the tuition fees in China are relatively low compared with European or American institutions. And our talented professors and well-equipped schools have the confidence to prepare our students for the future!

Covid-19 indeed creates uncertainty as most countries have closed their borders. For September/October, the autumn entry, we think the border in China will be open.

Welcome to China!

*As China is going to be regarded as a low-risk zone of coronavirus, recently people around the world have been surging into China. On March 14, it was reported that the “ free medical treatment policy for foreigners in China” has been updated to “ free medical treatment for foreigners registered in the Chinese Social Security System”.

All international students in China and foreigners legally working in China are registered in the Chinese Social Security System with their own Social Security Card.

Professor Ying Qi is the director of international admissions at Yinchuan University, China. He is also the senior program advisor of CFP Talent, a French think tank focusing on French-Asian intercultural exchange. His fields of research are international business development and international talent movement.

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Australia: StudyPerth Crisis Relief established

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 01:28

StudyPerth has announced that a StudyPerth Crisis Relief program has been established to address the acute needs of international students affected by the  Covid-19 pandemic and its associated restrictions.

The SPCR program is to be funded by diverting StudyPerth resources from curtailed or cancelled projects and will be accessible via application to provide support services to international students with regard to food, shelter, health and wellbeing, and rights and support.

“It is also important to demonstrate to education agents…and to students’ families that we are a compassionate community”

StudyPerth said the first stage is to refer students to their educational institution, as for the majority of cases, the institution will be able to provide the necessary support for their students.

“The principal aim of SPCR is to provide practical help to students in acute need, but it is also important to demonstrate to education agents here and overseas and to students’ families that we are a compassionate community and we’re supporting their students when they need us most,” a statement from StudyPerth explained.

“This will be to WA’s advantage as we recover and rebound from the COVID-19 crisis. Recovery of the sector will be crucial to stabilising the State’s economy now that international education has been identified as a key component of a diversified economy.”

StudyPerth said it is working very closely with education providers, consulates, ethnic associations and business councils to establish a protocol that matches international students with the support, aid or advice they need.

“If we value and support our international students when they are most in need, we can ensure that the international education sector in WA remains strong and can drive prosperity and jobs growth, as restrictions are lifted and the global economy begins to recover.”

International education is Australia’s third-largest export and Western Australia’s fourth, generating more than $1.9 billion annually in export income for WA.

This week, sector stakeholders have also welcomed the South Australian government’s AU$13.8 million funding plan to assist the state’s international students and a $20m ‘Jobs for Canberrans’ plan in the Australian Capital Territory.

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NZ: new language proficiency initiative

Wed, 04/22/2020 - 00:53

Three language schools in New Zealand have been approved to offer Accredited Pathway Assessments as evidence for language proficiency for tertiary education, thanks to an agreement between education bodies English New Zealand and Universities New Zealand.

The first schools to be approved are Bridge International CollegeLanguages International and Kaplan International Languages – all with centres in the country’s largest city Auckland.

“This is a positive step forward not only for the approved members, but also in terms of cross-sector collaboration”

As part of an MoU signed in June 2019, English New Zealand and Universities New Zealand announced that the Accredited Pathway Assessment would be accepted as evidence of meeting English language proficiency requirements for the country’s eight universities.

“This is a positive step forward not only for the approved members, but also in terms of cross-sector collaboration,” English New Zealand executive director Kim Renner said.

“With inevitable changes coming for the export education industry, seamless pathways into further study and closer collaboration will become more important than ever before,” Renner said.

The initiative will enable more English language students to consider tertiary study pathways and longer-term study in New Zealand, the organisation, which represents 22 of the country’s private and state-owned English language schools, said.

Approved members will use the English New Zealand Accredited Pathway Assessment logo, English New Zealand said.

Applications were reviewed by qualified English language experts to ensure quality and consistency.

The thorough reviewing process would enable universities to have confidence around due diligence, Renner added.

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US: Trump looks to immigration suspension

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 09:34

US president Donald Trump is to sign an executive order to temporarily suspend immigration to the US due in a bid to curb the devastating impact of coronavirus on American jobs and the economy.

The latest in a string of moves cracking down on immigration, the president announced on Twitter that the move was necessary due to “the attack from the invisible enemy” Covid-19, which has so far resulted in more than 42,000 deaths in the US.

In light of the attack from the Invisible Enemy, as well as the need to protect the jobs of our GREAT American Citizens, I will be signing an Executive Order to temporarily suspend immigration into the United States!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) April 21, 2020

“It is disappointing but not surprising”

The Trump administration has gradually expanded travel restrictions and slowed visa processing in an attempt to stem the spread of the virus.

Since March 20, the Department of State has temporarily suspended routine visa services at all US embassies and consulates, cancelling all routine immigrant and nonimmigrant visa appointments.

However, it remains unclear as to what policy would be included in the latest announcement, as the president and the White House did not elaborate.

“Given that this was announced in a tweet as political posturing and provides no details, it is hard to know what exactly is being proposed,” said Fanta Aw, vice president of Campus Life & Inclusive Excellence at American University in Washington.

“As of now, US consulates and embassies are not operating in most parts of the world, travel bans have been instituted for certain countries, issues related to immigration and the current administration abound with zero comprehensive approach or understanding of the role of immigration in the US economy,” she told The PIE News.

“It is disappointing but not surprising. Over the next days and months we should expect to learn more about the intentions and actions of the Trump administration.”

Higher education organisations in the US previously warned that overall enrolment for the next academic year will drop by 15%, while a projected decline of 25% of international students is expected.

The 25% decline in international student enrolment would lead to a loss of approximately $10 billion and 114,000 jobs to the US economy, NAFSA has said.

“While we are awaiting an official executive order and do not yet know how the announced immigration policy will impact international students and scholars, we can unequivocally state that they are vital to the US economy,” NAFSA executive director and CEO, Esther D. Brimmer said.

“International students create jobs, drive innovation, enrich our campuses and communities, strengthen national security, and become America’s greatest foreign policy assets.”

In 2019, international students contributed nearly $41 billion to the US economy, supporting more than 458,000 jobs, she added.

 “International education the fifth-largest US services export. Nearly one-quarter of the founders of the $1 billion US startup companies first came to America as international students. In times of international crises such as this one, it is abundantly clear how our best efforts to address global challenges must draw on global talent,” Brimmer added.

Speaking with The PIE, assistant dean, International Strategy and Programs at San Diego State University World Campus, Eddie West, said the message the president gave will likely be more impactful than the policy.

“Students around the world who have been looking to come to the US to start their studies this summer or fall are to varying extents looking for signs of the likelihood of that being possible, like the rest of us in the field, and that tweet isn’t the most encouraging sign,” he suggested.

West added that visiting students are on F1 non-immigrant visas meaning the “suspension of immigration shouldn’t itself have any material impact on student mobility because students aren’t considered immigrants”.

“But there’s likely to be an adverse impact in this being another indirect signal that the US isn’t close to throwing open its borders to any type of international mobility as yet.”

“That tweet isn’t the most encouraging sign”

West said that the universities and other organisations that will best weather this unprecedented situation are those “able, financially and strategically, to take the long view in terms of planning.”

US exchange organisations are also helping exchange visitors remaining in the US who have been left in limbo due to the swift escalation of the crisis.

On April 20, the US, Mexico, and Canada agreed to extend restrictions on non-essential travel across their shared borders for 30 additional days.

“As president Trump stated last week, border control, travel restrictions and other limitations remain critical to slowing the spread and allowing the phased opening of the country,” explained acting secretary of Department of Homeland Security, Chad Wolf.

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Australia: Regional state funding and jobs support plan “welcome relief”

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 05:34

Sector stakeholders have welcomed the South Australian government’s AU$13.8 million funding plan to assist the state’s international students facing hardship in the wake of the coronavirus crisis – and a $20m ‘Jobs for Canberrans’ plan in the Australian Capital Territory that will throw a “lifeline” to struggling students.

The funding announced in South Australia will be distributed via schemes run by the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and the University of South Australia, with applications determined against a careful set of rules to assess need.

“[International students] are very much a part of our community and we are keen to ensure they are supported”

The cash injection is designed to provide an economic boost to the sector which has suffered as a result of coronavirus restrictions; international education is Australia’s fourth-biggest export but in South Australia, it is the largest.

The International Student Support Package will include:

  • $10 million fund for university students significantly impacted by Covid-19 restrictions at the University of Adelaide, Flinders University and University of South Australia to distribute to their pathway and international students.
  • A $500 emergency cash grant to other international students significantly impacted by the restrictions, currently enrolled in a course, living in South Australia and who meet the criteria
  • And a one-off $200 assistance payment per student living with South Australian families provided to homestay families.

Trade minister David Ridgway said it was important to keep the sector strong as it underpins many thousands of South Australian jobs, with international students bringing in almost $2 billion to the state last year.

“International education plays an important role in South Australia’s economy… and we know students are having a tough time at the moment as they don’t qualify for Commonwealth Government income support in response to the Covid-19 impacts,” he said.

He said that every four international student enrolments creates one new job and 2018-19 saw international students contribute $1.92 billion to South Australia’s economy – with more than half of this usually spent in the community on living expenses.

“They are very much a part of our community and we are keen to ensure they are supported at this difficult and uncertain time,” Ridgeway added.

“Ensuring international students are supported as much as possible will assist in maintaining South Australia’s global reputation for international education and will provide peace of mind for the families of these students living thousands of kilometres away from them as we face such an uncertain time.”

StudyAdelaide chief executive Karyn Kent added that international students have been finding it tough during Covid-19.

“The number one concern expressed by all of our education providers has been for the welfare of their international students, and we expect this announcement to be a welcome relief for students and providers alike,” Kent said.

Eligible international students will be able to apply for support through the Department of Human Services, with information including eligibility criteria now available on the StudyAdelaide website.

Universities Australia chief executive Catriona Jackson said she also welcomed the support package.

“It is heartening to see more State and Territory governments supporting international students that add so much culturally and economically wherever they study,” she noted.

The support package comes a day after the Australian Capital Territory government announced a $20m ‘Jobs for Canberrans’ fund that will provide employment opportunities with the ACT Public Service. It will give priority to those ineligible for existing Federal government support.

Jackson said the initiative was a potential “lifeline” to international students studying in the capital, who are able to work up to 40 hours per fortnight to supplement their living and studying costs.

“Many international students, just like their Australian friends, have seen their part-time jobs disappear overnight through no fault of their own. They continue to live and study here, despite losing their income and not being eligible for the Government’s JobKeeper support package,” she added.

“Many international students… have seen their part-time jobs disappear overnight through no fault of their own”

“The ACT government will benefit from having some very talented, industrious and appreciative international students working for them, and international students have the chance to earn some much-needed income.”

Currently, there are around 267,000 international students still living and studying at Australian universities said Jackson, adding that “every Australian university is offering hardship support for international students”.

In the state of Queensland, the government has announced the launch of a Queensland Student Hub – a new online platform providing free student support services to students across the state, while many universities across the country are offering assistance such as emergency financial grants, accommodation, food vouchers and academic support.

So proud of our #CQUni team who are working around the clock to support our international students – even delivering @CQUni care packages! #Ourstudents are our priority & we are committed to supporting them as they continue their studies with us online during this time. pic.twitter.com/695UhWH0d3

— Nick Klomp (@CQUniversityVC) March 26, 2020

In contrast to sentiments shared by the Australian prime minister on April 3 and echoed by the acting minister for Immigration, minister for Education Dan Tehan has posted a welcoming message of support for international students currently in Australia.

All students who come to Australia are welcome. They have the right to live in a safe, supporting environment, just like everyone else. We are all dealing with COVID-19 together. My message to our international students is: you are our friends. #InThisTogether

— Dan Tehan (@DanTehanWannon) April 20, 2020

A number of calls for further international student support in Australia have been made in recent weeks, with IEAA calling for a national hardship fund, Melbourne city council talking about hardship support and a No Worker Left Behind campaign taking off.

“Universities Australia continues to discuss with Federal, State and Territory governments the need to support those students who are facing hardships as a result of this global pandemic,” added Jackson.

The latest announcements follow a federal government guarantee of AU$18 billion in funding to help Australia’s higher education see out the Covid-19 crisis, which was criticised as being “nowhere near enough” to address the billions of dollars in lost revenue from international students.

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US exchange orgs unite in support of students

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 04:35

Alliance for International Exchange members are helping to coordinate exchange program responses as up to 5,000 exchange visitors remaining in the US have been left in limbo due to the swift escalation of the Covid-19 crisis.

By the end of March, Alliance members were flagging a looming humanitarian crisis. Exchange visitors typically reside in the US for a short time and work in seasonal jobs while undertaking cultural exchanges.

However, as seasonal businesses such as ski resorts shuttered due to the pandemic, many participants found themselves without employment and lodging.

“We were watching what could have become a major crisis were it not for the collective actions of participants, sponsors, and government agencies,” explained Ilir Zherka, executive director of the Alliance for International Exchange.

“There has been a remarkable ability to adapt and support each other. Organisations have had to move quickly under enormous pressure to ensure the safety and wellbeing of participants.”

Alliance members report committing over $2.1 million combined just in the past few weeks

Alliance members report committing over $2.1 million combined just in the past few weeks to support those caught in a foreign country when the pandemic hit.

At the beginning of the crisis, after assessing the situation, the majority of sponsor organisations decided that repatriation was the best course of action for exchange visitors in the US.

However, in a matter of days, countries around the world began temporarily closing their borders to travellers, including their own nationals. Alliance members reported over 5,000 exchange visitors seeking to return home.

The repatriation effort has been a full-time job for sponsors, according to the Alliance.

“When needed, AFS-USA provided repatriation flights at no extra cost to the participants and chartered flights when commercial flights were unavailable,” explained AFS-USA president Tara Hofman.

“Additional sponsors liaised with the US federal government, regional embassies, and consulates to provide humanitarian flights home.”

Hofman noted that AFS-USA also provided mental health resources, virtual intercultural activities, and online learning for program participants, tailoring these resources to those sheltering with host families as well as repatriated participants.

Another priority was ensuring that exchange visitors were in compliance with immigration laws. The Alliance, together with sponsors, implored the federal government to assist the US State Department’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs in responding quickly by automatically extending these visas by two months.

Another sponsor organisation helped participants secure other employment when their host employer ceased operations. They also paid the remaining rent for visitors who relocated within the US or returned home.

“They never let us feel that we are fighting this battle alone. Even though we [cannot] continue our training,” said Joyselle, an intern from the Philippines.

“[Our work place] is paying us [for] 36 hours per week so we can support ourselves here financially. Being away from our family in times like this is very hard, but there has been a tremendous amount of support [from our sponsor, who] has treated us like family.”

In addition, the International Institute of Education has created a new scholarship program after learning that many international visitors found themselves with no means to pay for food, shelter, or other basic living expenses.

They allocated $1 million from previous gifts to support stranded international students and aim to double that amount through fundraising.

Hostelling International USA has offered free accommodation for stranded visitors in seven major gateway cities. Host employers, schools, churches, and other local organisations are providing food, shelter, and support.

Study abroad sponsors also paid to get thousands of participants back to the US. Throughout this period, exchange visitors and study abroad participants supported each other and demonstrated considerable resilience.

However, Zherka noted that the process is not over yet, with some people still working to get home and sponsors and program supporters still working to help them.

“The spirit of cross-cultural collaboration seems to be alive and well in the United States, with sponsors, supporters, government officials, and participants demonstrating that spirit every day during this very chaotic and difficult time,” he added.

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Work limits are off for health students in UK

Tue, 04/21/2020 - 02:00

In a move similar to Australia, the UK has confirmed that international students who are employed by an NHS trust are not confined to usual working hours caps of 20 hours per week.

This follows the previous announcement from government that any overseas-registered health professionals whose visa was due to expire by 1 October received an automatic one-year extension.

“Tier 4 students who have work rights and are employed by an NHS trust as a doctor, nurse or paramedic will not be restricted to 20 hours work per week during term time and may work without limit on the number of hours permitted,” states the latest T4 guidance.

In Australia, a similar rule was amended on 18 March

In fact, if their studies are suspended because of coronavirus-related issues, these students can work full-time.

“Tier 4 students with work rights whose sponsor suspends all study as a result of the Covid-19 outbreak will be considered to be in vacation time and so will be permitted to work full-time during this period.”

The rule clarification is part of a wider, flexible policy shift, a temporary concession on Tier 4 rules as universities struggle to adapt to international student populations which are spread around the globe – and severe uncertainty around future admissions protocol.

In Australia, a similar rule was amended on 18 March relating to international students working in “aged care”.

“As more workers take leave to quarantine or because of health concerns, we need to make sure there are enough staff to look after our older Australians who are particularly vulnerable to coronavirus,” Alan Tudge. acting Minister for Immigration, Citizenship, Migrant Services and Multicultural Affairs, said.

“Many international students already work in the aged care sector but are restricted to 40 hours a fortnight. We’re relaxing those limits to help fill the temporary staff shortages.”

According to UCAS, a record high of 30,390 people were accepted onto nursing courses in the UK in 2019. Applicants from outside the EU rose by almost a third.

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Self-assess for HE progression: T4 sponsor update

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 10:55

New Tier 4 guidance issued on April 20 from the UK government includes concessions allowing a more flexible approach to the language testing of international students applying for courses below degree level. 

The latest guidance says that sponsors who are universities with a “track record of compliance” will be allowed to self-assess students as having a B1 level of English, where progression on to the main course is dependent upon passing their pre-sessional course.

This applies for students who are required to take a SELT overseas but who cannot access a test centre – and also applies to institutions/sponsors who were not able to maintain a “track record of compliance” due to pending registration with the OfS.

This is a temporary concession and institutions must keep records of how they undertook the language level assessment.

The directive – with attendance monitoring rule updates and other detail – was welcomed by members of the UK’s HE sector, including UKCISA and think tank, the Higher Education Policy Institute. 

“It provides important temporary concessions for English Language testing”

“The education sector is highly compliant, and Tier 4 sponsors take their obligations very seriously,” said Anne Marie Graham, chief executive of UKCISA. 

“We have been calling for clearer guidance for both students and sponsors, and this does address many (if not all) of the queries our members and international students have raised with us. 

“It provides welcome clarity on sponsor obligations, and on important temporary concessions for English Language testing.”

The Home Office will also not take enforcement action against Tier 4 visa sponsors whose students are long-term absent because of the coronavirus, the government confirmed in the new guidance.

In fact, Covid-19 related absences do not need to be reported and sponsors will not be forced to withdraw sponsorship if a student is unable to attend for more than 60 days.

This absence needs to be the result of Covid-19, and the student must intend to resume their studies.

HEPI director Nick Hillman told The PIE News, “At first glance, this looks sensible and welcome.” 

“The Home Office has shifted to a much more flexible approach in recent weeks and these are the sorts of changes that are essential in these odd times if we are to support our education sector and the students it serves.” 

Hillman said he doesn’t regard temporary concessions as “excessively lenient”.

“I also hope they will ease the way to a recalibrated future migration regime that better balances the encouragement of educational exports against the need for security than, as a country, we have generally managed to do over the past decade,” he added.

Other details in the guidance include a note that Tier 4 visa applications can still be made using CAS [Confirmation of Acceptance for Studies unique numbers] that may have expired.

“The start date for the course may now be later than that stated on the CAS for the original course or the CAS may have expired. The Home Office will take a pragmatic approach to considering applications to study courses with significantly different start dates to those stated on CAS or expired CAS,” stated the document.

The start date for the course may now be later than that stated on the CAS for the original course

In terms of visa extension, students whose leave expires between 24 January 2020 and 31 May 2020, who would otherwise be unable to extend in-country, will be able to exceptionally apply for further leave within the UK.

This includes students studying at providers who would otherwise be required to apply from their home country for further leave, such as students at non Higher Education Providers with a track record of compliance.

To be granted further leave to complete an existing course, or to begin a new course, students must still meet all other requirements of Tier 4, including academic progression and maintenance requirements.

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Double-dipping in Brazil sparks wider commission-based operations concern

Mon, 04/20/2020 - 09:34

Agencies ‘double-dipping’ –  charging both students and educators for their services – is a “huge problem” in Brazil that threatens the sustainability of the sector, whistleblowers in the country have revealed.

Agencies are acting as headhunters for institutions abroad and at the same time charging student clients, meaning they can earn huge amounts of money. But stakeholders have suggested the use of commission-based agents needs to be made more transparent.

“Most people don’t know that [agents are] double-dipping, and I think that is very concerning,” explained Nicole Ribeiro, who has several years of experience in the Brazilian sector and is founder and executive director of Pico Educacional.

“Students and families have no idea that [agents are] getting paid headhunter fees”

Even some of the best known and most expensive agencies that “sell themselves as ‘I will help your kid succeed on his path'” don’t necessarily say they are getting kick-backs from the schools, she said.

“In Brazil, there is sometimes a kind of commoditising of students in education without the students knowing,” Ribeiro added.

“Students and families have no idea that [agents are] getting paid headhunter fees. They think that the money they’re paying is everything that this company is getting,” she indicated.

Now in a country that is increasingly being seen as a good source of international students, more untrained agents are advising students to study abroad, principal CEO of EDGE College Counseling, Emily Dobson warned.

“What has sped up is people coming in and saying, ‘I know how to help these kids’, and charging fortunes…but not having any credentials at all to do so.

“[Agencies] double dip, which is – if you know your credentials – against the rules,” she said.

However, students are not always accepted in all schools they apply for and even when they are accepted, sometimes they decide not to take the offer.

“When this happens there will be no commission paid,” one agent in Brazil told The PIE.

The majority of schools pay commissions only after the students have been studying for one to two months – if the student withdraws early after arrival, no commission will be paid, they added.

“A good consultant will motivate students to apply for universities that do not offer representation agreements, so the agency would [be] compensated for their service because the university will not pay any commission,” the agent said.

“Brazilian consumers research a lot. And during these periods, they request a lot of [information],” Cris Zanin of Yonder Education explained.

“It’s very common that the agent gives great service for months, and afterwards they discover that the student closed the deal with another organisation.”

But even more concerning is schools getting “kick-backs” from universities, Ribeiro at Pico Educacional said.

“Some private Brazilian national curriculum schools are frequently being approached by American universities to create partnerships for easy access where the school receives a finder’s fee from the university.

“It’s not just the agents. It’s very hard to know who to trust for advice,” she noted.

Students pay for, and expect, a list of their best-fit schools. “They’re not aware that universities are paying to end up on that list. They think the agent is giving them a list based on experience, their personality, on several things,” Ribeiro said.

There is a growing number of agencies in Brazil that help to access student visas in order to work in the US “semi-legally”, she added.

“These agents know which community colleges and which language programs don’t check attendance, and will basically rubber stamp to say you’re a student.”

Another issue is that parents who have put their own children through college have decided they’re ready to become college counsellors, Dobson at EDGE warned.

“It’s particularly saturated in São Paulo. People are doing jobs they shouldn’t be doing because they don’t know what it takes in different countries.”

Clients need to know what to check before hiring somebody, she added. Without credentials from organisations like International ACAC, HECA, IAEA or TABS, “we think that you shouldn’t be able to work with kids”.

“The use of commission-based agents is too embedded. They don’t think about some of the poor ethics that can come with that”

In the US, the Common App should introduce a question asking whether applicants have worked with an outside consultant or counsellor, she suggested.

“We want people to start being accountable,” Dobson stated.

Founder of The University Guys David Hawkins said that, as an independent university adviser, charging families – and not taking commissions from institutions – was “the only ethical way” of operating.

“It gets very murky, this area of double-dipping,” Hawkins added.

He said that particularly in the British context, the sector is very used to working in a model that focuses on commission.

“The use of commission-based agents is too embedded. They don’t think about some of the poor ethics that can come with that. I find it quite worrying. I think the trend [in Brazil] is replicated worldwide really.”

The post Double-dipping in Brazil sparks wider commission-based operations concern appeared first on The PIE News.

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