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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
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EC awards €8.5m to mobility projects

ven, 01/24/2020 - 04:40

The European Commission has made €8.5 million available for three pilot projects focusing on vocational education and training mobility in Africa, the Western Balkans and the rest of Europe.

The Intervet – Internationalisation of VET systems in Western Balkans – will receive €2m, as it aims to improve the mobility of VET learners and competence building of teachers and staff.

“Africa and the Western Balkans are a political and strategic priority for the EU”

Associations, schools and SMEs from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, Kosovo are involved, as are eight EU member states.

In Africa, €2.5m has been awarded to Overstep, a joint alliance that aims to share best practice between African and European VET systems. Additionally, Supporting Alliance for African Mobility received €4m to coordinate 32 VET organisations across 8 EU member states and 13 African countries.

“Africa and the Western Balkans are a political and strategic priority for the EU,” said EU commissioner for Innovation, Research, Culture, Education and Youth, Mariya Gabriel.

“We, therefore, have to ensure the full use of all our existing instruments and offer real opportunities to our partners.

“We must make sure to link vocational education and training to the needs of their labour markets, specifically in sectors with high potential for job creation, such as manufacturing and agriculture.”

Overstep aims to develop the technical and transferable skills that will aid learner employment, and promote collaboration between VET providers in 10 African countries and EU member states, Italy, France and Spain.

SAAM will use existing professional training centres, on-formal training organisations, NGOs and European umbrella organisations to support the mobility of VET teachers.

It will also develop new curricula, methodologies, technologies and management while supporting training job-shadowing.

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EWF 2020 highlights “crisis” in education

ven, 01/24/2020 - 03:11

Speakers at the Education World Forum 2020 in London discussed a “crisis in education”, airing concerns that Sustainable Development Goal 4  – which includes universal primary and secondary schooling and universal literacy for children among its aims – will not be met by the 2030 deadline.

“I think what we need to recognise is that despite some improvements, we have two problems,” said Jaime Saavedra, senior director of education at the World Bank’s Education Global Practice.

“One is that millions of children are still not in school, so we still have not solved the quantity issue. But in addition to that, we have a huge quality [issue] in education.

“The budget of [our] government for the whole year is roughly equivalent to one high school in the UK”

“The one thing we were interested in at the World Bank is how we make sure that everyone understands that we don’t have a problem, but that we have a crisis, an extremely serious crisis,” he warned.

According to Saavedra, in lower and middle-income countries 53% of 10-year-olds cannot read and understand a simple story. This rises to an estimated 90% in Sub-Saharan Africa.

“Unfortunately we think that [SDG4] is not going to happen… If we continue [the current] trends, that number will go down from 53% to only 43%,” he added, noting that even to reduce rates by half would require countries doubling or tripling their rate of improvement.

However, for some countries, Saavedra continued, the money needed to implement changes and reforms that would help meet SDG4 simply isn’t there.

“We have a situation where only 23% of school-age children in the country are attending primary schools and 15% secondary schools,” said the Somali minister for Education, Abdullahi Godah Barre, during one session.

“The budget of the government for the whole year is roughly equivalent to one high school in the UK.”

The importance of pre-primary education was also highlighted, particularly with regards to how it can promote continuing education as children grow up.

Despite around a third of countries dedicating less than 2% of their budgets to it, places such as Bulgaria, Ecuador and Mongolia allocate more than 20% of their education budgets to pre-primary education.

In Mongolia, this has been credited with creating near-universal access to pre-primary education, tripling the rate between 2000 and 2017.

A lot of the recommendations for improving global education centred on a need to “work together” and “innovate”, as well as for leaders to “recognise the importance of collecting data”.

Developments in edtech were praised for improving education access for disabled children, though there appeared to remain some questions about how it can be best used in disadvantaged areas.

“I do think the glass is half full. If we look back in the 1950s, some 50% of primary school children were out of school,” said Robert Jenkins, chief of education at UNICEF.

“In Vietnam, primary school enrolment is now near-universal”

“Within countries, there have been notable successes. For example, in Vietnam, primary school enrolment is now near-universal, with lower and upper secondary school enrolment not far behind.

“However, we should not sit back and congratulate ourselves. Today 9% of primary school-aged children remain out of school and this has not changed since 2008.”

The OECD’s director of education and skills, Andreas Schleicher, explained that reforms in education are not just an issue for low and middle-income countries.

He advocated a greater focus on employability and a rethink of education and how it can be adapted for the digital era, emphasising that “the things that are easy to test and assess are also the things that are easy to automate”.

“We have employers not finding people with the right skills and young people with a good education not finding jobs,” he told the audience.

“[Bridging] this gap between what the world requires and what people know is easy to talk about and really, really hard to do.”

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Kings announces three US partnerships

ven, 01/24/2020 - 02:35

International education group Kings has announced new partnerships and collaborations with three US universities located in California, New York and Wisconsin.

Kings specialise in university pathways and English language teaching in the US and UK and the company’s Guaranteed Outcome programs also guarantee admission to a top 100 university.

“In launching not one, not two but three great new university options for our students, we are aiming to start 2020 with a bang,” said Jose Flores, managing director of Kings US.

“UW Oshkosh will be popular in Latin America as well as North and South East Asia”

In Wisconsin, Kings has extended its current relationship with the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh by securing a new long-term partnership.

The partnership opens up both new campus and new program opportunities for students such as ‘GO: Madison’, which enables students to spend two years at either the UW Oshkosh Fond du Lac campus or Fox Cities campus before the guarantee of transfer to UW-Madison.

Kings has also announced a new agreement with California State University, Fullerton for students to study the first two years of their degree at CSUF before transferring to a top US university with Kings support on campus.

Programs available include ‘GO: 50’ and ‘GO: 100’, which guarantee transfer to a top 50 or 100 university after two to four semesters, depending on the aptitude and profile of the student.

Finally, Kings has also established a new partnership with the College of Mount Saint Vincent in New York City.

The college is 30 minutes to Midtown and programs available include guaranteed transfer to the University of Rochester after three to four semesters, as well as ‘GO:50’ and ‘GO: 100’ programs.

Speaking with The PIE News, Kings’ marketing director Andrew Green said that one of the reasons behind the choice of partnerships is that along with Boston, New York and California represent the most popular destinations for international students seeking university education in the US.

“Meanwhile, the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh is a case of expanding our current arrangement with UW to incorporate a full university campus at Oshkosh as well as other campuses at Fond du Lac and Fox Cities,” he added.

Green said he believes Cal State Fullerton will have strong appeal in China and all main source markets, where the brand name is already well regarded.

“UW Oshkosh will be popular in Latin America as well as North and South East Asia. India will also be a strong market for the graduate programs offered at UW Oshkosh,” he continued.

Green told The PIE that while the US pathway market has been under pressure as of late and that macro-political factors have had an impact, “as a relatively small boutique operator” he believes there is plenty of headroom for growth.

“With the right blend of product and destination, coupled with a demonstrable track record of securing elite top 50 / top 100 graduation outcomes, we are confident that we will grow numbers over the coming cycles even in challenging times,” he added.

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Merger of iae China & GEA via acquisition

jeu, 01/23/2020 - 09:26

A Chinese investment company, Global Education Technologies, has acquired a majority stake in two sizable education agency businesses – iae China and the Global Education Alliance, both international student recruitment companies with significant presences in China.

iae China was previously part of iae Holdings, Inc. is a global student recruitment and marketing consultancy consulting students from China, India, Korea and other countries around the world on education provision overseas.

“The two companies are currently operating separate businesses, but later on will be merging the missions”

Hong Kong-based GEA likewise provides overseas study counselling to students, placement and visa services, among other benefits to students.

According to Mark Lucas, director of group administration and business development at iae Holdings, at the time of the merger, both companies were sending approximately 6,000 students overseas.

Global Education Technologies will now be combining the business of GEA – focused in the south – and iae China – focused in the north – although both overlap in terms of operations in central China.

“Under the new holding company, the two companies are currently operating separate businesses, but later on will be merging the missions, marketing support and training,” Lucas told The PIE News.

“We are now full partners in [a] Taiwan and Toronto office,” he added, “and have added Mongolia and Hong Kong to our active offices via GET.”

He explained that GEA CEO, Freeman Yeung, has been involved with iae Global since 2008. He operated iae Hong Kong for several years before setting up GEA.

“GET will be heard more of over the next year or two,” Lucas added, explaining that GET plans to target student markets in China, Taiwan, Mongolia and Hong Kong.

Lucas said that currently, iae China sends about 40% of its students to Australia and another 25-30% to the UK. The US, Canada and other European nations make up the rest.

“Our numbers to Australia are still very strong… directly from GET and via our Sydney, Melbourne and Auckland offices,” Lucas noted.

“UK was very good from China in 2019. [There were] 3,000 [students] from GET out of a combined 15,000 from iae China and GEA. We are focusing more on Canada higher education this year as well.”

Though the number of Chinese students choosing to study in the US has more or less stagnated, according to the most recent Open Doors report, Lucas said he sees the greatest potential for growth in the US and Canada.

Lucas also brushed off qualms about the cost of higher education in the US, saying that while universities in Australia might be cheaper, the cost of living in cities like Sydney can make that difference negligible overall.

“The lesser-known schools [in the US] are also more likely to offer scholarships and discounts,” he added.

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Canada: int’l grad & Canadian counterpart pay gap narrows over time

jeu, 01/23/2020 - 05:04

International students who remain in Canada earn between 17% and 38% less than Canadian graduates one year after graduation, a report has found. However, the salary gap appears to narrow over time as international graduates remain in the country.

“The most commonly cited challenges of respondents when approaching the labour market were that they lacked work experience”

According to the Labour Market Information Council’s ‘How Much Do They Make?’ report, international students graduating in 2010 and finding work in Canada earned 21% – on average CAD$9,000 – less than Canadian graduates one year following graduation.

However, the earnings differential shrinks over time, to reach 9% ($5,300) after five years, according to the report.

The difference in earnings is by far the greatest at the master’s level, where international graduates earn $25,700 (or 38%) less than Canadian graduates in the first year, with this gap narrowing to $16,800 (or 20%) five years after graduation.

A 2019 Statistics Canada report also found that international graduates earn less than Canadian peers with similar educational background six years after graduation.

But when field of study is taken into account, there were some surprising findings.

Analysing all college and university graduates from publicly-funded Canadian post-secondary institutions from 2010-2014, the LMIC report noted that international graduates of mathematics, computer and information sciences, and health and related fields masters courses tended to earn more than Canadian graduates.

After five years following graduation, maths and information technology international masters graduates earned 7.8% more ($5,800), while health graduates were earning 6.0% more ($4,600).

This was starkly contrasted to business, management and public administration, and education masters graduates, who were earning 35.5% ($37,800) and 40.0% ($32,400) less than Canadian graduates.

International student and graduate employability is becoming an increasingly important issue within the Canadian sector, according to Larissa Bezo CBIE president and chief executive officer.

Students from overseas may be disadvantaged due to not having the same work rights as their Canadian counterparts while they study, she explained.

“International students may be less likely than Canadian students to combine school and work because of the work restrictions imposed by their study work permits which determine how much time a student can commit to working while studying,” she told The PIE News.

A 2018 CBIE survey found that 57% of the students surveyed were unemployed, with 56% claiming they were having difficulty finding work.

“The most commonly cited challenges of respondents when approaching the labour market were that they lacked work experience, followed by not finding appropriate jobs for their skill sets, and finally struggling to fit employment into their study schedule,” Bezo said.

“International student and graduate employability is becoming an increasingly important issue”

“At present, there is considerable effort being undertaken by Canadian post-secondary institutions to ensure that they have support and mechanisms in place to help international students achieve successful employability outcomes,” she added.

International students can join co-op programs available within their institutions that allow them to gain valuable paid work experience while completing their degrees in Canada, according to the CBIE president.

Those co-op opportunities can also encompass international opportunities in some instances, she said.

“CBIE will be administering the next wave of its international student survey in 2020 and looks forward to gaining further insights into barriers and opportunities related to international student and graduate employability later this year.”

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Korean MoE sends delegation to Scotland

jeu, 01/23/2020 - 03:08

A group of 10 delegates selected by the Korean Ministry of Education travelled to Edinburgh, Scotland recently for a three-day ‘Understanding Social Enterprise’ program, aimed at strengthening social enterprise links between Scotland and South Korea.

The program is supporting specially-selected educators from across South Korea to learn about social enterprise approaches and the ecosystem in Scotland.

“This program will allow educators to deepen their understanding of social entrepreneurship”

The visit was arranged by Kickstart Investment in partnership with the Social Enterprise Academy and was supported by the Korea Entrepreneurship Foundation and the Korea Development Bank Foundation.

As part of the program, delegates visited local social enterprises in Edinburgh, taking part in social enterprise tours, learning sessions and Q&A sessions.

Delegates also learned about the social enterprise support ecosystem in Scotland and explored how they might use this learning in their own context in South Korea.

“Scotland has an attractive ecosystem for social enterprise, with the Social Enterprise Academy enabling social enterprises all over the world to learn from the Scottish context,” said Taeje Park from Kickstart Investment.

“We have many social enterprises in Korea, but this program will allow educators to deepen their understanding of social entrepreneurship.

“Some of the professors in this group studied in the United States, so it is a chance to compare the entrepreneurship ecosystems for them. The delegates are all entrepreneurship educators, so they will be learning methods and skills to teach social entrepreneurship to people in Korea.”

Senior partnerships officer at the Social Enterprise Academy, Jess Kemp, added: “We are delighted to be supporting this delegation from South Korea.

“It is hugely important for us to facilitate social enterprise learning between partners around the globe, and this programme will allow us to do just that. It’s also a great chance to showcase all the fantastic work being done by our partners within the Scottish Social Enterprise ecosystem.”

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Language app Busuu acquires Verbling

jeu, 01/23/2020 - 02:42

Popular language-learning platform Busuu has announced that it has acquired the live video tutoring company Verbling as part of a double-digit million dollar acquisition.

Busuu recently surpassed 100 million users globally, acquiring one new user every three seconds. The company, which reached cash flow break-even last year, plans to generate over $40 million in revenues in 2020, eyeing to go public in the future.

Verbling was founded in San Francisco in 2011 by Swedish co-founders, CEO Mikael Bernstein and CTO Gustav Rydstedt.

 “Offering live video tutoring… is a natural progression for our business”

After attending the Y-Combinator program, Verbling raised over US$4.4million from investors such as Learn Capital, DFJ and Bullpen Capital.

The platform has over 10,000 pre-vetted live teachers and offers interactive 1-1 lessons in nearly 60 different languages.

Bernhard Niesner, co-founder and CEO of Busuu, Bernhard Niesner, said that no matter how smart technology becomes, language will always be about human interaction.

“[This] is exactly why Busuu was built around a learning community,” he said.

 “Offering live video tutoring through our acquisition of Verbling is a natural progression for our business, and gives us the potential to expand beyond just language learning in the future.”

“We are very excited to be joining forces with Busuu’s talented and experienced team,” added Bernstein of Verbling. “Combining our world-class tutors with Busuu’s AI-powered platform will enable language learners across the globe to reach proficiency even faster.”

Following the acquisition, Verbling’s team members, including Bernstein and Rydstedt, will join Busuu.

In addition to its expanded team, Busuu will also open a new office in Madrid, where the company was initially founded in 2008 before moving its headquarters to London in 2012.

Busuu will launch Busuu Live using Verbling’s platform, which will be made available to the company’s 100 million consumer users and 200+ corporate clients in the coming months.

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Sixteen new British independent schools to open in China in 2020

mer, 01/22/2020 - 10:59

Despite only four British independent schools opening in China in 2019, a new report from Beijing-based consultancy Venture Education is predicting that the next few years will be “extremely positive for UK schools and investors” in the country, with the opening of 16 new school campuses planned for 2020 alone.

Some 17 British independent schools currently run 36 schools in the country. The oldest, Dulwich College Shanghai Pudong, opened in 2003. Unlike many of the earlier schools, which were geared towards the children of expats, newer ones are aiming to tap into the lucrative Chinese market.

“It’s really just a numbers game in China”

“The amount of expats and foreigners in China is falling and companies are hiring locally so there’s just not the demand anymore,” Venture Education’s Julian Fisher told The PIE News.

There are two types of “international schools” in China, according to Fisher.

He explained that the market for those that can only take on foreign passport holders has been struggling as “a sense in the market that tightening regulations, new laws to comply with and the potential of new laws and regulations around foreign staff, pricing and admissions have slowed growth and presented new challenges”.

“China’s one-child policy means it’s not just the parents but it’s also the grandparents that are paying towards education.

“10 years ago, the people applying to these sorts of schools were high net worth individuals and very wealthy, but I think that’s shifting, especially in third and fourth-tier cities,” he added.

Graph: Venture Education

By 2022, it is expected that Harrow will have 11 schools in China, Dulwich College will have eight, Wellington College six and Hurtwood House four, with 15 more schools planning to enter the China market for the first time over the next few years.

Surprisingly, however, there are no new schools slated to open in Shanghai and Beijing in the next two years.

Instead, schools are eyeing areas like the Greater Bay Area in south China, whose Guangdong province is expected to have the highest concentration of British independent schools by 2022 with 13.

Lower-tier cities and the country’s central areas are also in the spotlight, with Sichuan province getting three new schools this year.

This attempt to break into China’s interior has been seen across many industries, as Fisher explains: “it’s really just a numbers game in China.”

While cities in these regions are considered small by Chinese standards, they can still have a population of millions.

“We will be opening five more campuses in September 2020”

“We will be opening fine more campuses in September 2020 in Haikou, Shenzhen, Zhuhai, Chongqing and Nanning,” said Harrow Beijing director Shelley Zhao.

According to Zhao, Harrow ILA schools plan to create Belt and Road Education Scholarships to allow students in Belt and Road countries to receive education in 
China.

“Through education, we can tell the Chinese story, achieving the Chinese government’s vision of ‘facing the whole country and marching towards the other parts of the world’,” she added.

Most British independent schools in China teach IGCSEs and A-Levels or the IB, meaning that students will effectively be unable to enter a Chinese university due to not sitting the gaokao and will most likely continue their higher education abroad.

However, the schools still need to incorporate certain elements of the Chinese curriculum – particularly in the fields of politics, history and geography – into their courses.

While this has attracted criticism over how politically sensitive content is taught and local authorities requiring the school to change its motto before it could be used in China, the controversy has done little to stem the flow of new schools.

“Our China dream is now becoming a reality especially with Reigate Grammar School Nanjing opening and our second school in Zhangjiagang on its way,” said Sean Davey, the head of international business development at Reigate Grammar School.

“Although a challenging environment, China remains exciting and vibrant,” he added.

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Egypt: AMIDEAST buys American Center Alexandria

mer, 01/22/2020 - 07:16

US education organisation AMIDEAST has announced it has purchased the American Center Alexandria, which will enable educational, training and language test services in Egypt’s second-largest city.

Specialising in training, and development activities in the Middle East and North Africa, AMIDEAST works in 11 territories and countries in the region offering services including workforce development and English language program.

“This is the latest step in our long-range plan to expand and update our facilities”

“This is an important moment in our continuous commitment to serving Egypt and its people since 1956 and Alexandria for over 35 years,” Shahinaz Ahmed, AMIDEAST’s country director for Egypt, said.

Purchasing the former home of the US Consulate in Alexandria which AMIDEAST had been renting since September 2016, the organisation’s permanent home in the city will “enable us to serve more people, more effectively as we strive to expand opportunities and positively impact the lives of Egyptians, especially youth”, she added.

“We are particularly excited about prospects for expanding programs in workforce development, English language acquisition, and English language assessments such as the TOEFL ITP and TOEIC.”

The facility’s test centre offers a wide range of academic and professional tests, and its expanded English language program will benefit the needs of Alexandria’s governmental, nongovernmental, and private sector clients as well as the general public.

Courses being offered include English for general communication, conversation, English for the workplace, and English for kids and teens.

“This is the latest step in our long-range plan to expand and update our facilities in the 11 countries that we directly serve across the MENA region,” AMIDEAST president and CEO Theodore Kattouf said in a statement.

“The opportunity to acquire this historic property in Alexandria underscores our longstanding commitment to providing quality educational and training programs in Egypt.”

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WES supports Philadelphia initiative

mer, 01/22/2020 - 05:00

Philadelphia employers are being urged to offer opportunities to engage immigrant talent in the region, thanks to an initiative supported by World Education Services.

The 18-month program, Engaging Immigrant Talent, is run by Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, in partnership with the City’s Office of Workforce Development, and aims to help businesses tap into a “culturally and linguistically diverse talent pool”.

“We hope the data and resources generated through this initiative can be leveraged by other cities”

WES has provided a US$242,000 grant to the initiative through its Mariam Assefa Fund, which was launched in 2019 to assist immigrants and refugees to contribute to their new communities.

“Increasing opportunities for Philadelphia’s extraordinary and diverse immigrant population is key to realising the goals outlined in our citywide workforce development and inclusive growth strategies,” Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney said in a statement.

“I greatly appreciate the WES Mariam Assefa Fund for funding this opportunity, and I look forward to driving positive results for our city through this partnership with Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians.”

The Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians has delivered development programs focusing on increased access for immigrants and refugees for 16 years.

An International Professionals Program provides training to connect residents with their career pathways, while the Immigrant Fellowship Program is a 12-week paid work-based learning opportunity with the City of Philadelphia departments and private sector employers.

The new talent initiative will evaluate and expand existing programs’ impact, as the Welcoming Center will continue to advocate for more inclusive recruiting, hiring and retention practices across the city.

“We are thrilled to support this innovative partnership among the Office of Workforce Development, Welcoming Center for New Pennsylvanians, and Philadelphia employers,” said Monica Munn, senior director of the WES Mariam Assefa Fund.

“This initiative showcases the economic and social impact that can be achieved when you bring together municipal leadership, an outstanding nonprofit service provider, talented immigrant and refugee workers, and committed employers.

“We hope the data and resources generated through this initiative can be leveraged by other cities in their immigrant workforce programs.”

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Andy Dowling, Chief Executive, Digitary, Ireland

mer, 01/22/2020 - 03:58
As students, graduates and workers becoming more globally mobile, translating and verifying credentials and achievements are becoming more important than ever. Andy Dowling, chief executive of Digitary shares his thoughts on the future of digital credentialing.

 

The PIE: What does Digitary do?

Andy Dowling: Digitary was launched in Dublin, Ireland in 2005. Since then, Digitary has grown to become the leading online platform for certifying, sharing and verifying academic credentials. We’ve been learner-centric since the very beginning and have enabled millions of learners to access their verified achievements and to share them globally with whomever they choose, whenever they want.

Digitary enables instant verification of records with full learner consent, maintaining regulatory compliance and eliminating the hassle of manual verification. I am proud to say that many of the world’s most respected higher education providers use Digitary to eliminate credential fraud, improve service levels and increase efficiencies.

The PIE: Digitary has been around for 15 years and you have 20 years experience. Why did you start looking at using digital verification so early on?

AD: I wasn’t very good at football when I was a kid, but I was great at programming computers. I spent a lot of time developing security software systems in industry and I also spent time as a university lecturer in computer science.

Between the two of those threads, I saw an opportunity whereby records are being stored in digital format at universities, but they’re being printed out on paper whenever they’re handed to a learner. I thought the technology, the digital signatures and the crypto were all there, let’s apply it to this particular niche area and make a positive impact.

Turns out that took a little bit longer than planned but we were probably a bit ahead of the market.

The PIE: As a discussion point, blockchain in education has only just started to pick up. You were there long before anyone was really talking about in a meaningful way, though.

AD: Blockchain is very interesting and attracts a lot of attention at present. Some of the narrative at the moment is that blockchain has sort of created the capability to digitally certify and verify credentials. That hasn’t really been the case in my view. The technology has been there for quite some time. Blockchain is another way of doing it.

“We’ve gotten used to the cloud and having someone else take responsibility for the keeping of our data”

The way we see it is just like any other technology, blockchain is not a solution by itself. It is a technology with pros and cons. How you apply that technology and how you build it into your overall solution, it’s incredibly important.

That’s why we didn’t jump on the blockchain bandwagon just to get some PR; we were actually quite analytical and slow to embrace it. Using SSI and our relationship with Evernym for blockchain came about after about 18 months to two years of evaluating how we could implement it in a meaningful way.

The PIE: How is technology changing education?

AD: Delivery is one point where we’re actually seeing quite a change as a result of technology. If you look at learning at the moment, learning in terms of the delivery is changing from bricks and mortar to distance learning and MOOCs and so forth.

The other aspect would be granularity. We’re seeing much smaller micro-level courses being taken, particularly in the distance learning space. That’s changing the frequency and the granularity at which people are being credentialed.

Technology then would also affect the certification and the means by which achievement has been certified. There’s a move towards digital credentialing generally, not only for what you call macro credentials, which are traditional three or four-year degrees, but also micro-credentials, open badges, for example. That’s why we’re very conscious of all of these and very proactive in this space.

On the converse, the increase in the use of digital also has impacts on the prevalence of fraud. Photoshop makes it easier to create very convincing, fake degree certificates, for example.

With all of these different things that are emerging to verify credentials, it’s important that communication is taken into account because ultimately those who need to verify someone’s credentials need to know how to do that. What are the right ways to verify a credential and what are the wrong ways?

The PIE: Is there a possibility digital credentialing won’t become a major disruption in education?

AD: In my view, there are two primary elements to it. There’s getting your business case right. Why blockchain, for example, over anything else and why would we do that? Blockchain doesn’t necessarily provide you with any huge amount of functional benefit. It’s the non-functional; the privacy of an individual’s personal data and giving them more responsibility and being custodians of that data. The functionality you can implement in a number of different ways.

“Like any other technology, blockchain is not a solution by itself”

The second thing is standardisation. Standards are being developed by the World Wide Web Consortium, who push internet standards out, and they’ve got the verifiable credentials standards recommendation at the moment, which is likely to be the workplace form of choice going forward.

We’re seeing a number of projects that are embracing that particular recommendation at the moment and that’s something that we’re working on at Digitary as well. By having enough players involved, that will create sufficient momentum amongst stakeholders in the digital credentialing landscape for this to take off. Overall it needs to go hand-in-hand with a compelling business case.

The PIE: What is the business case for digital credentials?

AD: My opinion is that it starts with student mobility and the protection of privacy. There are many things too of course which play a part, but the primary focus should be on the learner. The learner should have the control to export their credentials in a standard format, consolidate them into their own online digital wallet and then have a view for presenting to third parties who need to utilise the information. That mobility and portability is the key benefit of online credentials, provided they are done in a standard, compliant way.

The PIE: Where do you see the future of digital credentials?

AD: There is a lot of momentum. The whole idea of digital credentialing is changing. It’s changing in terms of how credentials are represented on the granularity. Who certifies credentials? Is it just the institutions, is it MOOC providers, is it employers certifying someone’s experience? How is it recorded under a standards-based digital format? Where is it stored? How is it shared with the learners when you think of GDPR? How is it independently verified in a decentralised way? And with the UNESCO global convention and recognition of qualifications, how are our digital credentials actually recognised across borders themselves?

“Photoshop makes it easier to create very convincing, fake degree certificates”

There are very exciting times ahead. We want to accelerate the benefits of digital credentialing to learners and the way in which we found to do that is to look at going to the learner directly.

 

The PIE: There is a lot of momentum, but equally a lot of questions that remain to be answered?

AD: Absolutely. There are definitely challenges for all of the parties in terms of issuers, learners and verifiers. One key consideration is that issuers are going to be coming to terms with the tussle between who owns the actual record of the learner.

Universities and issuers can typically think it’s their records to be presented with their brand in a particular way. That’s sort of at odds with this idea of the learner curating their own record and presenting it as they see fit.

Learners could accept the challenge and be responsible for their own records and their crypto key in the face of an identity world. As individuals, we’ve gotten used to the cloud and having someone else take responsibility for the keeping of our data. If we lose access to it, it’s just a forgotten password.

In the world of crypto, that won’t exist anymore. There’s much more of a mindset shift to support and enable the learner to have control and own the responsibility.

The challenge of verifiers is the mindset shift change of trusting what you can get from the learners because technology allows that to be independently verified without the issuer getting involved. But they need to know how to verify. Communication is key in all of this.

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UK gov’t extends funding for int’l exchange

mar, 01/21/2020 - 09:47

The UK’s education secretary Gavin Williamson announced a one-year extension to an international school exchange program during the Education World Forum in London.

Launched last year, the £2.5 million program is geared towards secondary schools students from disadvantaged backgrounds, although it will now be expanded to include primary school children.

“While we welcome the announcement, it must be backed up with a commitment to continue participation in Erasmus+”

According to Williamson, 138 schools have organised international exchanges through the program to “countries as far-ranging as Austria to Zambia”.

“For decades now, children across the world have been making overseas trips to meet their fellow pupils, making lifelong friendships along the way and having a much deeper understanding of what that country is about than anything they could ever learn in a textbook” he added.

Earlier this month, UK members of parliament voted against a clause which would have required the government to seek to negotiate continuing full membership of the Erasmus+ program.

However, British prime minister Boris Johnson has downplayed fears, stating that “there is no threat to the Erasmus scheme” while speaking in the House of Commons last week.

In response to Williamson’s announcement, Erica Ramos, vice president of the National Union of Students said that NUS hope it indicates that the UK government will be negotiating for the UK’s continued membership of Erasmus+ as a priority.

“It makes no sense for the government to extend funding for exchange programs for school children while removing opportunities for them later in life by not committing to the continuation of Erasmus+ after we leave the European Union,” he said in a statement.

“All students should have access to programs that allow them to expand their cultural knowledge, exchange cultures and experience the world regardless of age.

“With Erasmus+ students in the UK generating £390 million for the UK economy each year, its essential that the government confirms its commitment to the UK’s continuing involvement in Erasmus as soon as possible.”

“Just over a week from now, the UK will leave the EU”

During his speech, Williamson also reiterated the government’s commitment to international collaboration and its education strategy, saying it aims to increase inbound international student numbers to 600,000 by 2030.

“The UK has always been an outward-looking and global nation, with a proud history and record when it comes to education and innovation,” he added.

“Just over a week from now, the UK will leave the EU. This is the perfect opportunity to march forward and be the global leader in educating children, young people and adults.”

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Course search platform launches with Trees for Degrees project

mar, 01/21/2020 - 07:15

A new global university course search platform, Studee, has launched in the UK, with the aim of transforming the way international students find higher education courses overseas while addressing the “elephant in the room” – the industry’s carbon footprint.

The disruptive platform, set up by “Britain’s best boss” – Chris Morling, founder of comparison site money.co.uk – along with Simon Andrews of BigChoice Group, matches prospective students with multilingual advisors who provide guidance from “application to enrolment”.

“I’m addressing the elephant in the room – the fact international education has negative consequences for our environment”

Studee is the new generation company formed with BigChoice Group origins – and it is aiming to “be the world’s number one choice for students to study anything, anywhere and to maximise the education and life opportunities for students by making studying abroad simple”, according to CEO Morling.

Additionally, Studee will plant trees for every student enrolled, via its Trees for Degrees project with Plant-for-the-Planet, to contribute towards absorbing the carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere when students fly.

According to Studee, the process of international enrolment at universities is “outdated and not fit for purpose for today’s centennials”, who rely on technology more than previous generations.

This is also the generation that is likely to most suffer from today’s climate emergency, it stated.

“Studee is reinventing the way international students find a university by making it simple and deeply personalised whilst adding transparency in an industry which in recent years has sadly suffered some corruption and has largely ignored the climate crisis,” Morling said.

“Education is the most powerful way to positively change the world but I’m also addressing the elephant in the room – the fact international education has negative consequences for our environment,” he added.

“Our goal is to plant one million trees over the coming years and transform the way international students find their dream university abroad.

“This generation of students will bear the brunt of climate change and they need the option of studying abroad in an environmentally conscious way without doing lasting damage to our planet,” he added.

Chris Morling previously set up the money.co.uk website. Photo: Studee

The Trees for Degrees project is at the heart of the business and a top priority for the company for this reason, Morling continued.

Studee will also be working with charities to provide scholarships to students – the first organisation it will work with is Prospect Burma.

Morling, who launched money.co.uk in 2008 before selling to ZPG plc in September 2017 in a £140m deal, plans to disrupt the international education market by utilising his experience creating websites that drive high volumes of quality traffic with exceptional user experience.

Co-founder Andrews has in-depth knowledge of the education sector, which will be an additional boon for the company, a statement by Studee indicated.

Offering courses at 200 universities in 40 countries, Studee is aiming to “combine a deeply personalised online solution with real person support” assisting students.

“We’re working towards a completely new way for students to better understand which programs are best for them”

“Our international student advice centre based in Ecuador supports over 1,000 students per day, via a number of channels including phone, WhatsApp, online chat and email,” Morling told The PIE News.

Available 24 hours a day, Studee advisors help with visa advice, program application queries, country-specific entry-level requirements, what scholarships are available, which program to choose and which programs might have the biggest impact on their career, he added.

“In addition, we’re working towards a completely new way for students to better understand which programs and universities are best for them,” Morling claimed.

“The end goal is to take the leg work out of finding a university for international students. We want to make the whole process as simple as possible.”

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Canada: EC opens 30+ school on west coast

mar, 01/21/2020 - 05:09

English language provider EC English Language Centres has expanded its offer specially catering to students aged 30+ with a new school in Vancouver – the company’s first on the west coast of Canada.

Adding to the success of EC’s 30+ schools in London, Malta, New York, Toronto and Dublin, the latest school to open in Canada is the company’s sixth 30+ school in five countries.

“The people at the helm in EC Vancouver 30+ are full of enthusiasm and drive for this school”

“The opening of EC Vancouver 30+ is a great achievement for all of us at EC, allowing us to bring our wonderful 30+ experience to this remarkable city,” EC’s CEO, Andrew Mangion, said in a statement.

“It is thanks to the dedication of our teachers, staff and partners and, of course, our students, that makes this possible.

“At EC, we believe that our people are our strength and our growth in recent years is testament to that. The people at the helm in EC Vancouver 30+ are full of enthusiasm and drive for this school so we know that the students here are in strong, capable hands,” he added.

The 30+ school offers more mature students an independent space to “learn and grow”, with its own classrooms and curriculum, and its own co-working space or student lounge.

Student benefit from a “sense of community [that] develops to create a supportive bond,” according to the provider.

The school opened January 8 and is already welcoming its first cohort of students.

“This school, like all EC 30+ schools, has been designed with the needs of the mature student at its core, offering dedicated classrooms and a student lounge that is ideal to network in, catch up on some work or top up study after class,” centre director at EC Vancouver 30+, Martha Delgadillo said.

“The curriculum is also brimming with exciting classes and activities. I speak for us all at the school when I say that 2020 has begun with an enthusiasm to carry through the year.”

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More admissions officers checking social media

mar, 01/21/2020 - 03:26

More than a third (36%) of admissions officers said they visit applicants’ social media profiles like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube to learn more about them⁠, up from 25% last year, according to a poll conducted by Kaplan.

Almost 300 participants took part in Kaplan Test Prep’s 2019 college admissions officers survey, and the latest results follow a three-year decline in the practice since the high mark of 40% in Kaplan’s 2015 survey. This comes as teens are increasingly using newer social platforms such as TikTok and Twitch.

“Admissions officers have become more ideologically comfortable with the idea of visiting applicants’ social media profiles”

However, of admissions officers who said they have checked out an applicant’s social media footprint, about one in five (19%) say they do it “often” – significantly higher than the 11% who said they checked “often” in Kaplan’s 2015 survey.

Of the respondents who said they check social media to learn more about their applicants, 38% said that what they found has had a positive impact on prospective students.

Meanwhile, 32% said that what they found had a negative impact. Both of these figures have fluctuated slightly over the past few years.

The Kaplan survey found that although less than half of admissions officers visit applicants’ social media profiles, 59% —slightly higher than last year’s 57% —consider it “fair game”, while 41% consider it “an invasion of privacy that shouldn’t be done”.

College applicants are notably more accepting of this practice than admissions officers; in a separate Kaplan survey completed last year, 70% of college applicants said they believe it’s “fair game” for college admissions officers to check social media profiles.

“In tracking the role of social media in the college admissions process over the past 11 years, what we’re seeing is that while admissions officers have become more ideologically comfortable with the idea of visiting applicants’ social media profiles as part of their decision-making process, in practice, the majority still don’t actually do it,” said Sam Pritchard, director of college prep programs, Kaplan Test Prep.

“They often tell us that while it shouldn’t be off-limits, they are much more focused on evaluating prospective students on the traditional admissions factors like an applicant’s GPA, SAT and ACT scores, letters of recommendation, admissions essay, and extracurriculars.”

Pritchard said that Kaplan continues to believe that applicants’ social media content remains a wildcard in the admissions process, with what they post possibly being the tipping point of whether or not they’re admitted to the college of their choice.

“Our consistent advice to teens is to remain careful and strategic about what they decide to share. In 25 years, you’ll definitely remember where you graduated college from, but you’ll unlikely remember how many people liked that photo of what you did over winter break,” he added.

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Accommodation platform UniAcco raises $1m

lun, 01/20/2020 - 08:59

Accommodation platform UniAcco has raised US$1 million in seed funding as it aims to become a leading platform for students to find housing in popular study destinations.

Out of India, the company offers students “premium personalised housing facilities” via established providers.

Founder Amit Singh and co-founder Sayantan Biswas said they are aiming to create the “one-stop solution” by providing concierge services including visa consultation, help for students to set up bank accounts, airport transfer and a pre-activated overseas mobile SIM.

“We want the students to have a hassle-free journey and just focus on their education”

It also provides a guarantor service to help “smoothen” the journey for students.

Investment and wealth management platform Adventum Offshore led the funding, which will help UniAcco to expand in the purpose-built student accommodation market over the next couple of years – beginning with the UK.

“The reason for our focus on the PBSA in the UK is that it’s one of the most organised PBSA [markets] and it fits well with our experience and partnerships in the UK,” UniAcco’s VP marketing & demand sourcing Abhishek Sharma told The PIE News.

“We have already managed to signup with most of the leading PBSA operators in the region,” he said, adding that the two-year post-study work visa announcement will add a “significant jump” in the number of international students enrolling in the UK primarily from India, China, and the Middle East.

Those markets are the company’s primary sourcing markets, Sharma explained, where UniAcco helps students to compare, consult and choose accommodation from several established property providers.

“India will be our largest market due to presence in India helps in forming strong affiliates tie up and establishing credibility with students and parents,” he noted.

The organisation is going to expand into Australia in 2020, and add the US, Europe and Canada in 2021.

“Migrating to a new country for students in itself is a daunting task, adding picking a college then applying to it and then the visa procedures, the financing aspects of this decision, an accommodation once you get there, a bank account is sure to drive students and their families scared out of their minds,” Sharma said.

“We at UniAcco try to smoothen this transition by helping the students in any which way we can.

“We want the students to have a hassle-free journey and just focus on their education. To facilitate this migration in a smooth fashion we have tied up with leading visa counsellors, the largest institutional lender in India for student loans and a leading UK Bank for opening their bank accounts in the UK,” he added.

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Greece aims to become south-east Europe “hub”

lun, 01/20/2020 - 06:50

Universities in Greece should hedge their bets on English-language classical literature, philosophy and ancient history courses to help make Greece more of an international education hub, the country’s education minister Niki Kerameus has indicated.

By 2024, Kerameus hopes that between 40,000-50,000 international students will be taking part in such courses.

“In the past, Greek universities have been inward-looking institutions. We want to internationalise them and render them a hub for [tertiary] education in south-east Europe,” Kerameus told The Financial Times.

“Greek universities have been inward-looking institutions. We want to internationalise them”

“We are working with academic institutions, with governments and through personal contacts at universities abroad.”

She also indicated that universities would be offered additional state funding if they were to participate in the country’s internationalisation aims.

The National and Kapodistrian University of Athens (NKUA) announced a course specialising in Archaeology, History, and Literature of Ancient Greece in 2019.

The BA program, set to begin in September 2020, is the country’s first English-language undergraduate course at a public university and is tailored exclusively to non-EU students.

According to Maria Vardaki at NKUA’s department of European and International Relations, the program is designed to have a maximum of 100 international students per academic year.

“We expect – for the new BA program – non-EU students from all continents,” she noted.

“We’ve invested in assistance also from our Embassies in non-EU countries, we have registered on platforms like Studyportals, made it known through agents, consider participation in forthcoming university fairs and many other activities.”

NKUA also provide special programs for Chinese students for ancient history and classical literature.

In 2019-2020, 27 students from Chinese Universities Beijing Foreign Studies University, Guangdong University of Foreign Studies and Shanghai International Studies University attended for one year of classical studies.

“These students study under specific international agreements,” Vardaki said.

Tuition for the new BA program is €6,000 annually, but a number of scholarships will be provided for the course, she added.

“This program, pioneer as it is, is fully supported by the Hellenic Government and especially by the minister of education.”

Attracting international students is one focus for the current Greek government, and Kerameus added that more institutions should be encouraged to earn income from summer schools that charge students from overseas.

In a recent interview with Ekathimerini, president of the American College of Greece David Horner said his institution had been “pleased to offer [an] alternative to the Greek market”.

“Many of the current government’s initiatives in Greek public higher education – such as instruction in English, attracting international students to Greece, academic programs to better prepare students for market needs, developing students’ soft skills, partnerships with US universities – reflect practices and patterns that have been part of ACG for many years,” he noted.

“We would be pleased to share what we have learned from our experience with Greek public universities as they develop in the future to make Greece more of an international education hub.”

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S.Korea: Chinese students pay tuition via WeChat

lun, 01/20/2020 - 04:41

Chinese students at 11 universities and higher education institutes in South Korea can now use online platform Top School Tuition to pay their school fees via the popular Chinese social media app WeChat, it was announced on January 8th.

WeChat, along with competitor AliPay, is ubiquitous in China when it comes to paying for anything. With cash becoming rarer and rarer, the services are used for everything from paying utilities and international flights to cinema tickets and groceries.

“WeChat Pay is the most familiar and convenient mobile payment method for Chinese students”

“WeChat Pay is the most familiar and convenient mobile payment method for Chinese students. It eliminates the time-consuming and tedious process of payment for international students,” said WeChat’s owner, Tencent, in a statement on its official WeChat account.

“Today, WeChat cross-border payment services are used in 60 countries and can support transactions in 16 currencies. Following the footsteps of Chinese students, WeChat payment’s intelligence capabilities have moved abroad to various industries such as education, catering and retail abroad.”

Chinese students in South Korea usually pay fees through international remittances or in cash.

In recent years, more universities – including in the UK, Thailand and Australia – have begun accepting payments through platforms accessible to Chinese students such as Alipay and UnionPay.

The 11 institutions include several in Seoul but so far no plans to extend the services to others have been announced.

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Aus bushfires: stakeholders speak out to reassure students, agents

lun, 01/20/2020 - 02:58

The international education community across Australia has spoken out to reassure agents and international students regarding the bushfire crisis – reiterating that most study destinations remain safe, unaffected and continue to offer the “incredible study experience” the country is known for.

With education being Australia’s third-largest export industry, the continued international focus on the bushfires has raised concerns that the country’s reputation as a top study destination might be damaged due to the associated health and safety implications of the bushfires and smoke haze.

“One of the best ways you can help affected communities is by continuing to visit, study and do business with Australia”

In a post on the Study In Australia website, the government stressed that the industry is working together to ensure the safety and support of all current and incoming international students.

“One of the best ways you can help affected communities is by continuing to visit, study and do business with Australia,” the post read.

It stressed the importance of seeking the most up-to-date information prior to arrival: “due to the rapidly changing conditions, your university or institution is best placed to advise you on how fires may impact your studies and their operations.”

According to reports, the universities of Sydney and Wollongong were both forced to close some of their satellite campuses due to fire danger and Australian National University closed its main campus in early January because of the smoke.

The government’s message was reiterated by ELT association English Australia. CEO Brett Blacker noted that while fires have brought devastation, “they have also shown us the incredible resolve and strength of Australians, especially those working in our emergency services”.

“We are working closely with key government agencies to ensure that students and agents receive the right messages during this time,” he said.

“In our key markets, we will convey the message that most study destinations remain safe and unaffected by bushfires, emphasising that Australia is still a great place to learn English.”

Speaking to The PIE News, Blacker said the association was in close talks with government to ensure students are supported and safe.

“I fly to Melbourne next Tuesday to meet with Australia’s Education minister, the Hon Dan Tehan, and participate in a sector roundtable to discuss the current bushfire emergency from an international education perspective,” he said.

Blacker added that Australia’s international students have been involved in some incredible acts of kindness during the fires.

“We have seen Sikh volunteers donating meals and support in Gippsland and an international student who is a volunteer firefighter: Mark Yeong, a 22-year-old Singaporean studying at the University of Sydney,” he told The PIE.

The overwhelming majority of institutions are unaffected by the fires”

“‘To any students who are asking, “How can we help?” we say: continue with your plans. The overwhelming majority of institutions are unaffected by the fires and will continue to offer you the incredible study experience that our country is known for.”

In a social media post, Study Sydney reiterated: “The metropolitan areas of Sydney, Newcastle and Wollongong are not currently threatened by fires but have experienced smoke haze on some days.

At this stage, we are expecting commencing and current international students to enrol with their education institution as planned at the start of the academic calendar.”

The devastating impact the fires are having on Australian wildlife has also prompted support from the sector, with Study Gold Coast announcing that each team member would be “sponsoring a koala.”

The @CWHFAU is one of the busiest in the world. With the current bushfire crisis stretching their resources like never before they desperately need our help. That’s why our team members are each sponsoring a koala. https://t.co/ZubEW3OqW8 #AustralianBushfires

— Study Gold Coast (@StudyGoldCoast) January 14, 2020

Blacker added that English Australia would “encourage all students to visit www.Australia.com for up-to-date advice on destinations in Australia and an interactive map of the fires.”

To support emergency service agencies or charities across Australia visit: 

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Aus: Victoria celebrates top int’l students

ven, 01/17/2020 - 08:29

A human rights activist and cancer researcher, an entrepreneur helping connect international students with reliable service providers, and a diversity researcher, were among the winners of the 2019 Victorian International Education Awards.

Recognising international students who have excelled in their studies and in contributing to the broader community, the seventh awards saw winners from the Philippines, Colombia, India, China and Singapore.

“This year’s award winners have made a tremendous contribution to the community”

“Victoria’s international education sector is flourishing its more than 227,000 students from 170 countries choosing to study here,” said minister for jobs, innovation and trade Martin Pakula.

“This year’s award winners have made a tremendous contribution to the community beyond their own study and research efforts, and it’s great that they are getting the recognition they deserve.”

Malaysian Belle Lim, currently undertaking a PhD in breast cancer research at Monash University, received both the research award and overall premier’s award for her work at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre and activism for human rights.

Lim was also the inaugural Women’s Office for the Council of International Students Australia and founder of ChangemakHER, which conducts research on genetic predispositions for breast cancer.

“Moving to Australia for my higher education is the most life-changing decision I have ever made,” she said.

“I feel extremely fortunate to spend my most transformative years here in Victoria. While adjusting to a new environment, and experiencing cultural transition are challenging at times, they brought me fresh perspectives that resulted in some tremendous self-growth.”

Other winners included alumnus winner Singaporean Heng Hao Teo also from Monash, who was recognised for his online platform, iDibs, to help international students connect with reliable services such as migration, cleaning and removalists.

University of Melbourne PhD student Ravini Abeywickrama, who grew up in both Sri Lanka and Australia, received the internationalisation award for her research into people from diverse backgrounds and extensive volunteering.

“Victoria is a hub for multiculturalism – there is no other diverse city like Melbourne,” she said.

International education is Victoria’s largest services expert, generating $11.8 billion.

2019 winners:

  • Premier’s Award – Belle Lim, Malaysia
  • English Language Training – Ana Llorente, Colombia
  • Vocational Education and Training – Christian Laban, Philippines
  • Higher Education – Susan Saldana, India
  • Research – Belle Lim, Malaysia
  • Regional – Luocheng (Rod) Zhang, China
  • Internationalisation – Ravini Abeywickrama, Australia
  • Alumnus – Heng Hao Teo, Singapore

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