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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
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TEQSA-ITECA MoU signals new era of cooperation

Mar, 02/25/2020 - 11:07

A new agreement between the Tertiary Education Quality and Standards Agency and the Independent Tertiary Education Council Australia has signaled a renewed commitment to cooperate on issues that protect student interests and the reputation of Australia’s independent higher education sector.

TEQSA is Australia’s independent national quality assurance and regulatory agency for higher education, and ITECA is the peak body representing independent providers in the higher education, vocational education, training and skills sectors.

“As challenges arise in the sector, TEQSA and ITECA can collaborate”

Of the 1.5 million students in higher education in Australia, nearly 10% are with independent higher education providers.

“Independent providers are a valued component of the higher education sector and have a track-record of delivering great outcomes for students,” said Anthony McClaran, TEQSA chief executive officer.

“This new memorandum of understanding with ITECA strengthens our positive engagement with independent providers and allows TEQSA to work to identify emerging trends in the sector and respond as appropriate,”

TEQSA and ITECA have enjoyed a long-standing collaborative relationship which is underpinned by a shared interest in supporting independent higher education providers’ commitment to quality.

“The open engagement that we have with TEQSA, underpinned by this agreement, ensures that our members’ views are fully considered as the regulator undertakes its compliance activity,” added Troy Williams, ITECA chief executive.

“As challenges arise in the sector, TEQSA and ITECA can collaborate on the best way to support independent higher education providers.”

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Worldview launches Study in Ghana

Mar, 02/25/2020 - 10:39

Higher education solutions company Worldview has launched a Study in Ghana initiative with the aim of attracting students from Africa, Europe, Asia, and America to study in the west African country.

A coalition of institutions in Ghana powered by recruitment platform findadmission.com, the launch of Study in Ghana was welcomed by the country’s minister of Education, Matthew Opoku Prempeh, who said it fits into the government’s initiatives to promote Ghana around the world and encourage investment into the country.

“It is time to let the world know that Africa being recorded as the birth site of civilisation is not a myth”

The minister said the country is now open to attract international students and to improving the quality of education in the continent.

The aim of the initiative is to help international students with their application process and answer all questions they might have about living and studying in Ghana.

Through the service, students can enrol in full degree programs, participate in summer schools and exchange programs provided by Ghanaian universities.

Founder of findadmission.com and the CEO of Worldview, Folabi Obembe, said he has always been critical of the phrase ‘brain drain in Africa’ because he believes that mobility enriches teaching and learning.

He said his only concern was the fact that the mobility of students in Africa is always “one way” with no stream of students coming to Africa to study.

“This is why we decided to embark on a journey to promote countries in Africa as a study destination and to encourage a more organised migration of students in the continent,” Obembe said.

“It is time to let the world know that Africa being recorded as the birth site of civilisation is not a myth. We started this movement in Ghana because we believe that Ghana has all it requires to take the lead in marketing its education sector within Africa and around the world,” he added.

In cooperation with member institutions in Ghana, Worldview will use its global student recruitment platform and experience in international education marketing to make the application procedures easier and more efficient for both students and the universities.

“Study in Ghana is here to support student mobility within Africa, present African institutions to the rest of the world, make quality education more accessible, and to increase general knowledge about Ghana worldwide,” added Obembe.

“Study in Ghana is ideal for students interested in summer school, study abroad programs or pursuing a full undergraduate or master’s degree in Ghana. We are making the necessary information readily available, connecting students and institutions, and we are constantly working on making the application procedures as simple and smooth as possible.”

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Language schools fear losses due to COVID-19 outbreak across Italy

Mar, 02/25/2020 - 09:04

Following a number of confirmed cases of novel coronavirus (COVID-19) in Italy, sector stakeholders have told The PIE News of the impact that the postponement or cancellation of student trips could potentially have on their businesses.

The Italian ministry of education has restricted school educational trips with in the country and abroad due to the virus for a period of two weeks at least, while individuals can still travel.

The Lombardy and Veneto regions in the north of the country have the majority of confirmed cases of coronavirus.  On February 25, however, more cases were detected in the south of the country – in Tuscany and Sicily.

“For certain it has had an immediate negative impact both on Italian agencies and foreign schools”

Italy’s minister of education Lucia Azzolina said the suspension of educational trips since Sunday is a “precaution that in my opinion is necessary for this scenario”.

“The government and health authorities are doing serious and painstaking work taking into account a rapidly changing picture,” Azzolina said.

The Italian Association of Language Consultants and Agents added the ministry has frozen every kind of school trip and study trip in Italy as well as abroad for a period of 14 days.

“As a result, those groups of students that have already booked flights, courses and accommodation have remained and will remain in Italy,” IALCA said in a statement.

Pina Foti president of IALCA explained that it is “hard to say” if the suspension will be extended beyond 14 days.

“For certain it has had an immediate negative impact both on Italian agencies and foreign schools,” she said, adding that the group will maintain direct contact with the ministry in order to provide updates on the evolving situation to agents and school partners.

“IALCA trusts in the foreign schools’ understanding and flexibility with regard to a possible rescheduling of school groups’ departures and dates of stay.”

But regardless of the destination, school groups have been cancelling their departure, Paolo Barilari, IALCA vice president and owner of Lingue nel Mondo told The PIE.

“In low season most of the business is with school groups,” Barilari said.

Reimbursements and postponing courses were vital to “reduce to the minimum the negative economic effect of this situation”, he added.

“Groups give a very low net profit to the agents; being forced to reimburse the students would be very difficult. That is why we rely on the flexibility of the language schools and of the airline companies.”

Principal of inlingua Cheltenham, David Arrowsmith, noted that three Italian groups booked for March will likely be affected due to the ministry’s decision, as well as individuals for the school’s general and business English courses.

“At the moment we have only received a cancellation from a company in Italy who had four corporate clients booked with us for the month of March – they may come later in the year – we do not know,” he said.

“Financially we will lose about £60,000 in March and going forward up to £150-200k”

“We anticipate that the three groups booked in March will cancel, although still no word.

“I am thinking the Italian agents likewise are holding back cancelling at the moment in the hope the ban will be lifted. But I think the March groups will cancel and from April onwards we will see.”

If the ban continues into the summer inlingua would “potentially have five-six groups cancel and other individuals,” Arrowsmith said, adding that the impact will then become “significant” for his school.

“I should imagine for the large chain schools the damage would be hard to deal with as Italian is such a huge summer market for the UK,” he said.

“If all cancel, financially we will lose about £60,000 in March and going forward up to £150-200k which for a single school like us is significant.”

Chinese and Japanese group cancellations is also compounding the situation for many, Arrowsmith added.

Delfin English School London general manager, Mike Summerfield, explained that one group due to start this week had cancelled on Monday.

“We have a contract this summer for more than 350 students over six weeks across both our locations. Hopefully, the travel ban will be finished by then,” he said.

St Giles International‘s Group Sales and Marketing director & deputy CEO, Hannah Lindsay, said that despite not having any Italian groups arriving imminently the school has groups for the summer who are still planning on coming.

“We believe that the fears surrounding the virus are affecting Italian bookings though, according to our overseas partners there,” she added.

Commercial manager at Bayswater College, Jamie Tyler, said he does not expect any groups to travel from Italy before March 8, resulting in some cancellations.

“We remain hopeful that these groups will postpone their travel rather than cancel and are working with our partners to offer flexibility with travel dates,” he noted.

“This is a time where we need to be supportive of our partners”

“This is a time where we need to be supportive of our partners and be aware that decisions from parents may be delayed and be prepared for shorter notice of travel.”

Co-founder and president of Italian agency Crewative Fabio Boccio told The PIE that although he didn’t have any groups for the next two weeks, he does for the summer.

“I hope the situation will be better, which despite my positive mindset, I don’t think will be the case,” he explained.

“What it is happening is pretty much catastrophic, but the fact that I have been able to diversify my offer in the past two years has protected my business.”

Jodie Gray, interim chief executive of English UK, said: “We are working with IALCA, the Department for International Trade and the British Council to get the most up-to-date information for our members in a fast-moving situation. We’re also seeking legal advice on the situation around refunds which we hope to be able to share in the coming days.

“Many of our members have groups booked over the next two or three weeks and we really feel for them.”

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Thailand: Embassies to help find teachers

Mar, 02/25/2020 - 07:26

The Ministry of Education in Thailand has held a meeting with several embassies to discuss how to recruit more English language teachers for schools across the country.

The Bangkok Post reported education minister Nataphol Teepsuwan as saying “a large number of teachers are necessary as we are working on upgrading the entire education system” following the meeting.

English First’s English-language proficiency index currently ranks Thailand in the 74th spot out of 100. Levels of English are slightly higher in cities such as Bangkok and Chiang Mai and lower in the South and North East.

“[The proficiency of] approximately 75% of English teachers [is] below B1”

The British Council in Thailand told The PIE News that a lack of English proficiency in the country is exacerbated by the proficiency of “approximately 75% of English teachers [being] below B1” and teaching methodology that is often “traditional and not communicative”.

From 2016-18 the British Council worked with Thailand on a professional development program to help 17,000 teachers improve their English skills.

However, the Thai government appears to be particularly focused on hiring teachers from abroad. There are currently around 7,000 foreign teachers in Thai schools but they say a further 10,000 are required.

Foreign English teachers in the country come from varied backgrounds, some being graduates who come to teach for a semester or two, while others are professionally qualified teachers at international schools and universities.

Three years ago, Thailand released a report on how it plans to modernise its education system covering 2017-2036 in which it promotes extensive reform to the current education system as the country prepares to “overcome the middle-income trap towards developed country status within the next 15 years”.

It particularly noted its work with organisations such as the UN and ASEAN, in addition to cooperation with other countries, as showing its intentions towards “improving the quality of education and personnel towards international standards”.

“The Ministry of Education has put an emphasis on proactive action to build strong relationships with Ministries of Education in other countries both at regional and international levels,” the report added.

The British Council further said that discussions regarding teachers were at an early stage and ongoing.

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US: English Language Testing Society launched

Mar, 02/25/2020 - 05:12

The English Language Testing Society announced its official launch on February 18, hoping to become the “leading advocate for excellence in English language testing”.

A community of assessment specialists, test developers, language teachers, program administrators, and all other stakeholders interested best practices related to English language testing, the organisation hopes to raise awareness for best practice in English language testing, according to ELTS president Eddy White.

“ELTS will work to advance, improve, promote and develop a wider understanding of guidelines and best practices for language assessment systems”

ELTS is to advocate for excellence in English language testing “throughout the world”, while also advancing improvement and promoting the English language testing profession.

Membership is open to those new to the field as well as long time professionals, and anyone who joins before March 20 will be classified as the “founding members”.

With a strong dedication for promoting English language testing at a high standard, ELTS has an international mix of members on their board of trustees.

“We are very excited to launch this new society. ELTS will work to advance, improve, promote and develop a wider understanding of guidelines and best practices for language assessment systems worldwide,” explained White.

ELTS is hosted by the Division of Continuing and Professional Education at the University of California, Davis.

Annual membership information may be found here.

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UWE targets India and Nepal growth with MSM p’ship

Mar, 02/25/2020 - 03:52

The University of the West of England is aiming to triple enrolments from India and Nepal on its UK campus as it announces a dedicated recruitment office in the region.

UWE Bristol is working with M Square Media to establish its in-country presence, including a dedicated team to manage agent relationships and admission processes.

“We want people to come and say they had the best experience studying at the university and the UK”

“We are looking for balance in quality and quantity in our student recruitment,” said Ray Priest, professor and international director for the Asia Pacific at UWE Bristol.

“We want people to come and say they had the best experience studying at the university and the UK, and talk to their family and friends in India about it,” he added.

Agent networking summits UWE Bristol led in Delhi, Ahmedabad, Mumbai and Kochi in India, and Kathmandu in Nepal throughout February each attracted 80 to 100 agents assisting students to attain their study-abroad goals.

The institution also anticipates benefits from the UK’s upcoming post-study work visa, which will take effect for all international students starting their studies in autumn 2020 or later.

The partnership represents a big step for MSM coming into the UK market, according to the company which partners with 40 higher education institutions in Canada, the US, UK, Australia, and other key markets.

MSM is also affiliated with over 4,500 education agents around the globe.

“We are excited to replicate MSM’s success with Canadian colleges and universities to this part of the world, and bridge the gap between highly qualified Indian students and UK institutions,” added Sanjay Laul, CEO and founder of MSM.

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Agile universities that partner will succeed, say edtech investors

Mar, 02/25/2020 - 03:43

The emergence of a new breed of digital skills schools – coding academies and technology bootcamps promising high employment rates after graduation in a matter of months – are not the threat to universities that some might argue, according to a panel of veteran edtech investors.

Universities’ biggest competitors will be other tertiary educators who react to the changing student marketplace and partner with commercial operators to offer a hybrid of “legacy” and “new tech” skills and learning.

This is a view posited by three edtech investors with significant experience operating in the space, who shared their thoughts at an HolonIQ summit on the future of education & the workforce held in December in London, UK.

“Our view is that partnering with universities in various ways is a good thing”

“I actually believe the bigger competitor to universities which are not changing in that direction, are other universities that are, as opposed to boot camps,” stated Jan Lynn-Matern, founder & CEO of Emerge Education.

Lynn-Matern, who heads up a European venture capital fund, was responding to a question about future challenges to the traditional university learning environment.

“I think they [coding boot camps, etc.] are a very significant element of the answer,” he continued. “But I don’t think they’re the biggest threat to universities, because when you buy an education, you’re buying the brand value of whatever institution you go to.

“The fact is that universities are state-protected oligopolies. It’s very difficult to create a new university and impossible to build a university that has 150-year old brand value because that takes 150 years.

“So if a few universities figure out, how to become a) scalable, and b) produce content in an agile way and actually produce real skills, I think they are the biggest threat.”

Lynn-Matern was joined on the panel by George Straschnov of Bisk Ventures in the US and Alex Spiro, partner of Brighteye Ventures also based in the UK.

Straschnov said Bisk Ventures’ investments in the last couple of years had focused on non-traditional content being delivered through a university lens, utilising best-in-class technology.

“I think whereas edtech was [once] more about a specific technology to solve a specific problem, now, as technology is being married with content in a myriad of different ways, our view is that partnering with universities in various ways to do that is a good thing,” he shared.

“So we really look for where we see those intersections, bringing that to market in ways we think would serve the need – that I think we all agree exists – in the marketplace.”

Straschnov revealed that many of the tech bootcamp businesses were looking to raise their next round of funding, and in the process, he had gained insights into what some felt they had got wrong as they developed.

“The fact is that universities are state-protected oligopolies”

“It was that they neglected a lot of the things that the liberal arts college [would provide],” he shared.

“They would say, we can teach languages really well, we can teach people to code, but we really need to teach them to be able to talk to each other and.. get them to write an email where they can communicate… we realise [they’re] talking about an English degree,” he said with a smile.

Bisk-backed Make School has partnered with a liberal arts school, also in the Bay area, he revealed, to great effect. Students on a fast-track two-year degree are “really getting the best of both worlds”, he said, with significantly cheaper fees and “a 95% placement rate“.

Investments made by Bisk Ventures include Make School and Red Academy; Brighteye Ventures has invested into tech skills bootcamp Iron Hack, while Emerge has backed The London Interdisciplinary School, a new university which offers paid work placements with internship partners that include Virgin, Innocent, Funding Circle and the Met Police.

Spiro shared that IronHack offered nine-week courses that could see participants of the course gain a 30% bump in salary, and it had an 88% placement rate.

On the same topic of employability, Dyson Institute spoke with UK universities at a UUKi event earlier this year. It revealed that this major engineering employer has also partnered with the University of Warwick to deliver degrees which offer paid employment and a guaranteed job offer if students gain a 2:1.

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Aus: travel ban eased for some Chinese students

Lun, 02/24/2020 - 08:16

The Australian government will allow a “limited” number of Chinese high school students into Australia in an easing of the country’s coronavirus (COVID-19) travel ban. 

Border force will be able to provide case by case exemptions for the travel restrictions, paying particular consideration of year 11 and 12 secondary students from mainland China. 

“The advice received is that COVID-19 has been contained in Australia”

The exemptions won’t apply for students who come from Hubei province where there is continuing growth in both coronavirus cases and deaths. 

The decision comes after The Australian Health Protection Principal Committee advised that current containment measures need continual review for proportionality.

In a statement, Federal Health minister, Greg Hunt, outlined AHPPC’s reasons for easing the travel restrictions. 

“All governments have received advice from medical experts, the chief health and medical officers of all states, territories and the commonwealth,” he explained.

“The advice received is that COVID-19 has been contained in Australia, with no new cases in the general population in the last week. 

“In addition, the advice that comes from the medical officers goes on, ‘there has been an apparent slowing in case numbers in other provenances of mainland China, suggestive of better containment.’

“So in short, what we have seen is a reduction from over 700 cases a day outside of Hubei across mainland China, down to below 70,” said Hunt.

Hunt explained that as a result of this “very important international development backed up by what we have seen in Australia” the AHPPC has recommended to the federal government and to all of the governments that the ability of border force to provide case by case exemptions be continued. 

He noted that there will be a “limited number of cases on a double green light basis”. 

“The commonwealth has to approve and each state and territory has to approve, but this advice from the health officials has been unanimous.

“It has been accepted by the commonwealth and the states, and then it will be up to each individual state to adhere to the circumstances,” he said. 

Since the announcement, the Australian government has expressed its concern over community transmission in a number of countries. 

This includes South Korea and Japan, where there has been a rapid rise in case numbers, as well as Italy and Iran. 

In a press conference, chief medical officer for the Australian government, Brendan Murphy, said that a temporary lift on the travel ban for the tertiary students will be considered later this week on the basis of what is happening in China’s provinces (excluding Hubei). 

Murphy said that the safety of tens of thousands of Chinese students being let into the country would depend on the risk of transmission from those provinces.

“At the moment, we’re talking about outbreaks of less than 2000 in provinces of many, many millions, and there hasn’t been, at this stage, more than a handful of cases that have been exported around the world from provinces other than Hubei.

“So we look at all of that data and we’ll make a recommendation to government,” he said. 

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ACE criticises investigations of Harvard & Yale

Lun, 02/24/2020 - 06:48

The American Council of Education has criticised a US Department of Education investigation that suggested Harvard and Yale had failed to report millions of dollars in foreign funding.

The enquiry is part of an ongoing review of how US universities receive funding from foreign countries such as China and Saudi Arabia. 

“The more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting”

It centres around a law requiring colleges and universities that process US federal student aid to report gifts from and contracts with any foreign source that exceed US$250,000 in value and to disclose any foreign ownership or control, twice each year.

In a statement, the department said that Yale University may have failed to report at least $375 million in foreign gifts and contracts and that it “chose” not to report any gifts and contracts over the last four years. 

Harvard University may lack “appropriate institutional controls over foreign money”, according to the department, and has “failed to report fully all foreign gifts and contracts as required by law” in Section 117 of the Higher Education Act.

“This is about transparency,” said US secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos.

“If colleges and universities are accepting foreign money and gifts, their students, donors, and taxpayers deserve to know how much and from whom. Moreover, it’s what the law requires.

“Unfortunately, the more we dig, the more we find that too many are underreporting or not reporting at all. We will continue to hold colleges and universities accountable and work with them to ensure their reporting is full, accurate, and transparent, as required by the law,” she added.

But Sarah K. Spreitzer, director department of government and public affairs at ACE, told The PIE News that the department is “investigating institutions who don’t have a lot of clarification on what they are supposed to be reporting”.

Spreitzer explained that Harvard has been reporting gifts and contracts from foreign countries every year. However, the way they have reported is different from other institutions.

“They have reported one total number for gifts for a foreign country and then one aggregate number for contracts from all foreign countries,” she said.

“So when you look on the spreadsheet, they have a total amount of gifts from China or a total amount of contracts from China, but they don’t break it out by specific entities from that country.”

Spreitzer told The PIE that there is a lack of clarity over whether or not Harvard has reported its foreign funding in an acceptable way.

“That actually goes to a question that ACE asked the department back in January of 2019 that they never responded to,” she said.

“In our letter that we sent to the department, we asked ‘when is it sufficient to only list the country and report in aggregate?’ and we never got a response back.”

In response to this point, a spokesperson for The DoE told The PIE the department “does not always directly respond to unsolicited correspondence from industry lobbyists”.

However, the spokesperson said the department has “solicited, evaluated, and responded to the views and concerns of the higher education community and other members of the public” regarding Section 117 through the notice and comment process.

In the case of Yale, Spreitzer said that the university did miss four years of reporting, but issued a statement explaining that upon discovery of the error, it tried to update the information with the DoE.

“[Yale] sent [the department] the missing four years of data back in 2019 and the department responded by launching an investigation,” she explained. 

“It doesn’t do anything to help transparency because this sends a message to the institutions that if they’re out of compliance and they try to get into compliance, then the department will launch an investigation,” she added. 

“This sends a message to the institutions that… if try to get into compliance, then the department will launch an investigation”

TheDoE has published for public comment a “modern and robust” information collection system under the Paperwork Reduction Act to promote compliance and transparency.

However, Spreitzer argued that this new system will not improve transparency, and instead will create more questions for universities trying to report under Section 117.

“This was developed within the department. They haven’t talked to us, or other stakeholders, regarding it.

“I would just say it creates more questions that we can’t answer,” she added.

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NZ: travel ban extended, educators ask for Chinese student exemptions

Lun, 02/24/2020 - 05:03

The New Zealand government is under increasing pressure to exempt Chinese students from travel bans sparked by the coronavirus after it confirmed a travel ban on foreign nationals coming from China would continue for a further eight days.

On February 20, the government announced an extension of the travel ban which applies to any foreigners who have been present in, or transited through, mainland China 14 days prior to them departing for New Zealand.

“From our point of view it’s extremely serious”

Students from China make up the largest proportion of international students coming into the country (nearly 45%), with about 15,000 expected over the next month.

Education New Zealand confirmed around 49% of Chinese students currently remain outside the country due to the travel ban and Universities New Zealand has asked the government for an exemption for international students stuck in China.

According to one report, Waikato University is expecting about 800 new and returning students from China this year, but estimates at least 400 students are still in China.

However, while the Australian government is allowing some high school students from mainland China to enter the country on a case-by-case basis, NZ prime minister Jacinda Ardern said her government is still considering removing restrictions on Chinese students.

Director of Universities New Zealand, Chris Whelan, said the ban had disrupted the lives of the affected students and if it was not lifted the universities could lose about NZ$170 million in fees.

“From our point of view it’s extremely serious,” Whelan told RNZ.

“We’re currently discussing the idea of an exemption, so some students may be able to come to New Zealand.”

Ministry of Education of New Zealand deputy secretary of Sector Enablement and Support, Katrina Casey, said the government hasn’t ruled out granting the exemptions, which would go some way to helping lessen the impact on the $4.5 billion dollar international education industry.

“International students are a valued part of our education system and of our community. New Zealand provides quality education to many thousands of international students each year, and we want this to continue,” she said.

“It is our understanding that the government’s response is under constant review. It is a fast-moving situation.”

Casey said the ministry is also working closely with educators to explore learning solutions that include resources and recordings of lectures through online platforms.

On February 24, prime minister Arden said officials were investigating whether tertiary students could be exempted from the ban.

“We would need to be satisfied that any health risk could be practically managed, with the education sector able to reassure us and the public that it has credible self-isolation and accommodation plans in place,” she said.

Asked if an exemption would be too difficult, Arden reportedly replied: “I don’t want to say that yet. We are really properly teasing it out. We owe it to the sector to do that.”

“We would need to be satisfied that any health risk could be practically managed”

New Zealand Immigration department has introduced measures to support student visa holders, reassuring them they will be honoured.

Student visa holders with a “first entry before date” will have their visa conditions automatically amended to allow them to travel for the duration of their visa. The reissued eVisa will be provided free of charge.

Meanwhile, a group of educators and students from across the country have created a heart-warming video to let Chinese students know that they are welcome.

The clip entitled “Wuhan, New Zealand is waiting for you” features interviews and images from Auckland, Waikato, northern region, Christchurch and other cities in New Zealand.

Additional reporting by Jennifer Menchin

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MoU inked to boost NZ-India partnerships

Dom, 02/23/2020 - 10:11

An MoU between the Indian Institute of Technology Delhi and all eight New Zealand universities has been signed to facilitate the setting up of a New Zealand Centre at the IIT that will be a focal point of academic activity for both countries.

This first-of-its-kind joint initiative will boost academic ties and is aimed at discussing and developing projects for long-term research in areas include cybersecurity, advanced biological and healthcare systems, engineering and technologies for clean water.

“The new centre reflects on our efforts to embrace internationalisation”

IT Delhi and the universities have agreed to seed fund up to 10 research projects, with matching commitments from both sides of approximately US$10,000 – bringing the potential total funding to $100,000.

The selected projects will be announced in June this year, and the researchers will receive $10,000 each towards the project.

Jennifer Dixon, deputy vice-chancellor (strategic engagement), University of Auckland, led the New Zealand delegation said it is a significant step in New Zealand’s long-term education relationship with India.

“We are dedicated to creating future global citizens and we look forward to the development of cutting-edge research through the association in areas such as cancer genomics, robotics, data science and wastewater treatment,” she told The PIE News.

The centre will host visiting academics and researchers, support student mobility and act as a forum for diplomatic and trade dialogue among different sectors.

Sanjeev Sanghi, dean – alumni affairs and international programs at IIT Delhi – said the institute was pleased to be associated with New Zealand varsities.

“The new centre reflects on our efforts to embrace internationalisation, open up opportunities for new research collaborations and increase global exposure for our students,” Sanghi said.

“We look forward to collaborating more with universities from New Zealand and other countries as well to keep improving, learning and exchanging knowledge and practices in areas of research and STEM.”

John Laxon, Education New Zealand’s regional director (Asia), added that the centre would be a “one-of-a-kind” research establishment.

“A research-focused New Zealand centre at IIT Delhi builds on New Zealand’s status as a preferred education destination for [Indian] students, with a 71% increase in Indian students choosing to study in New Zealand universities in 2019,” he noted.

In another development to foster ties between both countries, the University of Auckland hosted a knowledge exchange workshop on rankings for universities and institutions in New Delhi on February 14.

As many as 20 Indian institutions, including Indian Institutes of Technology at Delhi, and Madras, Jindal Global University and Shiv Nadar University participated in the event.

The topic of the workshop was ‘university rankings – what they entail, what they mean for universities, strategies and practices.’

Dixon from the University of Auckland and a colleague Jingwen Mu, senior planning analyst, shared their perspective and pragmatic approaches to rankings.

Other speakers included Kanika Bhal, dean of planning at IIT Delhi; Rupamanjari Ghosh, vice-chancellor of Shiv Nadar University, and Arjya Majumdar, executive director of academic planning at Jindal Global University who shared some Indian perspectives, experiences and challenges with regards rankings.

The experts also explored ranking methods and discussed techniques that can assist in improving ranking performance of institutions.

Questions such as ‘should rankings drive institutional behaviour or help provide insights into performance,’ and ‘how do national rankings systems overlap or compete against international reputation rankings’ were also addressed.

“Whether we like it or not, rankings are important for universities. Students look to a university’s ranking as a proxy of its quality – that is the quality of its teaching and research,” noted Dixon.

“Whether we like it or not, rankings are important for universities”

“Our discussions with Indian institutions will help us know more about the strategies, challenges, opportunities and ways to optimise our performances on prominent world rankings.

“We hope Indian institutions will learn about building internal capabilities, the importance of data analytics, and staff citations when it comes to rankings,” she told The PIE.

Ghosh of Shiv Nadar University added: “All of us in higher education need to be accountable. Rankings serve as a mirror and empower self-appraisal. But a uniform set of ranking parameters is not fair to the diverse missions of institutions.”

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UCAS: record applicants & acceptances from outside UK, boosted by non-EU growth

Vie, 02/21/2020 - 09:29

Applications from non-UK students for higher education courses in the UK increased by 5.2% this cycle over 2018 to reach a record 140,955, according to the latest Universities and Colleges Admissions Service report. All in all, a total of 76,905 of those applications were accepted, marking an increase of 3.8% over the previous year.

According to the report, the government’s target of 600,000 international students studying in the UK by 2030  combined with the imminent arrival of a new post-study work visa may help stimulate growth in HE sector in the coming years.

“The changing exchange rate between the sterling and other currencies [may be] making the UK an attractive location for HE”

“Another factor which may have stimulated growth in the number of non-UK applicants is the changing exchange rate between the sterling and other currencies making the UK an attractive location for HE,” the authors explained.

According to the report, several countries in Africa have been identified as emerging markets for UK universities and colleges.

The number of students applying from Ghana grew by 25.5% (to reach 520 applicants) in 2019, South African applicants rose by 17.1% (685), and applicants from Egypt grew by 8.1% (860).

Applicant numbers from Nigeria have risen by 10.8% to 1,870, following a decline of 40.9% between 2010 and 2018.

The top ten countries in terms of percentage growth of applicants to the UK from 2018 to 2019 (minimum 500 applicants in 2019), excluding China and India. Graph: UCAS

The report noted that the Middle East as a source of applicants has also seen changes.

It showed that with applicants from Saudi Arabia there has been some signs of recovery – a fall of 35.2% from 2010 to 2018 has been followed by a 10.3% increase in 2019, to 1,390 applicants.

The largest numbers of international applicants continue to come from China and India, which account for 15.3% (21,505) and 4.8% (6,720) of non-UK applicants respectively.

China, in particular, has seen 25.7% growth in applications over the last cycle.

Meanwhile, the number of applications from both Kuwait and Thailand passed 1,000 for the first time. Taiwan also saw an increase of 11.6%, while traditional source countries such as Hong Kong saw a surprising decrease of 5.6% while Malaysia remained relatively stable.

The UK’s International Education Strategy, released last year, promotes the education sector focusing on “high-value regions” in Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Latin America, a different approach compared to countries like Canada which are seeking greater diversification.

“It is a risky strategy for universities to target a limited number of countries to recruit international students, as we have seen with the health crisis in China in recent months,” Rachel Hewitt, director of policy and advocacy at HEPI, told The PIE News.

“However it is also right that their approach should be demand-driven and it is clear the strongest demand is currently from China and India.

“It is a risky strategy for universities to target a limited number of countries to recruit international students”

“It seems that already the post-study work visa has had a positive impact on the recruitment of international students, particularly those from India. This also demonstrates the significant impact that changes in government policy can have on recruitment,” Hewitt added.

Applicants from within the EU – whose major source countries include France, Italy, Poland, Spain and Ireland – have remained stable but numbers remain lower than before the 2016 EU referendum.

EU applicants accounted for 37.7% of all non-UK applicants in 2019, down from 39.3% in 2018.

Notably, 35.5% of EU applicants applied to study in Scotland, most likely due to the fact that the Scottish government currently subsidises the fees of Scottish and EU students.

As with previous years, non-UK applicants strongly preferred London over other regions, with international students nearly twice as likely to apply to at least one university or college in London compared to those applying from the UK.

According to the report, 54.1% of applicants from outside the UK used one of their five undergraduate application choices for a course based in London last year, compared to 27.8% of UK applicants.

However, the UK is not always the only place that international students apply to study.

“UCAS surveys applicants about their application choices, and is able therefore to provide insight into the range of destinations they may be considering,” explained the report.

Almost four out of 10 also apply to study in their own country, while 36% of EU students and 48% of non-EU ones apply to other countries, most commonly the US and Canada.

38% of Chinese applicants additionally apply to study in Hong Kong.

Those applying through agencies experienced higher acceptance rates (59.9%) than the 45.7% of applicants that applied independently (48% were accepted) or through overseas schools (53.8%).

“Our most detailed insight ever into international students’ choices further proves the high regard our higher education sector is held in around the world,” said Clare Marchant, UCAS’ chief executive.

“While the draw of studying in the capital is clear, our analysis of emerging markets and students’ subject preferences will be invaluable to universities across the country in planning their teaching and recruitment activities,” she added.

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Aus aims to be ELT “destination of choice”

Vie, 02/21/2020 - 08:02

Australia is striving to become the “destination of choice” for aspiring English learners within five years, with the government releasing a new strategy to grow the market.

The draft English Language Teaching – International Engagement Strategy 2025 outlines a broad plan to create more jobs and drive more economic growth, and was developed in conjunction with Australia’s peak body for English language, English Australia.

The strategy is based on four objectives:

  • Providing a welcoming, safe and world-leading student experience
  • Supporting the English language teaching sector to actively embrace new opportunities and adopt innovative practices and models
  • Australia’s English language teaching sector is flexible supporting both standalone and seamless transition in further studies
  • English language teaching is recognised as a valued and integral part of Australia’s international education sector

Australia’s minister for Education, Dan Tehan, said the strategy will build on the sector’s existing strengths and achievements with a view to further enhancing Australia’s competitive and comparative advantages in the global provision of English language teaching.

“80% of the world’s population doesn’t speak English and English is the most popular language to study, so the potential of this sector is enormous,” he said.

Data from English Australia shows that in 2018 nearly 180,000 students studied English in Australia, with two-thirds studying on a student visa.

“The strategy will identify opportunities for more students to study English in Australia and will map out opportunities to increase our English language teaching footprint in Australia, online and internationally,” Tehan continued.

“The development of a long-term strategy will help ensure the sustainable growth of the sector through to 2025 and beyond.”

The Department of Education, Skills and Employment is seeking stakeholder comment on the suitability of the objectives, actions and measures of success before it finalises the strategy.

The deadline for submissions is April 3, 2020

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ELICOS 2019 visa grants show mixed results

Vie, 02/21/2020 - 06:36

Australia’s Department of Education, Skills and Employment has released a snapshot of international students who studied ELICOS as part of a study pathway, with figures showing mixed results for the sector in 2019.

While there was “incredible growth” in some key markets, a 9% decrease in pathway ELICOS students on 2018 figures was countered by growth (7%) in independent ELICOS visas.

Overall, visa grants associated with an ELICOS course declined by 2% in 2019, according to the report.

“We’ve seen incredible growth from Colombia and Chile in 2019″

Much of the overall decline can be attributed to a significant drop in numbers of pathway visas from China (-18%), the report explained, suggesting there is a declining interest from Chinese students to include ELICOS in a study pathway.

The figures showed a similar story for Indian students with a 34% decline in pathway visas.

“Like China, most visas with ELICOS granted to India in 2019 were pathway visas and their decline was in spite of a 17% growth in all primary student visa grants, which suggests there is also a declining interest from Indian students to include ELICOS in a study pathway,” highlighted the report.

Conversely Vietnam, which also predominantly has ELICOS pathway visas, saw strong growth in both all primary visa grants (24%) and in visas with ELICOS (31%) in 2019.

Speaking with The PIE News, English Australia CEO, Brett Blacker, said there is a number of other countries showing strong increases.

“We’ve seen incredible growth from Colombia and Chile in 2019, two key markets that we’ve focused on as part of our work under the International Council for Education and its LATAM Working Group,” he said.

Over half of the growth seen in independent ELICOS visas in 2019 can be attributed to Colombia according to the report, with countries such as Thailand, Spain, Saudi Arabia and Mexico also making a significant contribution.

“China’s downturn is significant but the growth in these markets, and new markets like Mongolia and Nepal, shows how our sector is diversifying and bringing a better experience for all ELICOS students,” continued Blacker.

Diversification of the sector is also a focus for the federal government, with Federal Education minister Dan Tehan reportedly set to release a draft road map towards making Australia the “destination of choice” for aspiring English learners by 2025.

The strategy will set out a guiding framework to secure access to new markets and maintain the nation’s reputation as one of the world’s leading English teaching providers.

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Settlement reached in Niagara lawsuit

Vie, 02/21/2020 - 05:07

A class action lawsuit brought against Niagara College in 2015 by international students who discovered they were prohibited from accessing the labour market was settled earlier this month at the cost of CAD $3 million to the southern Ontario institute.

Launched by former students Anish Goyal and Chintan Zankat, who were initially seeking CAD $50 million in damages, the lawsuit claimed that the college misled them into believing that a four-month general arts and science program, delivered mostly online, would qualify them for the Post Graduate Work Program in the country.

“This situation has affected my life in ways that are irreparable by money”

The PGWP is an open work permit for any type of job that allows graduates to work in Canada for up to a maximum of three years. However, the immigration department does not accept distance learning when it comes to meeting the application requirements.

Goyal, an Indian graduate with a BA in Engineering, completed the program with Niagara College in 2015, having taken five of the six courses in the program online.

Only some of those affected were able to remain in Canada after reapplying for the permit.

“This situation has affected my life in ways that are irreparable by money. We settled this lawsuit mostly to ensure that we don’t burden the already overburdened courts of Canada and its colleges,” the Toronto Star reported Goyal as having said.

“International students are here to be a positive part of Canada. I am sure every international student is here to work hard and be a better part of this society.”

Those involved in the case were unable to comment due to a gag order. Other international students who were denied work permits due to the program – which may be as many as five hundred – are still eligible to join the class action lawsuit until April 6.

“Differential fees and predatory recruiting practices have put international students in a vulnerable position”

“Differential fees and predatory recruiting practices have put international students in a vulnerable position,” a representative for the Canadian Federation of Students told The PIE News.

“We must treat international students with fairness and that includes being forthcoming about course offerings and immigration pathways (or lack thereof) as a result of education in Canada.

“In addition, we believe that a high-quality, fully publicly-funded system of postsecondary education would resolve this issue as universities and colleges wouldn’t be scrambling to balance their budgets by resorting to… charging astronomical differential fees and aggressively recruiting international students through sometimes misleading statements,” the representative added.

Niagara College declined to comment.

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Boston area “woefully short” of ESOL seats

Vie, 02/21/2020 - 04:28

Seats on English as a second language courses in the Greater Boston area fall “woefully short” for students that require English training to enhance professional skills and further investment is an “economic necessity”, a report has suggested.

The ROI of ESOL: The Economic and Social Return on Investment for ESOL Programs in Greater Boston report found that there is a “serious shortage” of programs that focus on training for local professionals who have limited English abilities.

“ESOL programs are an affordable and crucial investment”

Annually, 116 programs have a capacity of around 11,600 students, while Greater Boston’s working-age adults with Limited English Proficiency stretches to 240,000 people, the report found.

More specialised ESOL courses for local professionals are needed, it maintained.

Programs that focus on work-related English language education represent just 7%, researchers found, as the majority were classified as general-purpose, or more directly targeted toward citizenship.

The report, published by the Boston Foundation and the Latino Legacy Fund, suggested an increase in vocational and workplace programs would benefit both students and the local economy.

Investing in ESOL “not only gives students access to higher-paying jobs, but it also empowers them to contribute and strengthen the future of Greater Boston”, Aixa Beauchamp, co-chair of the Latino Legacy Fund added.

“ESOL programs are an affordable and crucial investment in building a more just and equitable city and region,” she said.

Paul S. Grogan, president and CEO of the Boston Foundation, noted it was an “economic necessity” to invest in ESOL.

“Despite the fact that immigrants account for virtually all of the population increase powering Greater Boston’s renaissance, we are investing far too little in ESOL, particularly programs with a focus on English language skills for the workplace,” he said.

“This should not be seen as solely an education problem. It is an economic necessity.”

The report also recommends ESOL system areas be transformed. In addition to reducing the gap between capacity and demand, working conditions for ESOL teachers should be improved and student support, such as access to childcare, should be provided.

“Fragmented parts” of the system ought to be aligned to funding streams, data and reporting systems, and other institutional structures and processes, it added.

Beyond Boston, assistant director for Student Affairs at Indiana University – Purdue University Indianapolis, Cindy Carr noted that US citizens, permanent residents, refugees and asylees have “always been an important part of our student body”.

Numbers ebb and flow, but on average they represent 10-15% of the student body, she highlighted.

“They add tremendously to the diversity of our program because they are most often originate from countries that do not typically send a lot of F-1 students to the U.S. to study,” she said.

However, Carr noted that specific ways to reach out to the immigrant community have not been identified until now, “but gradually – through word of mouth and our online presence – these folks are finding us”.

“One challenge for this cohort can be that our classes are weekdays during work hours, and many immigrants are already working,” she added.

“The Immigrant Welcome Center in our city hosts an excellent website that we can direct such prospective students to which lists all the English classes in the area and is searchable by the time of the class, cost and location.​”

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Serbian workshop welcomes regional agencies

Vie, 02/21/2020 - 04:17

A Serbian-based agent workshop opened up its attendee list to include agents from neighbouring countries earlier in 2020 as it seeks to cement its place as a regular ’boutique’ agency workshop in the region.

Held in Serbia’s capital Belgrade, the KUB EDUCO Workshop featured educators represented by KUB Travel Enterprises, including junior summer and adult year round language courses, independent and public schools, and universities.

“We decided to up the number of agents this year…and it was a wonderful success”

The 22nd iteration of the event was attended by 16 agencies, including three from both Bosnia and Hercegovina and Croatia, while one each from Slovenia, Hungary, Macedonia, Montenegro and Romania attended. Alongside KUB Travel Enterprises, four additional agencies from Serbia joined.

Executive director of KUB Travel Enterprises and event organiser, Magdalena Jugovic, explained that the success of the workshop was largely due to the opportunity to meet at a “smaller and friendlier venue” than larger events.

“In the last few years we have always had at least one or two agents from the region present at the workshop,” Jugovic said.

“As both the schools and the agents said this was a wonderful opportunity to meet at a smaller and friendlier venue, we decided to up the number of agents this year and see how it goes. And it was a wonderful success,” she added.

Smaller agencies from surrounding countries who do not attend big workshops benefitted from meeting schools face to face, Jugovic noted.

“The main benefit for both was meeting existing partners, but also quite a number of new potential partners.

“This year all the schools present were existing KUB partners, which was also an additional extra for the agents as the schools have already been our trusted partners for years,” she said.

Along with the growth in agencies attending, the number of educators joining also increased to a total of more than 40.

“Although the numbers have grown it has still remained small in comparison to other workshops and had the friendly and relaxed atmosphere for networking,” Jugovic said.

Despite the success of the larger event, KUB has “no plans in growing big”, she added.

In 2021 however, KUB hopes to include agencies from more countries such as Greece, Bulgaria, Turkey, Italy, Jugovic highlighted, but “would definitely like to keep it small and intimate – a “boutique” workshop, where schools and agents can cement their relations during the relaxing social events”.

The next KUB EDUCO event will take place in Belgrade on January 23, 2021.

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Germany: OIEG partners with Jacobs Uni

Vie, 02/21/2020 - 02:00

Oxford International Educational Group has announced a new partnership deal with Jacobs University in Germany.  As part of the deal, OIEG will open a new international college with the Bremen-based university that will take its first students in September this year.

“With this new partnership, we will strengthen our position as a major provider in the pathways sector”

The college will seek to improve international students’ university study skills and English language level in order to prepare them for further study at Jacobs University on its undergraduate programs. 

Courses offered will focus on a variety of subjects, including international business, computer sciences, physics, chemistry, engineering and robotics.

According to OIEG, it is the first time that a pathway provider has opened an international college with a German institution. 

“With this new partnership, we will strengthen our position as a major provider in the pathways sector and drive economic growth for both our UK and European business communities,” said OIEG group CEO, Lil Bremermann-Richard. 

“Key to our success is to select and work with partners who share our mission to enable opportunities, build trusted partnerships and empower success for our students, our people, our partners, and communities around the world,” she added.

In 2018, OIEG partnered with the University of Greenwich, and created an embedded college to help prepare international students for undergraduate and postgraduate studies in the UK. 

To date, the pathway provider has opened and operated three over embedded colleges across the UK. It has also launched an office in Portugal to increase EU student recruitment with the UK’s De Montfort University.

“This new venture for Oxford International reflects the ever-changing landscape in HE student mobility, with many international students continuing to choose to study in mainland Europe,” a statement from OIEG explained. 

“With Germany exceeding its own goals as a destination for inbound non-EU students, Jacobs University’s already strong international presence and Oxford International’s rapid growth in the University Partnership division, the partnership was a natural fit.”

Jacobs University is a private, fully English-speaking research-oriented campus university. Established in 2001, it has achieved top results in national and international university rankings and has more than 1,500 students that come from over 120 countries. 

“As a young and international top-ranked institution, this is an important milestone in our mission and commitment towards opening more chances for an excellent education,” said Bannour Hadroug, member of the management board and head of student marketing and recruitment at Jacobs University. 

“In a dynamical and connected world, we are convinced that this partnership will empower our social and educational impact and help students to discover and achieve their full potential,” he added.

Admissions will open in March for courses starting in September 2020 with pre-sessional English courses beginning in June.

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UK private sector accommodation heats up

Jue, 02/20/2020 - 11:06

Students in the UK are increasingly living in private sector halls of residence. Numbers rose by around 10,000 in 2018/19 – to a total of almost 160,700 – up 7% from 2017/18 figures. It’s a result of student demand, enrolment increases and educators wanting to focus on education – and private accommodation providers anticipate further growth, they say.

Annual HESA statistics showed that the latest total of students in private sector halls of residence marked a 36% increase from 2014/15 numbers.

“Amenities and communal spaces are key things students consider when choosing university accommodation”

Investors seem to be taking note – a report has suggested transaction values in student housing could exceed £7.5 billion over the next 12 months.

While figures include both domestic and international students, providers have indicated they are buoyed by an increase in international student numbers in the UK, with students opting for better amenities and comfort over traditional university accommodation.

Founder and director of student accommodation search engine www.Mystudenthalls.com, Dan Roberts, explains that the purpose-built student accommodation demand surge is due to changing priorities for students.

“In the past few years, we have seen a surge in demand for PBSA – particularly when it comes to international students studying in the UK,” he notes.

“[Students] are now looking for more than just a place to sleep and instead want a home away from home, where they can accommodate their wider lifestyle with amenities that suit them,” Roberts tells The PIE News – adding that services include on-site eateries, gyms, dedicated study areas and cinemas.

“Providers are now creating unique and vibrant student communities, not just “student accommodation”,” he says.

Students hold those high-quality facilities in high regard, according to CEO of Student Roost Nathan Goddard.

Aiming to create a “united community” for all students, Student Roost hosts regular events to celebrate cultural days to give “international students an opportunity to share their traditions, but for them to learn and experience local celebrations too”.

“This is something we pride ourselves on and students appreciate experiencing different cultures and customers – which enriches their time at university,” he says.

“Amenities and communal spaces are key things students consider when choosing university accommodation so they can enjoy and make full use of where they live.

“PBSAs offer students everything they need under one roof… so their homes are spaces to live, work and socialise in,” Goddard says.

Photo: Student Roost

PBSAs offer much more flexibility, Goddard continues. “Student Roost pioneers a customer-centric approach which allows students to choose their contract length, room type, and tailor their payment plan.”

Additionally, international students are attracted to Student Roost’s offering due to the steps it has taken to make the moving in process as “smooth as possible”, he adds.

International students are not required to have a UK-based guarantor and by working with international agents, the booking process for Student Roost properties is simplified, he notes.

“We cater to international students by allowing them to move in earlier or extend their tenancy as required. There is also a flexible cancellation policy for students whose studies are dependent on successful visa applications.”

Additionally, Student Roost has multi-lingual speakers to “help integrate international and domestic students”.

“International student flows show no signs of slowing, so we confidently predict an increase in the numbers of international students as our number of Roosts increase across the UK,” Goddard adds.

With non-EU international students representing 69% of its residents, GCP Student is also seeing increased demand from overseas students.

Gravis Capital Management Limited director, Nick Barker, has previously noted that the company is “well-positioned to benefit from the severe shortage of supply for private student accommodation coupled with increasing numbers of international students choosing to study in London”.

“One thing we’ve noticed is the growth in applicants from China and India has been propelled lately,” Barker notes.

“The two year post study visa news helps and puts the UK on an equal footing to other top English taught university destinations,” he says, adding that current US-China relations have also “made the UK more attractive” for international students.

CRM Students – with 25,000+ beds across 60+ UK sites – sees PBSA as a “more simple option and one which provides more safety and security, as well as more facilities than traditional off-street housing”.

The company says the increase in the “proportion of international students choosing PBSA has coincided with an increase in international students seeking a UK degree”.

This rise has also occurred at the same time as more PBSA stock is being delivered into the market, hence the dramatic 7% increase as seen in the recent HESA data, the company notes.

CRM is more demand from both domestic and international students, according to its CEO Stewart Moore.

“Over 50% of CRM’s students are from overseas and we see no end to this,” he tells The PIE.

“The UK’s universities continue to be amongst the best in the world, the experience of being a student in the UK is second-to-none and the recent changes to the immigration status of recent graduates mean that the UK will continue to attract students from beyond our own shores,” Moore adds.

“We remain positive that the number of internationals choosing to live with us will rise over the foreseeable”

He also states “PBSA in the UK is a well-established market and one which provides international students with a wide-range of price points, offered in a safe and secure environment”.

“Brexit and other global factors can still cause some ripples to the number of students entering the UK, but with PBSA being the accommodation of choice for this group, we remain positive that the number of internationals choosing to live with us will rise over the foreseeable future.”

Managing director of Britannia Student Services, Michele da Silva, says there is a “definite upward trend in international students, at the point of the first enquiry, requesting private halls of residence over the traditional homestay”.

Britannia provides halls of residence, homestays, shared apartments and houses. The increase is “borne out in the industry by a large number of new PBSA, which have been built in the last two-three years”, da Silva suggests.

“Developers are responding to student expectation and demand by constructing private halls that compete with each other on high standards, choice of room types and additional facilities offered,” she says.

The UK student housing market reached £5.2 billion in 2019 – the second-highest year on record after 2015 – according to the JLL UK Living Capital Markets Q4 Report.

Transactions in 2019 were however bolstered by two key deals – the £2.2bn Unite acquisition of Liberty Living and the potential IPO sale of iQ, with an expected price of in excess of £4 billion, the report reveals.

“Student housing is the big Living investment story of 2019, and with some significant new opportunities about to break into the market, we don’t expect a slowdown any time soon,” Simon Scott, lead director, UK Living Capital Markets, JLL says.

While da Silva notes that homestays are still a popular choice of accommodation, international students are also showing a marked preference for private halls.

“They are likely to be more centrally located and many offer a private bathroom (rare in homestays) and self-catering cooking facilities,” she said, adding students enjoy “the independence of living in a private hall”.

Demand for group accommodation for under 18s during summer months in private halls of residence is also increasing, she adds.

Lack of capacity means that universities tend “only to be able to provide housing for first-year students”, while private options are more flexible.

“We have always been in a position to offer a choice of year-round accommodation to international students – through our own inventory in private halls and our own residences such as Britannia South Bank in Southwark and a 134-bedroom student hotel, Britannia Study Hotel, in Brighton,” da Silva explains.

According to Chief Relationship Officer at Unilodgers, Vincenzo Raimo, it is clear more students are demanding better accommodation than the Houses of Multiple Occupancy sector has provided.

However, the proportion of students in private sector halls remains small compared with those in HMOs, he highlights.

“With the expected growth in the university sector over the coming decade more private halls are going to be needed to keep pace with demand,” he says.

“The uncertainty that universities face in terms of future income and the desire to increasingly focus on core academic services means that most don’t have access to the resources to build their own accommodation to meet growing demand.”

“More private halls are going to be needed to keep pace with demand”

Partnerships which PBSA and universities are developing are “vital if universities are to meet future demand in terms of both volume and quality”, Raimo adds.

Raimo says that the number of users of the Unilodgers site has “grown massively over the past few months” , with growth driven in part by the “increasing attractiveness of the UK compared to other destinations”.

“Last month users searching for private halls on Unilodgers web site increased by more than double over the same period last year with particularly large increases seen from India growing almost three times in January 2020 compared to January 2019,” Raimo adds.

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ETS announces instant access TOEFL iBT scores

Jue, 02/20/2020 - 09:43

Global test provider ETS has launched instant scores for TOEFL iBT reading and listening exam sections to give test takers early performance indicators, which will help with identifying whether a student will need to resit exams.

As of February 15, students have been able to see “unofficial” scores for the reading and listening sections immediately upon conclusion of the test, becoming the only English-language assessment that provides students scores instantly.

“ETS wants to ensure the testing experience is as convenient and flexible as possible”

“Our commitment to students and institutions drives the changes and enhancements we’ve implemented over the last several months,” said Srikant Gopal, executive director of the TOEFL Program.

“ETS wants to ensure the testing experience is as convenient and flexible as possible for students while maintaining the rigorous standards of a fair and unbiased assessment that institutions rely on as a valid measure of academic English-language proficiency,” Gopal continued.

The instant scores mean students can make decisions about reporting scores or retaking the test, he explained.

“If students are unsatisfied with their performance on these two sections, they can choose to cancel their scores at the end of the test, which prevents these scores from appearing on their official score report as well as from going to the institutions that they selected to receive their scores.”

ETS is seeking to give students “the opportunity to make decisions about retesting sooner”, Gopal said, which is helpful for those up against deadlines during application season.

In September 2019, ETS reduced the retest waiting period for the TOEFL iBT from 12 to three days.

“Having the opportunity to view these scores immediately also provides students with instant validation of their performance, especially after working hard to prepare for the test and working diligently to complete it,” Gopal added.

Although the “unofficial” scores provide early performance indicators, full scores will still be available approximately six days following the test.

“We anticipate that in almost all cases, the unofficial reading and listening scores that students will see upon completing the TOEFL iBT test will be the same scores that students will see on their official score reports,” Gopal explained.

“However… we do additional quality checks before they can be considered official scores.”

The speaking section of the test remains unchanged, and will continue to be scored centrally by anonymous human raters as well as AI technology “to ensure fairness and reliability”, Gopal added.

Additionally, ETS has reduced the time needed to register online for tests from four to two days in a bid to make online registration more convenient.

“We understand that students worldwide will face deadlines and unexpected circumstances that may require them to make decisions later in the process,” Gopal said.

“We’re confident this updated policy will provide ample opportunity for students to register at a time that is most conducive to their schedules.”

In 2019, ETS launched a mobile app for test-takers on the go, as well as its MyBest Scores. It also shortened the time of the TOEFL iBT test by 30 minutes to a total of three hours.

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