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Israeli HEIs to launch English language reform

Lun, 01/13/2020 - 02:30

Israeli universities and colleges are set to launch English language reforms to ensure students are equipped with the necessary English skills to integrate into the local and international jobs market.

The Council for Higher Education has approved the new reform based on the Common European Framework of Reference for Languages, and over the next five years, academic institutions will adopt a study method to ensure students gain English skills in reading, writing, comprehension and speech.

All students starting undergraduate studies as of the 2021/22 school year will take at least two courses in the English language, determined according to their level of English at the time of acceptance.

“[The studies are important] as part of… their optimal integration into the local and international employment market”

As a result of this new reform, dozens of new English taught courses will be developed in Israeli universities and colleges.

In addition to increasing the English level of Israeli students, the initiative hopes to open the gates of Israeli higher education to more international students.

This push complements the CHE’s Study in Israel program and will enable academic institutions to open English taught programs which integrate students from around the world.

The initiative was coordinated with the Ministry of Education in order to ensure that Israeli students entering universities and colleges are prepared for the new format.

Ido Perlman, deputy chair of the CHE, said the council views English-language studies as being “very important” for academic and international purposes.

“[The studies are important] as part of the provision of sufficient tools and knowledge to students during the course of their academic degree studies as well as their optimal integration into the local and international employment market after completing their studies.”

The CHE and its Planning and Budgeting Committee will assist academic institutions in preparing for this initiative and recommends establishing systems to train English lecturers to teach the four required skills according to the CEFR, train teachers to teach course content in English and to translate courses into English.

In order to ensure that all students are successful in this new program, the CHE also recommended that higher education institutions establish institutional systems to identify and assist students having trouble with English-language studies.

It also recommends establishing an institutional infrastructure to identify and assist students having difficulties in English-language studies.

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Canada mourns victims of Iranian plane crash

Vie, 01/10/2020 - 09:40

The Canadian higher education community is reeling after discovering students and staff were among those killed when Flight 752 from Iran crashed on January 8.

All 176 people onboard the flight were killed when the plane, headed for the Ukrainian city of Kyiv, crashed shortly after taking off from Tehran’s Imam Khomeini International Airport.

Among the victims were 82 Iranians, 63 Canadians, 11 Ukrainians including nine crew, 10 Swedes, four Afghans, three Britons and three Germans.

“Universities across the country are working to support the families and friends of those who perished”

In a statement, Universities Canada said the nation’s universities join in mourning the crash victims.

“We are deeply saddened by this loss of life and potential,” it said.

“Universities across the country are working to support the families and friends of those who perished, many of whom were students, faculty and others connected to the university community.

Victims connected with at least 17 Canadian HEIs are believed to have died in the tragedy, including from the University of Alberta, University of Toronto and Western University.

“It is with profound sadness that we have learned that several members of our University of Alberta community died in last night’s tragic aeroplane crash of Flight PS752 in Iran,” the university’s president and vice-chancellor David H. Turpin said in a statement.

“Words simply cannot express the loss I know we all are feeling. On behalf of the University of Alberta, I wish to extend our deepest condolences to the families, friends, colleagues and loved ones of the victims of this tragedy.”

Roja Omidbakhsh, a first-year student at the University of Victoria on Canada’s west coast, was one of the victims of the crash.

“Roja was very positive and had a keen interest in marketing. She was on the pathway to complete a bachelor of commerce,” her professor Mark Colgate said.

Struggling to think of a tragedy that has affected Canadian PSE more widely than Flight 752. Watching universities across the country report the loss of their students and staff – we’re up to seven now that I have seen, I think, maybe more – is just incredibly sad.

— Alex Usher (@AlexUsherHESA) January 9, 2020

“We’re heartbroken that this happened and our condolences go to her family and classmates.”

Iranian citizens headed for Halifax in Nova Scotia were also onboard the flight.

Dalhousie University master’s student Masoumeh “Masi” Ghavi was travelling with her younger sister who was coming to begin studies of her own in the area.

International graduate and member of the faculty of dentistry, Sharieh Faghihi, was also on the flight, as were Maryam Malek and Fatemeh Mahmoodi who were Saint Mary’s University students.

Six students of the University of Toronto appear on the flight manifest. Flag are being flown at half-mast at institutions across the country.

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King’s House School to open in Pakistan

Vie, 01/10/2020 - 09:00

King’s House School and Nursery is the latest UK independent school to announce a branch overseas, with classes to begin at its location in Pakistan in September 2020.

Based in the diplomatic quarter of Islamabad, the preparatory school will start by teaching approximately 60-70 pupils aged 4-5.

“Schools need to look at alternative revenue sources”

King’s House School is also seeking to open branches in Morocco, Ghana and later China, its headmaster Andrew Cook told The PIE News, which the school hopes to open within the next five years.

The recruitment of staff, as well as a headteacher for the school in Pakistan’s capital, is underway, he explained.

“Schools need to look at alternative revenue sources,” Cook told The PIE.

Like other providers, King’s House School wants “to spread [its] wings” internationally.

In 2019, Rugby School announced a school in Japan and Malvern College said it would open a pre-school in Hong Kong. Kent College also announced a school in Hong Kong in 2018.

The school in Luton, UK, has been approached by an increasing number of potential partners to set up locations in a number of countries, Cook said.

Working with reliable partners, King’s House hopes to increase revenue streams, which will not only benefit the school, but also the UK economy.

The countries the private education provider is planning on teaching in are “stable and [have] open arms to British education”, he added.

“There has been growing demand for UK education in these countries.”

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Chinese gov’t boost int’l school support

Vie, 01/10/2020 - 04:15

China’s Ministry of Education is planning to provide more support and resources for Chinese international schools abroad, local media have reported.

As more and more Chinese people – many of whom are involved with the Belt and Road Initiative – head abroad for work, demand is increasing for schools with Chinese as the medium of instruction that follow the domestic curriculum.

The government is also hoping that the schools will appeal to overseas Chinese and those of Chinese descent.

According to the country’s MoE, there are currently around 20,000 schools abroad offering some form of Chinese education and 60 million Chinese stationed and living around the world.

“Our… expansion is in line with the fast-growing demand for quality Chinese education overseas”

Many of these schools work closely with the MoE and local Chinese embassies for support in delivering their curriculums and supplying resources.

The ministry has said it will increase financial support for such institutions. Ideas around equipping some already existing training centres and Confucius Institutes with facilities for teaching Overseas Chinese have also been mooted.

Zhuge Academy, part of Beijing-based Lanxum Inc, currently has two international schools – one in the US and one in Canada. Its head of international business, Shang Mei, told China Daily that the company has plans for greater expansion, particularly in Asia and the Middle East.

“Our quick overseas expansion is in line with the fast-growing demand for quality Chinese education overseas,” said Shang.

“Some Chinese have strong cultural anxiety since they moved abroad. They don’t have an environment to learn Chinese history and culture. Some are afraid that their children will abandon the culture.”

Several countries also have bilingual or Chinese-medium schools unaffiliated with the Chinese government.

Malaysia, whose population is just under a quarter ethnically Chinese, has a number of Chinese-medium schools, although schools geared towards specific ethnic groups in the multicultural country do attract criticism.

The UK’s first bilingual prep school teaching in both English and Mandarin, Kensington Wade, opened in 2017, charging a hefty £17,925 a year.

“An increasing number of English schools are starting to offer a modest amount of Chinese language teaching,” wrote headmistress Jo Wallace on the school’s website.

“But given the nature of the Chinese language and the demands of the existing curriculum, the time and energy devoted to learning Chinese is insufficient to learn both the language and the culture properly.”

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Navitas shifts to student and partners focus

Vie, 01/10/2020 - 01:40

Global education provider Navitas has flagged its ambitions to shift focus towards students and higher education partners, in a bid to improve learner outcomes and increase value from its established relationships.

The ambitions, outlined by new chief executive Scott Jones, mark Navitas’ first strategic change of plan after being taken over by a consortium led by BGH and co-founder Rod Jones.

“We need to listen and learn a bit more to shape where it needs to go”

“Relationships are always stronger… if you’re willing to support one another,” Jones said.

“Transactions come and go and that’s not what we want to be as an organisation. We want to be a relationships focussed business, we want to work closely with our partners and we want to support those growth initiatives through the good and bad.”

Speaking at Navitas’ annual conference in Kuala Lumpur, Jones said the company wanted to work with its university and higher eduction partners as well as students to stay ahead of upcoming change in the education space.

“Too often we feel like we’ve got the solutions without actually asking the questions,” he said.

“We can try and make those decisions, be at the forefront, but we need to listen and learn a bit more to shape where it needs to go.”

Among the changes identified, Jones said digital literacy needed to improve in the classroom, as well as pedagogy and better plans for student mental health and wellbeing.

His comments came shortly after his first 100 days in his new role, and Jones said the shift in Navitas’ focus stemmed from meeting with partners around the world leading to three guiding principles of strategic planning, agent focus and effective sales and marketing.

“We’re seeing these sophisticated and mature markets becoming more of an import market… than an export market,” he said.

While Jones highlighted potential opportunities to develop further TNE partnerships in addition to those already in Singapore, Dubai, and Sri Lanka, he said the company would remain solely within the higher and tertiary education, rather than looking to new areas of study

The change in outward focus will also be coupled with more internal work, Jones added, including additional professional development opportunities for staff, the development of a corporate responsibility plan, and continued work within its education trust to assist developing countries.

Jones added the company wanted to shift its aim form being “one of the best” to “the best”.

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Action needed to avert the crisis in UK language learning, report warns

Jue, 01/09/2020 - 12:53

A new Higher Education Policy Institute report has lambasted the UK’s current approach to learning foreign languages, revealing that just 32% of 16-to-30-year olds in the UK feel confident reading and writing in another language, compared to the rest of the EU’s 89% average.

According to the report, ‘A Languages Crisis?’  the UK total is less than half the level in the second-placed EU country Hungary (71%), and far behind France (79%), Germany (91%) and Denmark (99%).

However, the country is no stranger to being criticised for its lack of foreign language skills as studying a language at GCSE level has not been compulsory in England, Wales and Northern Ireland since 2004.

“Brexit means it is more urgent than ever that we re-evaluate our attitudes towards languages”

Author of the report and third-year classics undergraduate at the University of Oxford, Megan Bowler, described it as a big mistake to scrap compulsory foreign languages at GCSE.

“Rather than continuing to present languages as not suitable for everyone, we need to include a broader range of pupils learning through a variety of qualifications geared to different needs,” said Bowler.

“Given the shortage of language skills in the workforce, we should safeguard higher education language courses, particularly those involving less widely-taught languages, and prioritise extra-curricular language learning opportunities for students from all disciplines.”

The report also calls for more flexible study options, varied course content and an increase in teachers including listing all language teachers on the Home Office’s Shortage Occupation List, where currently only Mandarin Chinese tutors make the cut.

“The cultural and political implications of Brexit mean it is more urgent than ever that we re-evaluate our attitudes towards languages,” continued Bowler.

Commenting on the findings of the report, HEPI director Nick Hillman described the decision to make GCSE languages voluntary as probably the single most damaging education policy implemented in England so far this century”.

“The problems this has caused are now hitting university Languages Departments hard.

“Student numbers for French and German have almost halved since 2010 and, for Italian, they have fallen by around two-thirds,” he said.

Fewer than half of GCSE pupils now take a foreign language, compared to 76% in 2002, with notable socio-economic and regional divides that led the British Council to warn last year against a “growing socio-economic division in language teaching”.

Most state schools offer language courses in either one or a mix of French, German and Spanish. However, the variation between schools means that in some areas there is no guarantee that the language can be continued at A-Level when a student transfers from secondary school to sixth form.

By contrast, more and more private and independent schools are offering courses in Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and Russian.

The report was released the day after an announcement that British MPs had voted against a motion requiring officials to negotiate continuing full membership of the Erasmus+ program, which offers exchange opportunities abroad for students.

“The assumption that ‘the rest of the world speaks English’ hinders new international collaborations”

Those that voted against it include former education secretary Michael Gove, current education secretary Gavin Williamson and minister of state for universities Chris Skidmore.

Despite the failings of the education system, there remains a demand and desire among British citizens to learn foreign languages.

According to an article in 2019, more than half of UK adults wish they had kept up the foreign languages they learned in school and regret not making the most of studying languages when they had the chance, while 77% believe language skills increase employability.

The report concludes that if the UK is to thrive outside the EU, language skills cannot be ignored.

“The assumption that ‘the rest of the world speaks English’ hinders new international collaborations and overlooks cultural and cognitive enhancement developed by learning. Political developments mean change is more pressing… the UK must address educational declines.”

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UK parliament votes down Erasmus+ clause

Jue, 01/09/2020 - 08:32

UK members of parliament voted against a clause which would have required the government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the EU’s Erasmus+ program.

News of the vote was met with ire online, however, the UK’s minister for Universities, Science, Research and Innovation, Chris Skidmore, said that the vote did “not end or prevent the UK participating in @EUErasmusPlus after leaving the EU”.

“Without continued access to the Erasmus+ program, 17,500 students a year could lose out”

“We remain open to participation and this will be part of future negotiations with the EU- we highly value international student exchanges,” Skidmore wrote on Twitter.

Vivienne Stern, director of Universities UK International, said the organisation was pleased that the Universities minister has confirmed that the government is still open to participation in the program, and that it will form part of future negotiations with the EU.

Last night’s vote- game playing by opposition parties- does not end or prevent the UK participating in @EUErasmusPlus after leaving the EU. We remain open to participation and this will be part of future negotiations with the EU- we highly value international student exchanges

— Chris Skidmore (@CSkidmoreUK) January 9, 2020

“Without continued access to the Erasmus+ program, 17,500 students a year could lose out on the opportunity to gain international experience. Because Erasmus+ placements are funded, the students who stand to lose the most are those who cannot afford to travel without financial support,” she added.

Incoming Erasmus+ students in 2017 generated £420 million in income for the UK, UUKi said.

“The government must commit to continued study abroad funding, either through full association to the Erasmus+ programme or through a national replacement scheme,” Stern noted.

“The public response to last night’s vote, and to UUKi’s #SupportStudyAbroad campaign, shows just how important the Erasmus+ program is to thousands across the country and we urge the government to consider this as it moves forward.”

Emma Meredith, international director at the Association of Colleges said that despite “understandable concern” it was “worth noting it’s not game over yet for UK participation in Erasmus+”.

Point 11 of the political declaration setting out the framework for the future relationship between the European Union and the United Kingdom notes that the parties will “establish general principles, terms and conditions” in EU programs including in areas such as science and innovation, youth, culture and education.

Non-EU member states that participate in the program currently include Norway, Turkey and Iceland, while it also has partner countries neighbouring the EU, as well as partners across other continents.

Talks on the possibility of the UK’s future involvement are expected to take place in March 2020.

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US: 65% of students from emerging markets look beyond political climate

Jue, 01/09/2020 - 06:26

The current US political climate has little effect on the interest of more than half (65%) of prospective students from emerging markets in Africa, Central America, and South America when considering the country for study abroad, a survey has found. However, students have raised concerns around visas and support services at US institutions.

Surveying 12,300 international students from emerging markets including Nigeria, Mexico and Brazil, the Intead/ FPP EDU Media ‘Know Your Neighborhood Emerging Markets Fall 2019’ report sought to understand the motivators, concerns, influencers, and areas of interest of prospective students.

Some 9% of respondents said they were “more interested in studying in the US” due to its current political climate, while one in four (25%) stating that they don’t like what they see happening in the country.

“There are Euro-American perspectives on the current administration’s rhetoric, and then there are others”

However, the US brand remains “strong, and students continue to apply and enrol”, the report read.

Speaking with The PIE News, Intead CEO Benjamin Waxman noted that there is “more acceptance of both the Trump administration and US violent crime reported in the news” by those students surveyed.

“After three years of the Trump administration, there just might be a level of recognition that, overall, the US and global systems of governance have withstood the initial shock and are for better or worse, continuing on,” he said.

Particularly in the case of some emerging markets, prospective international students may be more accepting of the current political climate in the US, Waxman indicated.

“There are Euro-American perspectives on the current administration’s rhetoric, and then there are others.

“In general, it appears that those who live in countries with higher rates of authoritarianism, corruption or crime may be taking the current US administration in stride more easily than others,” he explained.

While students noted safety concerns as influencing their study abroad decisions in earlier versions of the Intead report, there was more concern with being able to access visas in the latest findings.

US visa regulations have tightened in the past and then loosened again, Waxman said.

“The current administration is interpreting the rules in a much stricter way, and a larger percentage of student applications are being denied than in the past,” he told The PIE.

“That does not stop ambitious students from pursuing their dreams. However, it does stem the flow of international students in the near term.

“The economic and civic power of education can only be squelched for so long. The current visa scenario will change,” he added.

Given the US administration’s rhetoric and activity, it makes sense that students from countries such as Tunisia and Morocco have some of the highest concern for visa success.

Difficulty obtaining a visa was raised by 64% of Moroccan respondents and 62% of Tunisians, the report showed.

The survey also noted that despite students expressing less inclination for US studies in previous surveys, students “did not actually follow through” with what they said.

The 8% dip in Mexican students coming to the US between 2017 and 2018, although significant, was a “far cry” from the 80% of students who used the 2017 survey to voice their discontent.

Additionally, the report highlights the need for US institutions to be effective in their messaging to prospective students.

“Messaging is important [to students] and it must be presented creatively to stand out”

As well as staying on top of issues students are likely to care about such as immigration, work visa policies and currency exchange rates, it is essential for messaging to “acknowledge political realities”, as ignoring the political climate may be read as an agreement with certain attitudes.

“Messaging is important, and it must be presented creatively to stand out from all the others institutions seeking to do the same,” Waxman explained.

“There are many motivating factors that prompt prospective students to take the leap,” he said, adding that effective examples include Northeastern University’s response to the US Administration’s travel ban orders in 2017-2018.

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Ireland: European coding network opens campus

Jue, 01/09/2020 - 04:30

Major European coding institution, Wild Code School, has announced it is opening a school in the Irish capital Dublin with plans to expand to other parts of the country at a later stage.

Founded in France in 2014, Wild Code School operates campuses in 24 locations across Europe, all offering five-month coding bootcamps aimed at meeting skills gaps in the tech sector.

“In the wake of Brexit, I believe even more opportunities will open up in Ireland”

The company plans to eventually expand to Irish counties Cork and Galway and increase its student intake from 45 to 300 by 2025.

Speaking at the opening of the Dublin campus the organisation’s international founder, Anna Stépanoff, said the city was selected because of the ongoing growth in demand for skilled tech employees in Ireland.

“Ireland has been established for a number of years now as a hub for international tech companies, and that brings with it huge demand for workers with up-to-date tech skills,” she said.

“In the wake of Brexit, I believe even more opportunities will open up in Ireland for those with the skills that leading employers need.

“That’s why we’ve selected Dublin as the location for our newest Wild Code School campus, and why we have set ambitious targets for growth across Ireland in the coming years,” Stépanoff continued.

Since it was established in France, Wild Code School has trained over 2,000 developers across Europe.

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Philippines: AIM pushes for more foreign faculty

Mié, 01/08/2020 - 22:37

The Asian Institute of Management in the Philippines has set its sight on attracting and retaining more foreign academics and teachers in a bid to continue its goal of improving teaching and learning, through a new partnership with US-based workflow processes company, Interfolio.

The partnership, finalised in late 2019, will see AIM implement Interfolio’s Faculty Information System to standardise workflow processes for faculty as well as improve their ability to communicate their research accomplishments, conference attendance and other scholarly activities.

“If we’re trying to attract foreign faculty we need to be using this”

“As a truly international institution serving executives and aspiring business leaders from nations across Southeast Asia, it’s imperative that we recruit and cultivate an academic workforce as global as the students we serve,” said AIM associate dean Jammu Francisco.

“Our engagement with Interfolio will enable us to maintain our competitive edge by attracting internationally-recognised research and teaching talent while empowering current faculty with the tools to focus on teaching, scholarship and service.”

Francisco added the implementation of the new system would help AIM meet its goal of becoming a “world-class institution” and offer services to faculty at the same level as other providers.

“In the Philippines and in a developing country context, this isn’t a very common platform or solution used, but if we’re trying to attract foreign faculty we need to be using this,” he told The PIE News.

“We’re putting our money where our mouth is, that when we say we’re a world-class institution, you pretty much expect the same thing that you can get in another university elsewhere.”

Andrew Rosen, chief executive of Interfolio, said lecturers and teachers were increasingly looking for institutions that could better help them communicate their academic credentials and achievements, such as tenure and research accomplishments.

“Talent knows no borders when it comes to a world-class faculty,” he said.

“As graduate institutions operate in an increasingly global context, innovation in faculty recruitment and engagement is fast becoming a prerequisite for competing on an international stage.”

Edtech has become a significant focus point within international education in recent years, with UK-based Atom Learning announcing expansion into Asia, Africa and the Middle East in late 2019.

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Pieter Vermeulen, Director of Int’l Recruitment, University of North Texas

Mié, 01/08/2020 - 08:27
For decades, tests like the TOEFL and IELTS had the corner on the international student market. But Duolingo has edged in on their domain, offering an online exam that is a fraction of the cost and can be taken anywhere, at any time. Pieter Vermeulen, director of international recruitment at the University of North Texas, spoke with The PIE about alternatives to the traditional English language proficiency exams.


The PIE: The Duolingo model is a fascinating one. What are your thoughts on its potential to improve access to higher education for greater numbers of international students wishing to study in English-speaking countries?

Pieter Vermeulen: I believe this will be a significant disruptor in the English language testing market, but a disruptor in the positive sense – this will become the new way that many institutions improve the means by which they test for English language proficiency.

The PIE: Approximately 600 colleges and universities in the US accept Duolingo exam results, including UNT. Have you encountered any resistance to the Duolingo English Test, at UNT or beyond?

PV: There are always different parties on campus who will look at this in different ways, right? I’m seeing some resistance from the traditional English language learning institutes (we have one ourselves) who are used to a very different model of testing.

“About 220 [students] roughly have taken the Duolingo exam”

But one aspect of Duolingo that has always reassured me since its introduction to the market is that every test question is pegged to the common European framework of measuring language proficiency. So that means we’re not throwing out the kid with the bathwater. In other words, we’re still very much using our old metrics, but we’re just delivering it in a new format.

The PIE: How many international students are at UNT?

PV: We’re a very large public university with 39,000 students. We have, at the moment, 2,525 international students. So far about 220, roughly, have taken the Duolingo exam.

The PIE: And which countries are those Duolingo UNT students from?

PV: We’re in the process of introducing our recruiting partners to the Duolingo exam, so there’s an awareness phase. The two markets at the moment that have been at the forefront are China and India.

“In China, the DET makes particular sense”

In China, the DET makes particular sense because the Chinese academic year is aligned with the lunar calendar. That means that the end of their academic cycle goes past the traditional TOEFL test dates. The Duolingo exam, then, offers them a window to show us their language proficiency.

India, because of our large engineering school, is another market where we are naturally very active. We are also active in South Korea and Vietnam, and again, in those two markets, we’ve been introducing our partners to the test.

The PIE: Do you think that Duolingo will open up opportunities for students from countries and regions where there is less access to TOEFL or IELTS test-taking centres?

PV: Yes, I think this will very much democratise the process of demonstrating your English language proficiency. Because it is an online test, access is hugely improved, especially in countries where the geography is so vast that it is an impediment to students being able to get to the test centres.

Africa is one example of that wide geography in combination with traditional test centres being centred in one or two major cities. So yes, I think it will help us push into secondary regions and cities.

“We have, at the moment, 2,525 international students”

The PIE: So far, have you seen any difference between how your international students who took the Duolingo exam are performing compared to the others?

PV: A handful of students who took this test enrolled at UNT in September [2019] and have just completed their first semester of course work. As these students progress in their studies, UNT will track their academic performance compared to other international students from similar feeder schools abroad, who have taken traditional English proficiency tests like IELTS or TOEFL.

While no multi-year, large sample longitudinal studies are available yet, early case evidence suggests that the DET and its Artificial Intelligence-driven Adaptive Testing Methodology will likely prove a reliable alternative indicator to traditional English tests.

The PIE: What can AI do for the future of higher ed?

PV: No one knows yet, right? Artificial intelligence itself is so rapidly developing, as is machine learning and everything that makes it possible. But the example of Duolingo in the English language testing realm is a good litmus test for how disruptive and quick change can be.

So we can imagine that a number of other processes involved in bringing students on campus, more in the realm of general admissions, might also be similarly impacted.

“Because it is an online test, access is hugely improved”

General admissions tend to be a very document-driven process, where students have to send in transcripts, tests scores, and financial documents.

A machine can review many of those documents much better than a human, much more accurately. So if you see how quickly those kinds of machine learning technologies are changing you have to expect that there will be room for AI to significantly impact our admissions processes on campus as well.

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Agents welcome new cultural scholarship program in Saudi Arabia

Mié, 01/08/2020 - 08:09

Education agents have welcomed news of Saudi Arabia’s first-ever cultural scholarship program, with data already showing an increase in students searching for a range of courses.

Saudi minister of Culture, prince Badr bin Abdullah bin Farhan Al-Saud, announced the launch of the program in December 2019.

“Students across the region are becoming more aware of a greater choice of degree programs”

It will provide scholarships to male and female students who want to study culture and arts courses at international institutions.

Courses that fall under the cultural scholarship program include archaeology, design, museums, music, theatre, filmmaking, literature, visual arts and culinary arts and can be taken at PhD, bachelor’s and master’s degree levels.

“The program aims at developing Saudi culture… as well as to meet the growing labour market needs,” said the minister.

Imad Chaoui, regional director, Middle East, IDP Education, told The PIE that IDP and Hotcourses global traffic data indicated a spike in Saudi students searching for creative arts courses.

“The ministry’s announcement of the new cultural scholarship program appears to have been well received by students based in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia,” he said.

“Looking across IDP’s global platform of international course search websites, we have seen early shifts in the courses KSA students are researching.

“In the week since the announcement, we have seen an increase in the proportion of students in KSA searching for creative arts, social studies and media courses.”

Chaoui added that KSA has a strong history of connecting students with international education.

“We believe this announcement will further help connect KSA students with global opportunities.”

MENA university search platform UNIVER also noted an increased interest in arts courses. Subjects currently trending on UNIVER include architecture, film, music and fashion.

“Students across the region are becoming more aware of a greater choice of degree programs in the arts and humanities and moving away for the typical choices of engineering and business,” said Amanda Gregory COO, UNIVER, and Ahmad Abu Shaikha CEO, UNIVER & Alpha International in a statement.

“Leading global universities have an unprecedented opportunity to recruit fully funded students to study everything from Fashion through to Film-making.

“As Saudi and the wider Gulf region continues to diversify… we see the Saudi sponsorship program as the beginning of a long period of growth in the international student recruitment market,” they added.

Summer Abdelsamei, education consultant MENA region for SI-UK, said the company is planning on opening new channels with the Saudi market.

“[The program] will allow lots of Saudi students to achieve their dreams and put their country on the top of the global tourism map,” she told The PIE.

“The new scholarship is a huge jump toward a developed artistic culture… as part of the culture development plan that has started in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia recently.”

The Saudi Ministry of Culture has been busy with this cultural development plan, recently launching an artist in residency program in Jeddah to grow the local arts scene and foster cultural exchange.

Gregory and Abu Shaikha also told The PIE about the country’s developmental strategy over the coming decade.

“[The program] will allow lots of Saudi students to achieve their dreams”

“As Saudi Arabia continues in its efforts to welcome international visitors through the introduction of the tourism visa, encourage trade and diversify the economy in line with Vision 2030, it is natural to look at cultural development as a major part of the country’s development,” they said.

“Across the Gulf, one of the most recent cultural successes was the opening of the Louvre in Abu Dhabi in 2017, and with Dubai hosting Expo 2020 later this year, the region is becoming a global leader in the importance of culture for future development.”

Saudi Arabia has a long history of funding scholarships, with it’s King Abdullah Scholarship Program sponsoring over 100,000 students in the US alone since 1960.

However, the funding of Saudi students in international institutions has not always been easy. In 2018 Saudi students were caught up in a diplomatic spat between Saudi Arabia and Canada.

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OfS: increase in mental health issues “worrying”

Mié, 01/08/2020 - 05:57

The Office for Students in the UK has said that the number of students who report mental health issues has “risen substantially over the last decade” in its 2019 annual review.

International students in particular face a unique set of challenges, from feeling isolated in a new country to having different attitudes towards mental health, and a lack of knowledge regarding support services that can leave them vulnerable.

“We’ve produced documentation on the NHS…particularly for Chinese students”

While students at college or university are “significantly less likely to attempt suicide” than those who don’t go on to higher education, the OfS review called the increase in mental health issues “worrying”.

Earlier this year, the OfS spent £14.5 million on 10 collaborative projects to address mental health concerns among students.

Student Minds, which is currently working on three of the projects, including one that aims to improve links between students and the NHS, praised the move when it was announced but encouraged the sector to do more.

“Beyond the 10 successful partnerships, there were another 38 bids that go unfunded, showing that there is a lot of vision and potential for further work to address other gaps across the UK,” said Rosie Tressler, CEO of Student Minds.

Working with Student Minds, SOAS, the University of Leeds, and CampusLife, the University of Nottingham’s project specifically targets international students.

Andrew Winter, the institution’s campus life director, told The PIE that the project – ‘International student mental health – good practice guidance and intervention case studies’ – aims to create a toolkit that can be used across the sector.

“One of the things that we’ve done here in Nottingham is produced documentation on the NHS and how that works, particularly for Chinese students and for students from the Far East, where their medical cultures are different,” explained Winter.

The project is also offering funding for student groups, such as country-specific societies, to help get their input on what can be done for their mental health.

“We’ll be able to talk to those groups individually and get a bit more understanding.

“‘International’ is often considered one thing and UK students are another thing, but we know there’s huge diversity in the international bracket,” he added.

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Japan targets int’l workers with PSW boost

Mié, 01/08/2020 - 05:01

Japan has implemented measures to create more opportunities for international students to find work in the country, government ministers have announced, as stakeholders warn current policies are not helping the country meet its demand for highly-skilled workers.

In a package that was adopted at a ministerial meeting in Tokyo last month, the government agreed to revise its 2018 “inclusive society” strategy.

“The government support for international students looking for work is… a strategy to increase the highly-skilled”

Updated measures include creating an environment for international students to find work efficiently, while policies should expand the scope for students to obtain new types of work visas via additional tests, Jiji Press reported.

The government will also work with companies to clarify which students are permitted to stay if there is a gap between graduation and employment, and students will be urged to apply for internships.

Speaking in December 2019, prime minister Shinzō Abe reminded of the country’s need to overcome population decline, and of the “opportunity of rising interest in migration” within the country.

The number of international students gaining work visas in Japan after graduating hit a record high of 25,942 in 2018 – up from 22,419 the previous year.

The 2018 figure marked more than a tripling of 2006 numbers, according to Yuriko Sato of the Tokyo Institute of Technology.

Additionally, a Revitalisation Strategy in 2016 set a goal of raising the international student employment rate in Japan from the current 30% to 50%, Sato explained.

“The government support for international students in looking for work in Japan is not an option for filling jobs lost by population decline but a strategy to increase the highly-skilled,” Sato told The PIE News.

However, research has indicated that Japan’s initiative to retain international graduates has “not been very successful”. Nearly 40% of international graduates working in Japanese companies plan to leave the workplace within five years, a survey by Ernst & Young Japan found.

According to Sato’s research, international graduates return home to find work due to better promotion prospects, less work stress and graduates are closer to their families.

“Though the government has promoted the acceptance of international students as a strategy to increase the highly-skilled, the recent increase of international students owes to the increase of those who study at specialised training colleges and Japanese language schools,” Sato explained.

Previously, the administration warned it would make it more difficult for Japanese-language school students to finish courses quickly to access the jobs market.

“Those who graduate from specialised training colleges will be regarded as a source of middle-skilled workers, not the highly-skilled,” Sato said.

With 50% of its student cohort coming from over 90 countries, Ritsumeikan Asia Pacific University sees the country’s work opportunities as an important point for recruiting students.

While the majority are attracted to APU’s vibrant, multicultural and multilingual environment, for many “the possibility of finding work in Japan is one of the most attractive points of our university,” Jerry Pietrzak, media and communications manager at APU noted.

Students from Korea, Vietnam, and China are interested in working in Japan due to geographical proximity, although APU has seen many students from Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Uzbekistan graduate before joining the Japanese workforce, Pietrzak explained.

He added that the government has relaxed some requirements for those wanting to start a business in Japan.

“Working during their studies – up to 28 hours a week – means students gain valuable work experience,” Pietrzak said.

“Most of the companies hiring our international graduates have done so with an eye towards globalisation”

But despite the focus on revitalisation and adding to the highly-skilled workforce, international graduates are typically recruited for reasons around “globalisation and diversity” according to APU career office counsellor Mei Chhan Chau.

The “relatively simple process” of converting student visas to a work visa – as long as the student has secured a job offer – is in contrast to countries like the US or UK where it can be much more difficult, she told The PIE.

“It has been our experience that most of the companies hiring our international graduates have done so with an eye towards globalisation and building a multicultural work environment, as well as for the skills that our graduates can bring to the workplace,” Chhan Chau said.

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Afghanistan: AUAF faces closure

Mié, 01/08/2020 - 02:40

The future of the American University of Afghanistan has come into question after a report revealed it has been unable to secure assurances for continued funding from The US Agency for International Development.  

According to CNN, USAID had a close-out meeting with university personnel at the US Embassy in Kabul in December 2019 and AUAF may have to close its doors in May of this year. 

“Recent news reports have correctly reported that AUAF is dependent on US government funding”

The AUAF relies on USAID for more than 60% of its budget and is dependent upon the agency’s financial backing.

AUAF’s president, David S. Sedney, said that he is “working hard to ensure continued funding” for the university, although he did not go as far as saying the university would not close. 

“Recent news reports have raised concerns that AUAF may be preparing to close its doors,” he said in a statement.

“When the AUAF Board of Trustees appointed me as president… I took on that responsibility, and that privilege, with a wholehearted commitment to see AUAF not only thrive but grow.

“Recent news reports have correctly reported that AUAF is dependent on US government funding. That was true when the University opened in 2006 and continues to be true today,” he added.

However, this is not the first time that AUAF has faced closure. In 2016 an attack by the Taliban at the university saw several people killed and dozens injured.

Sedney said that US government funding was necessarily increased in 2017 to allow for heightened security that enabled AUAF to reopen in March of that year, following the attack eight months earlier.

“As long as sustainable peace is still an aspirational goal, rather than a reality in Afghanistan, the need for funding to maintain a strong security environment will also remain a reality,” Sedney continued.

“I, along with the AUAF board and administration, am actively working to ensure that the funding for AUAF operations, security, academic programs (including new programs) is in place for 2020 and beyond.”

Early in 2019 the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction – the US government’s leading oversight authority on Afghanistan reconstruction – published the results of an investigation into AUAF and its use of US money.

AUAF records obtained by SIGAR and USAID OIG investigators showed that it had lost more than US$63 million since 2012, it depended on US aid for 86% of its funding, and as of February 2018, it had the money for only another month’s expenses.

To avoid a failure of the university, USAID extended the 2013 cooperative agreement and raised its total value to $72.8 million, enough to keep the AUAF open through at least May 2019.

Last March, a report by The New York Times stated that Sedney signed an administrative agreement that saw the university pledge to undertake reforms in budgeting, management and oversight as a condition of future government funding.

“The current cooperative agreement between the USAID and the AUAF began on August 31, 2013, and will end on May 31, 2020,” a USAID spokesperson told The PIE.

The spokesperson said that any future USAID funding for AUAF is “subject to a competitive process” and contingent upon the university’s continued compliance with certain terms that AUAF signed in 2018.

That future funding… depends on the school’s ability to comply with the agreement it made with USAID to improve its operations, fiduciary oversight and internal controls.”

The spokesperson told The PIE that during a meeting with AUAF Board of Trustees in December 2019, USAID’s leadership had strongly encouraged the university to diversify its funding sources.

“Future USAID funding for AUAF is subject to a competitive process”

AUAF is Afghanistan’s only Western-style university and has a student body that is nearly half female.

Country representative for the Afghan Women’s Resource Centre, Maryam Rahmani, told The PIE that the university’s closure would have a negative impact.

“There would be an effect on higher education of girls at master’s level as there are very limited opportunities of getting a scholarship in other private universities and AUAF was a great help,” she added.

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Alumni are “most reliable” source of info for students looking to UK, Europe

Mar, 01/07/2020 - 11:13

Alumni are the most reliable source of accurate information for international students looking to study in the UK (74%) and elsewhere in Europe (79%) according to the results of a new survey. However, relatively few respondents cited alumni as their primary source of information about international study.

Published by Cturtle, the ISEOS 2020 report examines how international student experience, study destination, study mode and graduate employment outcomes affect international alumni’s likelihood to recommend their university and country of education to future students.

“From our experience universities have preferred the ‘poster child’ approach with alumni”

Between June and September 2019, 16,830 responses to online surveys were collected – of which 4,673 participants were educated in the UK, and an additional 479 were educated in other European countries.

Of the combined participants educated in the UK and Europe, the majority (36%) were from Malaysia, 21% were from India, 11% from Vietnam, and 10% from Singapore.

A total of 95% of the survey participants had already completed their studies.

According to the survey report, an almost equal number who studied in the UK (83%) and Europe (82%) said they chose to study abroad to improve their career opportunities.

It showed that ‘university ranking’ was the top reason for choosing the UK (57%) and Europe (52%), followed by ‘location’ (51% and 50% respectively), ‘price’ (41% and 38%) and ‘job opportunities’ (18% and 28%).

By comparison, ‘alumni engagement’ was a factor for just 10% of UK and 12% of Europe educated respondents.

Despite some similarities in figures, there were some clear differences when it came to the primary source of study abroad information for both cohorts.

According to the report, education counsellors and agents were the primary sources of information for 35% of UK educated participants, compared to 44% of those who studied in Europe.

Meanwhile, websites or contacts at the school were important sources for 29% of those educated in the UK compared to just 12% of those who noted Europe as their country of study.

“I believe there needs to be better access to reliable information for future international students whether that is from universities, agents or third parties like Cturtle and UniAdvisor,” Cturtle founder and CEO, Shane Dillon, told The PIE News.

“In general, universities need to modernise their approach, leverage technology and alumni to better engage future students and improve the reliability of that information.”

And despite alumni being noted among the most reliable sources of accurate information with regards to ‘life in the UK and Europe’ (74% and 79% respectively), as well as ‘migration opportunities’, ‘job opportunities’ and ‘work rights’, just 6% of UK educated and 7% of Europe educated respondents cited alumni as their primary source of information.

Credit: Cturtle

“From our experience universities have preferred the ‘poster child’ approach with alumni, heavily focusing on the promotion of the rare graduate who immigrates to the UK and is successful in their chosen field,” Dillon said.

“This can be misleading to the experience of the majority of international students with 97% end up working outside the UK.

“I believe better access to reliable information for future international students from the most trusted and reliable source “international alumni” solves this pre-departure knowledge gap,” he added.

The report also examined overall student satisfaction, with 83% of UK educated and 87% of Europe educated students noting a “positive international experience”.

Some 65% of UK educated and 74% of Europe educated respondents also noted that they were “satisfied with the return on investment”.

A total of 74% in the UK and 78% in Europe said they had a “sense of being welcomed in the country of education”, with 87% and 92% of respondents respectively noting that they felt “safe on campus”.

With regards to employment, around half of students (45% in the UK and 52% in Europe) said that they worked part-time while studying.

However, just 28% in the UK and 31% in Europe said their university supported them in finding a part-time job.

By comparison with the more extensive Cturtle survey, 50% of participants educated in the US, 45% in Canada and 44% in New Zealand said their universities supported them.

However, participants educated in Europe had the highest proportion (61%) of part-time jobs related to their areas of study, across the entire survey.

“Universities need to… leverage technology and alumni to better engage future students”

“I think it is important to support international students who want part-time work, this is critical to their financial security while students and their overall experience in the country of education,” Dillon told The PIE.

“The European part-time work related to the field of study was also a welcome surprise for us,” he added.

Post-graduation, 87% of UK educated respondents said they are currently working in their home countries, compared to just 3% in the UK.

For those educated in Europe, almost three quarters (74%) said they are currently working in their home counties, compared to 11% working in their country of study.

“We believe it will be universities who can prove – with data – the employment outcomes of their international graduates who will win the competition for future student enrolments,” concluded Dillon.

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Fake uni sting: ICE releases video evidence

Mar, 01/07/2020 - 07:22

A video showing international students knowingly broke the law has been released by US Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in response to criticism over the University of Farmington sting

The sting was carried out in 2019 by the Department of Homeland Security, who used the bogus university to catch international students who were trying to falsely maintain their student visa status.

So far, around 250 have been arrested.  

“These individuals were not new to the US student visa system”

As a result of the sting, ICE faced wide-spread criticism, with the Times of India reporting there was no way for international students to check the university’s authenticity.

Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez even called for ICE to be abolished in response to Farmington, while defence attorneys for the students said they believe they were entrapped and didn’t realise the university was fake as the university was listed on the ICE website as an approved school.

Following the outcry, acting deputy director of ICE, Derek Benner, released a video along with a statement that hit back against reports that “mischaracterised the purpose and rationale for the investigation”. 

“These individuals were not new to the US student visa system; they were familiar with its requirements and their obligations,” Benner said. 

“They secured visas to enrol in another US school and were already in the United States when they transferred to Farmington.”

In addition, Benner continued, prior to enrolling at Farmington each prospective enrolee was informed that there were no classes, curriculum or teachers at Farmington.

“Despite this, individuals enrolled because they saw an opportunity to avoid any academic requirements and, instead, work full-time, which was a violation of their nonimmigrant status,” he added.

Benner said that evidence, including video footage, audio recordings, and correspondence collected during the investigation supports that each prospective enrolee knowingly and wilfully violated their non-immigrant status.

These recordings appear to back up ICE’s claims that at least some of the 250 students who were arrested knowingly broke the law.

The video shows an undercover member of DHS tell a Farmington candidate,“we would send you documents on the class and schedule that says you’ve gone classes, and everything like that”, to which the candidate responds, “that’s fine”. 

The DHS operative then goes on to say “Okay, you know this is not legal, right? So it has to kind of stay between us, right?” to which the student says “I know, I know”.

Benner claimed that Farmington is a “clear example of a pay-to-stay scheme,” and said that such schemes result in a dangerous lack of accountability and diminish the quality and integrity of the US student visa system.

“The investigation provided [Homeland Security Investigations] with a better understanding of how recruiters and others abuse the nonimmigrant student visa system,” he said.

“This, in turn, informs and improves DHS’ efforts to uncover fraud at schools, provides insight into networks within the United States that facilitate such abuse, and serves as a deterrent to potential violators both in the short- and long-term.”

“Individuals enrolled because they saw an opportunity to avoid any academic requirements”

ICE has been met with further criticism from the sector in recent times, after civil rights lawyers filed a lawsuit against Boston Public Schools claiming that they were giving ICE access to student information.

The lawsuit centres around Boston Public Schools sharing student incident reports – something that they deny doing – but the attorneys behind the lawsuit say the school district is putting students in jeopardy, and are calling on the district to shut down the communication.

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Aus: transaction fees worry int’l students

Mar, 01/07/2020 - 02:38

Education providers must do more to alleviate the stress of transaction fees and increase their provision of payment plans for international students, new research by Australian-based edtech company Cohort Go has revealed.

The Aussie Study Experience report, which surveyed almost 700 international students in Australia, found 49% of respondents believed education providers should provide new payment options to reduce transaction fees.

“Providers who differentiate themselves will be more likely to attract… students”

“Australia’s prosperity is directly linked to international education, which is why it’s vital the international education sector continues to innovate and look to improve the student experience of students studying here, said Cohort Go chief executive and co-founder Mark Fletcher.

“Transaction fees imposed on money transfers have been a frustrating bidder cost of paying for international education. Students are calling for education providers to adopt alternative payment options which impose little or no fees on their students, such as fee-free global payment gateways.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Fletcher added many banks typically charged between 3-6% in foreign exchange margins and fees, which saw some students paying up to an additional $30,000 for their education.

“Anything the international education sector can do in order to reduce the costs of fees would be well received by students and their parents,” Fletcher added.

According to the survey, 42% of students also wanted more flexible payment plans for their tuition fees.

“While managing payment plans is very complex, there are solutions in the market that can significantly simplify the receipting and reconciliation of these payments,” Fletcher said.

“In an increasingly competitive industry, education providers who differentiate themselves and enhance the student experience will be more likely to attract a growing cohort of students.”

In terms of who bore the costs of education, Cohort Go’s survey found 37% of courses were paid for by parents, while 25% were paid through internet banking and 15% on credit card.

According to the latest figures from the Department of Education, Australia’s year to October 2019 figures continued surpassing whole of 2018 numbers, with over 738,000 international students.

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