The PIE News

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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
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“The current refund demands are quite unsustainable for the whole industry”

sam, 04/11/2020 - 00:54

An open letter to education agency partners from a consortium of well known ELT operators:

Dear Friends,

I hope you are keeping safe and well, and are coping with the very difficult trading conditions due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

We wanted to write this joint letter from many of your leading partner schools, to try to explain our position and help us all work together at a time of crisis.

Unfortunately, the disruption caused by the outbreak has had a catastrophic impact on this industry, and we know that both schools and agencies are facing the same challenges, through no fault of either of us.

The outbreak, and the measures taken by countries around the world to contain it, have caused a critical lack of bookings; additionally, many students who are currently booked with us are unable to study at our schools and as you know, a large number of students have returned home early submitting cancellation and refund claims. Not only has our income been drastically cut but, we still have very large running costs and as a result, we are now experiencing cash flow pressures.

We must ask all overseas partners to make timely payments to schools

In order to mitigate our losses and fight for survival, all our schools have had to make very difficult decisions, such as redundancies, temporary lay-offs and enforced pay cuts for remaining staff. Given the severity of these problems and how they impact upon all of us, we fear that many schools and agencies (including well-known and well- established organizations) will see no option but to close in the coming months. Therefore, we are looking to work with you so that we can ensure that as many of us as possible are able to survive.

As you are probably aware, there has also been a longstanding problem with late (unauthorized) payments from many agencies and unsurprisingly this problem has multiplied during the COVID-19 outbreak. Consequently, we must ask all Overseas Partners to make timely payments to schools, otherwise the whole industry may collapse.

We respectively request that you do your utmost to persuade students to accept either a postponement or the online courses we have devised as very significant concessions to students, before considering any cancellations. The online alternatives come with a significant extra cost to schools, as we still have to pay teachers, rent buildings etc. This is the best alternative we can offer at present.

The schools have invested a lot of time and effort in developing a suitable online alternative at very short notice and cannot provide them for free. We are aware that some students haven’t been keen to accept this alternative or postponements and are determined to cancel courses, but it takes time for students to adjust to this unprecedented situation. In fact, many students have praised us for going online so quickly and we even have students reconsidering the online options rather than sit at home with nothing to do.

We all have clearly written cancellation terms, which must be adhered to in these circumstances. Unless you have agreed special concessions with us, you must understand that our terms and conditions apply and we are sure that we are meeting our legal obligations in this situation.

It is quite unreasonable to expect our schools to suffer the enormous financial burden of full refunds for unused weeks, when reasonable alternatives as very fair concessions have been offered. The current refund demands are quite unsustainable for the whole industry and risk leaving many students with postponements or awaiting refunds from schools who may subsequently close.

We are keen to work with you and help you with the pressures you are facing, however we must also ensure that our own businesses remain viable. Please respect our position.

We would like to sincerely thank you for your time and consideration. It is more important than ever that we come together and work for our mutual benefit. We very much hope to continue working with you for many more years.

With our very best wishes,

The Managing Directors of St Giles International, EC English, ILSC, Kings Education, Stafford House, Atlas Language School, CES, Oxford International, Bell English, Tamwood, LAL, STS, LILA, Sprachcaffe, Emerald Cultural Institute, Wimbledon School of English, Eurocentres, Ardmore Group, Bayswater Education and Lexis English.

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UUK proposes delay to new immigration system to help weather “serious challenges”

ven, 04/10/2020 - 07:23

Universities UK has proposed a package of measures to the British government that would enable universities to play a critical role in rebuilding the nation following the COVID-19 pandemic, warning that the £95 billion that universities generate for the UK economy will be greatly reduced without mitigations and support.

Targeted support for a small number of institutions that have very high numbers of international student numbers

The organisation believes UK universities are facing a shortfall of £790 million in the 2019-20 academic year, given loss of income from accommodation, catering and conferencse in the final term and Easter and summer vacations.

For the 2020 academic year, it warns of further major financial risks – explaining a total loss of international student fee income in that year would be a £6.9 billion loss.

The measures include a broad spectrum of recommendations but those most pertinent to international education and research are:

  • Introduce additional flexibilities in the visa system to support international students planning to start courses this autumn including allowing those students already here to switch visa category in country (extending current arrangements beyond 31st May) and flexibility on English language and other requirements for visa applications, where these cannot be provided due to the closure of testing centres or disruption to examinations.
  • Stabilise demand from EU students by delaying the introduction of the new immigration system for EU students for students starting in the 2021 calendar year. Hold fee/ loan arrangements for EU students as they are for one further year.
  • Targeted support for a very small number of institutions that because of their distinct missions have  very high numbers of international student numbers.
  • Increasing QR funding by 100% for 2020-21 to maintain the UK’s research excellence
  • The full economic cost of research to be funded through government grants including those from UKRI and the National Institute for Health Research.
  • A transformation fund to support universities over the next two to three years to reshape and consolidate through federations and partnerships or potentially merge with other higher education institutions, further education colleges or private providers.

As part of the package of measures, UUK said the sector will “reduce costs, increase efficiency and moderate certain behaviours to increase stability and sustainability”.

It said that universities recognise that even with government investment significant action to reduce costs is necessary and are already making efforts to reduce costs as much as possible.

“For example, through tight controls on procurement, delaying capital projects and freezing recruitment,” UUK added.

“The package of measures we have proposed today will support universities across all four nations of the UK to ensure that they remain able to weather the very serious financial challenges posed by COVID-19,” said UUK chief executive, Alistair Jarvis in a statement.

He referred to the recently launched #WeAreTogether campaign, designed showcase the ways universities are helping the fight against the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Universities have already made a huge contribution to the national effort to fight COVID-19 and moving forward will act collectively and responsibly to promote sector-wide financial stability in these challenging times and help the country to get back on its feet and people to rebuild their lives,” Jarvis added.

Tim Bradshaw, chief executive of the Russell Group added that it is vital the country is in a strong position to bounce back again after the crisis.

“More than ever, the UK will need the skills, research, innovation and expertise universities bring. We therefore support the full package of measures that have been developed with Universities UK on behalf of the whole sector.

“The right investment now will underpin the future growth and prosperity of the country,” he said.

The National Union of Students‘ vice president (Welfare), Eva Crossan Jory added that a generation of students will pay the price “if we don’t act now”.

“Students will play a critical role in rebuilding our society in the aftermath of this pandemic”

“There are enormous financial and logistical challenges for the whole sector: this is a systemic problem and it needs a systemic answer,” she said.

However, Crossan Jory added that any package of support for higher education must include appropriate support for students, “especially considering the mounting student discontent that courses are not being delivered as promised and demands for refunds”.

“Students will play a critical role in rebuilding our society in the aftermath of this pandemic. We must protect further and higher education and make sure that the students of today do not become a lost generation,” she said.

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BSBI launches distance learning webinar series

ven, 04/10/2020 - 01:06

Berlin School of Business and Innovation has launched the ‘BSBI Dialogues’ initiative, aimed at exploring the possibilities of distance learning with a global audience.

BSBI Dialogues is a series of webinars with the goal of creating a virtual platform where students and experts can share knowledge and best practice of distance learning.

“We aim to initiate a conversation…to show how being innovative and using technology can and should be more than a temporary solution”

The first webinar, titled ‘Current Challenges and Future Perspectives of Distance Education’, was held on April 2 and hosted by Kyriakos Kouveliotis, Programmes and Partnership director at BSBI.

The webinar focused on what are still considered obstacles to a widespread use of distance learning. It also looked at the endless opportunities new technologies such as augmented reality and artificial intelligence can create for students and institutions around the world.

Streamed live on Go To Webinar, the session saw the participation of two experts from the higher education industry in Germany.

Ralf Hilgenstock, founder and CEO of eLeDia, and Maria Wilke, teacher trainer and learning consultant at Goethe-Institut, joined BSBI to bring their insights and experience to the debate.

BSBI Dialogues was inspired by the current worldwide situation, showing the importance of remote working and distance learning. Sagi Hartov,  co-founder and executive chairman at BSBI, said.

“Like many schools around the world, BSBI had to switch to e-learning to continue with its activities and ensure students were able to progress with their courses.

“The shift was done in a few days and without any issues. BSBI has always been committed to innovation and e-learning which meant we had the right infrastructure in place, skilled people to deliver and change management leading the way for all the necessary adjustments to be made,” said Hartov.

Drawing from this experience, BSBI Dialogues aims to promote how institutions can educate and interact with students.

During the webinar, the speakers engaged in a conversation touching on the key themes, also allowing the audience to interact live with them and ask questions.

“We launched this project to explore and promote the many opportunities that distance learning can offer.

“We aim to initiate a conversation between students, institutions and the higher education industry to show how being innovative and using technology can and should be more than a temporary solution,” added Kouveliotis.

BSBI has also announced that it has become a member of the Business Graduates Association.

The BGA is an international membership and quality assurance body of world-leading and high-potential business schools. As a sister organisation to the Association of MBAs, BGA accredits business schools based on their impact on students, employers and the wider community, in terms of ethics and responsible management practices.

 “We are extremely proud of this achievement. We are constantly working to improve as an institution for the benefit of our students and this is a true testament to our efforts,” said Hartov.

“Since the beginning of 2020, we have launched a number of initiatives and partnerships to provide our students with resources and skills beyond traditional teaching.

“With this membership, we confirm our commitment in making a positive impact on individuals and society through promoting responsible management.”

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Top study destinations divided on COVID-19 financial support for int’l students

jeu, 04/09/2020 - 10:19

Last week, Canada announced that international students will be included in measures to help those who lose their jobs as a result of the coronavirus outbreak. Like citizens of the country, they will be able to apply for temporary income support of up to CAN$500 a week for up to sixteen weeks provided they meet certain criteria.

International students and the agencies that advocate for them in many popular study destinations have been asking their governments to provide financial assistance in cases where students have lost their part-time job due to coronavirus and struggling to afford rent and daily necessities without a source of income.

“If you are having difficulties in paying your bills for any reason, talk to your education provider”

While most countries have relaxed certain visa regulations and school attendance requirements for international students, many are hesitant to provide further financial support for international students, arguing that – at the very least for first-year students – the ability to support oneself financially is a requirement of obtaining a study visa.

This debate has played out most prominently in Australia where the prime minister said there would be no support for international students.

While agencies continue to push for this to change, international students have since been granted access to their superannuation (pension) funds, which are usually only accessible after leaving the country, if they need them. The city of Melbourne has also pledged to create a fund for international students.

In the cases of countries where international students have been given some sort of financial support, such as New Zealand and Canada, they have been incorporated into measures for citizens as opposed to being treated as a separate category.

Yet the three biggest destinations for international students – the US, the UK and China – are as of yet not providing financial support for students at a government level, although in the case of the UK and US, some universities are providing support through hardship funds.

Students are encouraged to ask universities directly about these services as they are often not advertised.

“If you are having difficulties in paying your bills for any reason, talk to your education provider and, if relevant, to your accommodation provider,” UKCISA said in its online guidelines for international students.

“Both have been instructed by the UK government to exercise flexibility if you cannot afford to pay your tuition fees, rent or other expenses.”

The lack of response has left organisations worried about the impact of host nations not being supportive of international students will have on the future desirability of the country as a study destination.

“We recognise there is a global competition for talent, and prospective international students will surely look at how countries reacted to COVID-19 when deciding where to apply,” Jill Allen Murray, deputy executive director public policy at NAFSA, told The PIE News.

“Allowing for flexibility in adjudication requests and status determinations during this global crisis will send a strong message that the United States welcomes and values international students, even in times of uncertainty.”

China, the world’s third-largest study destination, generally doesn’t allow international students to work. However, reports have surfaced of some losing their accommodation due to the coronavirus outbreak in recent days.

“Prospective international students will surely look at how countries reacted to COVID-19 when deciding where to apply”

In China’s southern city of Guangzhou, international students and other non-nationals are being blamed for the spread of coronavirus and have ended up homeless as a result of being turned out by landlords, with hotels refusing to give them rooms.

“They are accusing us of having the virus,” one Nigerian student told the BBC.

“We paid rent to [the landlords] and after collecting rent they chased us out of the house. Since last night we have been sleeping outside.”

Accommodation and giving notice for leaving due to coronavirus has proved to be a stickler in many countries. In the UK, some accommodation providers are insisting students continue to pay for unused rooms.

Students in France who go home have been exempted from having to give one month notice for residences in public students halls. Campus France told The PIE that the French government has earmarked €10 million for students in need whether they are French or international, which will provide food vouchers and other support for students who have lost their part-time jobs.

This has not been the case across Europe however.

“The circumstances differ heavily from country to country. The European Commission has issued recommendations for national Erasmus agencies and HEIs on how to deal with the situation,” said Sebastian Berger vice president of the European Students’ Union.

“In many cases, all involved actors are keen on finding solutions in the best interest of the students.

“Unfortunately, we do also receive reports about international students left stranded and in uncertainty with regards to their academic and economic future.”

In Germany, one group is asking the government to do more for both domestic and international students and is asking for €3,000 for every student currently in financial difficulties as the result of coronavirus job losses.

“It should also accessible to international students. Germany is a ‘host country’ and in a crisis has responsibility for these students,” state Bündnis Soforthilfe für Studierende on their website.

“The psychological and financial impact for international students in some cases is even more intense [than for local ones].”

The group has the backing of FZS and several other organisations.

But for Gerrit Bruno Blöss of, a France-style model is “definitely conceivable in Germany”.

“On the other hand, the biggest cost factor for students here is rent, and the government already passed legislation that you can’t be kicked out if you can’t pay your rent now because of coronavirus,” he added.

“Unfortunately, we do also receive reports about international students left stranded”

Agencies like DAAD are trying to help international students find new part-time jobs in sectors currently needing staff by posting links to job boards on their website.

“There are industries and areas such as agriculture or retail that are desperately looking for temporary jobbers,” DAAD noted.

International students have appeared in online forums such as Reddit seeking advice for what to do without work as popular student jobs such as working in bars and restaurants disappear. For those in places where little support is available, users have also suggested students turn their hand to online teaching, particularly languages, or delivery services.

Read these articles for further information about the situation in Australia and New Zealand.

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ETS rolls out TOEFL iBT® Special Home Edition Test

jeu, 04/09/2020 - 10:09

COVID-19 has dramatically altered the international admissions landscape. Institutions and students alike need innovative solutions to address this new reality. That’s why ETS has worked quickly to make the TOEFL iBT® test available for students to take from the safety of home.

“The last couple of months have created unparalleled challenges for higher education”

This at-home solution, the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition, offers a valid and reliable test for students affected by test center closures resulting from COVID-19.

This option is available everywhere the computer-delivered TOEFL iBT test is normally available, with the exception of Mainland China and Iran. In Mainland China, ETS is working closely with NEEA to accommodate test takers impacted by test cancellations, including adding test dates once regular testing resumes. ETS is working to offer at home testing in Iran as soon as possible.

“The last couple of months have created unparalleled challenges for higher education, which have demanded solutions be implemented at a remarkable pace,” said Srikant Gopal, Executive Director of the TOEFL® Program.

“ETS recognised the need for an at-home testing solution to bridge the gap for test takers and institutions until normal testing can resume, from which the TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test was born.”

The TOEFL iBT Special Home Edition test offers an identical testing experience to what students can expect at a test center, while employing a variety of best-in-class measures to maintain test security — from online monitoring by a live human proctor, to AI-powered measures and comprehensive security checks prior to testing. It is the only academic English test with 100% live human proctoring from start to finish.

“ETS prides itself on its test security measures, and this solution is consistent with those self-imposed high standards, which are relied upon by institutions around the world who trust that these tests provide an accurate picture of an applicant’s abilities,” said Gopal.

As the industry navigates this time of unprecedented change, ETS knows that it’s imperative to continue providing students and institutions with the ability to plan for a successful future.

This solution helps to create continuity for students pursuing their educational journeys. It also enables the 11,000+ institutions who accept TOEFL scores to maintain their high standards for English-language testing by continuing to use the same premier test they have relied on for decades, rather than unproven, nonsecure and low-quality home tests.

Sponsored content by ETS.

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Calls mount for further student support in Australia

jeu, 04/09/2020 - 07:28

Melbourne city council in Australia will establish a financial hardship fund for international students, according to recent press reports: an update that has come during a week which has seen a growing clamour for more financial support for international students in the country.

This follows the announcement by acting immigration minister, Alan Tudge, that students who had been working in the country would be able to access up to AU$10,000 of savings via their superannuation (pension) scheme.

“[The] City of Melbourne is the first government in Australia to pledge support for a hardship fund for international students and we have asked officers for urgent advice on what form that takes,” said councillor Nicholas Reece.

Reece referred to prime minister Morrisson’s comments last week explaining that international students were not eligible for financial support.

“If most of these students went home, it could destroy a $41 billion dollar industry”

“They were a punch on a bruise for the international students of Melbourne,” he said.

Since Morrisson’s comments, Australia made the further concession to help cash-strapped students. Speaking with ABC News 24, Tudge said, “We’ll be working as quickly as possible for those residents to be able to get that [money].

“And again, it’s keeping with that principle of when they are here, they should be able to look after themselves,” he added.

Acknowledging that there were 185,000 people on temporary work visas with superannuation, Tudge said, “If you’ve been a skilled visa holder for a couple of years, you may well have $10,000 or $20,000 in superannuation which you’ve already accumulated.

That can help you get through to the other side so that then you can be fully re-engaged again if, in fact, you have had your hours reduced or are being stood down.

IEAA’s chief executive, Phil Honeywood, commented that he had been in conversations with education minister Dan Tehan and Tudge and “I am confident that they strongly support our sector”.

But IEAA has written a letter to the PM requesting the establishment of a national hardship fund.

“Given the lack of any political appetite from the major parties to permit international students’ access to welfare programs currently available to Australian citizens, a National Hardship Fund appears to be our best way forward,” Honeywood wrote.

The Green party, however, did state they would back the country’s 500,000+ international student community “by introducing amendments to make temporary visa holders eligible for the JobKeeper scheme”.

CISA, the organisation representing international students across the country, is adding its voice to the chorus.

Kevin McKenna, president of the WA chapter, CISWA, told The PIE News he was very concerned about the situation.

“International students are very different from tourists and backpackers”

“Many [students] now have no means of support, no opportunity to return home and no assistance from our government.”

“It is understandable that the Prime Minister is putting Australians first when considering policies that help to keep people employed but international students are very different from tourists and backpackers,” stated CISWA.

“The international education industry is Australia’s largest export service industry and is responsible for supporting 260,000 jobs. If most of these students went home, it could destroy a $41 billion dollar industry.”

In other moves, Australia’s PM Scott Morrisson spoke with Indian PM Narendra Modi within 48 hours of news coverage of his response on financial support for international students in Australia.

“Prime Minister Morrison similarly assured [Modi] that the Indian community in Australia, including Indian students, would continue to be valued as a vibrant part of Australian society,” reported the government of India’s press bureau.

A “No worker left behind” campaign also gained traction, with a coalition of 124 unions, religious groups and charities calling on the federal government to include temporary migrant workers impacted by the coronavirus crisis in its JobKeeper program.

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UK: Bosworth Independent College joins CATS

jeu, 04/09/2020 - 06:07

Bosworth Independent College in Northampton, UK has become the 18th school to integrate into the CATS Colleges group of schools, making CATS one of the largest school groups in the private education sector.

CATS Colleges Group comprises three brands: CATS Colleges – international boarding schools in the UK, US and China; Cambridge School of Visual & Performing Arts; and Stafford House, a chain of English language schools in the UK and North America.

“Bosworth will be able to access a range of support so that together we can create bright futures for more students”

Each year, the group educates over 18,000 students from 100 countries to prepare for the next stage of their educational careers.

Bosworth, which provides independent boarding education to pupils from the UK and abroad, has more than 300 students including more than 200 boarders from 39 countries.

“I’m delighted to welcome Bosworth Independent College to the group,” said Chris Stacey, CEO of CATS Colleges.

“A small school with a tight-knit community, Bosworth will be able to access a range of support from around the network so that together we can create bright futures for more students.”

As part of the integration plans, Bosworth will offer a new University Foundation Programme designed specifically for international students and will be able to take advantage of CATS Colleges’ links with more than 30 UK universities offering conditional progression opportunities.

Both CATS Colleges and Bosworth Independent College were purchased separately last year by Bright Scholar Education Holdings Limited, the largest operator of international and bilingual schools in China.

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CIEE cuts 600+ jobs due to pandemic

jeu, 04/09/2020 - 01:55

The Council on International Educational Exchange, a non-profit organisation that operates study abroad and exchange programs, is set to cut more than 600 jobs due to the coronavirus pandemic.

CIEE has facilitated people-to-people international exchange for nearly 75 years. However, it announced that it is pausing its activities because of the “massive” negative financial impact of the virus.

“We are heartbroken for the negative impact this necessary action will have”

Now, according to a report by Maine Business News, the organisation is cutting 355 jobs in the US and 300 internationally. CIEE will end 248 jobs in Portland, the site of its world headquarters.

“Like so many organisations across America and the world, CIEE has been forced to take immediate and significant action to protect our future existence, and sadly, our most precious asset, our people, will be most impacted,” CIEE said in a statement.

The statement said that CIEE is announcing a significant reduction in force for both our domestic and international employees.

“It will impact families and communities around the globe…we are heartbroken for the negative impact this necessary action will have on so many of our local and global employees in the days and weeks to come.”

CIEE currently operates 63 sites in 42 countries and typically each year sends 15,000 Americans abroad to study, go on internships, and teach. It welcomes more than 30,000 international exchange visitors to the United States.

The organisation makes the majority of its revenue through its programs. After the outbreak, CIEE’s programs around the world were suspended, and it had to help thousands of students return to the US.

“With prospects for travel and exchange highly uncertain at this time, the negative financial impact on CIEE is massive,” the statement read.

“We recognise that we must respond swiftly and decisively if we are to preserve the ability of CIEE to emerge from this unprecedented event and return to our important mission in the decades ahead.”

Stimulus legislation is currently pending in US Congress, and CIEE said that these provisions will allow the organisation to regain financial stability and to begin rehiring and increasing staffing levels “as soon as possible”.

“CIEE has weathered global crises before, and each time we have come through the storm intact and ready to again build bridges between cultures and to restore relationships that may have become weathered or damaged by the crisis,” the statement continued.

A major player in the study abroad sector, CIEE has provided millions of dollars in scholarship programs such as Generation Study Abroad.

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Loans and online learning: ELT industries unite, adapt to survive

mer, 04/08/2020 - 10:22

As the language teaching sector continues to grapple with the challenges brought about by the coronavirus pandemic, the heads of ELT associations have told The PIE News that urgent appeals for government support – and supporting members’ shift to online provision and community building – are the new modus operandi.

EnglishUSA executive director, Cheryl Delk-Le Good, observed it’s challenging to do any kind of marketing or recruitment right now.

“We’re trying to address how we can help our members with decisions around synchronous or asynchronous learning, information and small business loans – things like that,” she told The PIE.

“We’re trying to address how we can help our members”

The shift online has also been beneficial in strengthening connections, she added.

“What we’ve learned in the last couple of weeks in the virtual events that we’ve been holding, I feel like I’ve met more people over the past three weeks that I’ve met in my five years,” she said.

“I have a lot of contacts in the field, but these are teachers and staff, these are individuals from our members who don’t necessarily come to all of our in-person events. So virtually we’ve been able to create even a larger community because we’re in this all together online.”

In the UK, English language schools were hit hard early in 2020 when business dried up from China first, and then engulfed another main market for the UK sector: Italy.

Describing the pandemic as an “existential threat” to the industry, member association English UK has been lobbying to get COVID-19 business rates relief for the hospitality and tourism sector extended to ELT centres – and has so far been “partially” successful.

“We are delighted that English language schools have been included by the [Local Government Association] in the list of properties considered to fall within the scope of the relief,” said Huan Japes, membership director of English UK.

Two of English UK’s member centres have already been forced to close their doors, and the association is lobbying to formally include ELT centres in the list of organisations eligible for the relief so that it is not at the discretion of local authorities.

But it’s not just the UK sector that’s appealing for government financial support.

In a recent letter to Canada’s minister of finance, chief executive of Languages Canada, Gonzalo Peralta, highlighted the gravity of the situation through his warning that most of Canada’s 642,480 international students go through LC members programs first to learn English and French.

According to Peralta, with state assistance, the industry could rebuild to 2019 levels in one-to-two years, but without it, it could take five years.

In Malta too, which had seen ELT student numbers stabilise over the past couple of years after “unprecedented” growth in 2017, FELTOM CEO, James Perry, said bookings at member schools for Q2 and Q3 have virtually come to a “standstill”.

According to new data, the 20,000 cancellations at FELTOM schools to-date are expected to give rise to an estimated loss in contribution of €8.8million and are expected to have an estimated negative financial impact on the economy of €23.7m.

“Our schools are closed as by the directive of the government. However, we have communicated with the government and with regards to the ELT industry, they will be considering it month by month as the industry works on a different scenario [to general education],” Perry told The PIE.

Perry said the Maltese government has issued some financial packages which have helped the schools to avoid redundancies.

“At this point, those are the only financial packages we have are for employment, and it does not cater for people who have to pay rent, loans and so forth. It just caters for everyday money and in order for schools not to make people redundant.”

“We have schools that have been successful in retaining their students here and offering online learning”

Perry said that most of the schools have been trying to develop an online platform, while some of them already had an online platform in the past and they are revisiting that option.

“I think that helps a lot because while some students chose to get repatriated, others chose to remain and attend lessons as best they can through the online platform being offered by the school. And then there are others who said we cannot offer this option and told students to go back and gave them refunds.

“We have schools that have been successful in retaining their students here and offering online learning, I must admit, which is quite positive to see.”

Online learning has become a major part of the educational offering for students in New Zealand too, with English New Zealand explaining how “nearly all” of its 22 member schools have shifted to online teaching to students located there.

“As long as the border remains closed members can’t welcome new students,” noted Kim Renner, the group’s executive director, however, “feedback from students about the online provision is generally good.”

“It’s important to maintain contact with students who had intended to begin their studies in the coming months and with our study abroad agencies,” she urged, as agents are the “primary source” of students for ELT in New Zealand.

“Their businesses will also be impacted by COVID-19,” she added, explaining that support measures are available for businesses requiring financial assistance via the government’s business stimulus package.

“We have also presented the minister of Education and agencies with a request for a range of targeted support measures for the English language sector as most providers are 100% reliant on international students are receive no government funding.”

However, predictions for the future are difficult at the present, Renner continued.

“We know that things will be different because of the impact on our key markets, and travel and tourism in general. We expect the financial epidemic to also have an impact on study-travel.”

While online delivery may be an option, English New Zealand will “continue to advocate for members and the wider ELT sector”.

In Australia, the online space offers a “real opportunity to do a lot of groundbreaking things”, according to English Australia’s Simon Lockyer.

“[The online space] is not something which has been really taken on board by, I think internationally, the whole English language teaching world. And this has sort of forced our hand,” he said.

For example, a big contingent in China is studying with English Australia’s members, he highlighted.

The organisation requested a AU$87m package in March – it expects a response in the “next two to three weeks”, but the government’s JobKeeper payment will benefit ELICOS sector employees, providing them AU$1,500 per fortnight.

Part-, full-time workers and casual workers who have been with an organisation for 12 months or more are eligible, Lockyer noted.

“Labour costs of an English college are so significant”

“It’s packages like that which are wonderful for our providers because labour costs of an English college are so significant. It’s allowed a lot of providers to keep staff on.”

However, as in New Zealand, English language schools are effectively closed to new students from overseas.

“We’ve got a ban on all foreign nationals. So it’s just those students who were enrolled prior to this and who are here already are continuing on,” he said.

Visas are still being processed but there are a lot of constraints, Lockyer added.

“Offshore English testing centres and offshore medical assessment clinics being closed have heavily constrained any processing.”

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Anouchka Plumb, University of Windsor, Canada

mer, 04/08/2020 - 09:46
Inspiration, movement, transformation — these words highlight the intent of a wellness initiative that manager of Language Programs, Anouchka Plumb, embedded at the University of Windsor in Canada after a student tragedy led to a structural change in asking how best to monitor student welfare. Plumb spoke to The PIE about what she has learnt along the process.


The PIE: You were saying that institutions don’t often know numbers in terms of students who need help with their mental health? 

Anouchka Plumb: Part of the reason we don’t really know the numbers is that it doesn’t help with marketing and it stigmatises institutions. There has been nationwide recognition that such types of conversations are essential. We know international students are such an important part of our campus community and our future labour force, and recognising this very central component of their experience is necessary.

“The University of Windsor has done a lot of work to develop a mental health strategy”

The PIE: Can you tell me about the program at the University of Windsor?

AP: In 2015 we decided to develop a wellness program. It has taken a few different shapes, but in 2017 we restructured it. It’s called MindFlow, with three grounding principles – inspiration, movement and transformation.

With inspiration, we’re not looking at inspiring students; we’re looking at equipping them with baseline skills to be able to identify opportunities where they can be inspired. If we take, for example, how individuals are distracted and have multiple thoughts, it is difficult to identify those opportunities that can benefit them because of all their competing ideas.

Through inspiration, what we are looking at is a process of calming the mind, bringing attention to the frustrations and the stressors. So just teaching students how to identify those thoughts. That’s the first part.

The second one is movement, and it relies on very basic breathing techniques. If our students can just walk away knowing how to breathe through certain situations, that’s a significant step. As we know, students are studying for X number of hours, so we look at equipping them with those coping strategies.

And then the last is transformation. So the aim is helping students use those skills to transform their thoughts, maybe moving from ‘I can’t’, to ‘I can’t right now, but I will’, and identifying what steps can be taken to move in a positive direction.

The final aim is for that to move into a transformation of action, which can mean instead of harbouring all those thoughts and feelings, they could result in seeking advice by talking to a friend, or making subtle changes with what they’ve learned.

The PIE: How do you deliver the programs? 

AP: So in our EAP [English for Academic Purposes] program, we have five levels and each level is twelve weeks long with multiple sections within a level. We have a mindfulness facilitator, Nicole Daignault, who comes into classes.

I work with the facilitator to design a flexible curriculum, and we identify topics that are pretty consistent across terms that would be important to bring awareness to but also term specific issues such as the winter blues or jetlag and things like that.

Within the program, the facilitator also asks students to identify specific areas where they are facing challenges. So it’s 30 minutes per week for 10 weeks. And the instructors participate in it as well.

The PIE: Did this whole construct have to be sanctioned by someone senior at the institution? 

AP: No, and the reason why there is a buy-in from the institution is that the program satisfies our institution’s student mental health strategy; the University of Windsor has done a lot of work to develop a mental health strategy.

One of the principles is to implement a range of preventative wellness initiatives. So that ties into that particular mandate.

“Those who reported feeling exhausted from non-physical activities, again it is over 90%, which is just mindboggling”

With regards to instructors, we’ve invested in professional development. Some of our instructors have participated in some Canadian mental health workshops. That was very much in line with what we do here. So from the instructor side, it’s not necessarily pitching it as ‘this is for the students only’, this is care for our team, it’s care for our organisation.

So when we’re able to position it in the broader context, there isn’t that barrier of having to convince people, because it just makes sense.

The PIE: How is it being received by your student population? 

AP: On a national context based on a Canadian reference group 2016 and 2019 executive summaries, the percentage of tertiary level students [not just international] who feel overwhelmed, both male and female, has increased to over 90%. And for those who reported feeling exhausted from non-physical activities, again it is over 90%, which is just mindboggling.

So in the top five, according to the same reference, we have stress number one, then we see anxiety, sleep, difficulties, depression, cold and flu. What’s interesting here is that we know that when we’re not sleeping well, that compromises the immune system, which then makes us more susceptible to other physiological symptoms. So they’re all interconnected.

We found that 90% of our students agree or strongly agree with the statement that they find the MindFlow piece enjoyable. That is fairly consistent among all the levels. We’re also seeing improved sleep in 50% of the lower level, 20% in level two and 17% in the highest level.

The PIE: You could argue that the lower your level, the most stress you feel anyway? 

AP: Right. But also presuming that the students who are in level one are more likely for this to be their first term, so sleep is a huge issue, and as they’re progressing, they’re able to acclimatise. But even in term of stress, as the levels intensify, that stress is increasing.

We can see for sleep difficulties, 21% of all of our students in that program felt that MindFlow helped to decrease their sleep difficulties. 57% felt that it helped reduce their stress levels. And what was really important to see was that we are tackling the areas that according to the national context, students have challenges. That was an affirmation that we were on the right track.

The PIE: Are you trying to use it as an edge in terms of your marketing programs? 

AP: We have mentioned it, but I think it depends. We will share the information, whether that helps someone to choose whether to pursue this program compared to another all depends. But MindFlow is not about student numbers. This is really about student wellbeing.

When students start their academic journey – in which they will face a number of additional stressors – it’s important they have ways to be able to cope.

Do you think in Canada, because there’s been so much student growth and a lot of expectation around routes to immigration that there’s increasing pressure on institutions as well?

Absolutely. It’s everything from immigration to employability to being prepared to participate in a meaningful way in academics.

“MindFlow is intended as preventative care, a step before needing to access counselling service”

The PIE: Do you think that different universities have different approaches to student satisfaction?

AP: Well, based on a presentation that I gave where there were about 42 participants, only two individuals who identified being a part of or being aware of institutional mandates or movements towards recognising a wellness program initiative. I don’t know if that is a fair representation of what’s going on. And I wouldn’t want to speculate here, but I think it is important.

Again, we’re talking about internationalisation and sometimes internationalisation tends to be first and foremost defined by recruitment. But there are many pillars of internationalisation that go beyond that and tap into some of those nitty-gritty areas.

The PIE:  I get the impression that a lot of institutions think the wellness agenda is best dealt with by counsellors, which is why I think what you’re doing is interesting because you’re trying to embed into the curriculum a way of coping. 

AP: There’s a definite place for counselling services and this is not meant to replace those. We know many students seek counselling. But again, MindFlow is intended as preventative care, a step before needing to access counselling services.

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NZ: Wage Subsidy Scheme open for int’l students

mer, 04/08/2020 - 05:08

The government of New Zealand is permitting international students in the country to benefit from the Wage Subsidy Scheme if they are missing out on work due to the coronavirus pandemic.

The scheme, announced by finance minister Grant Robertson and social development minister Carmel Sepuloni on April 7, will support over 1 million workers – some 41% of the country’s workforce.

Over 12 weeks, the government will provide between NZ$8bn-NZ$12bn to businesses. For each full-time worker, businesses will receive a lump sum payment of $7,029.60, and for each part-time worker, $4,200.

It will cover part-time employees or those employed on a casual or contract basis

The wage subsidy will cover international students who are legally entitled to work and were employed by a New Zealand employer before the Covid-19 outbreak. It will cover part-time employees or those employed on a casual or contract basis.

Students are classified as essential workers and are able to increase their hours, but must still meet the study requirements of their student visa, Brett Berquist, director International at The University of Auckland highlighted.

As in Australia, the NZ government has removed the 20 hours per week cap for international students working at supermarkets over the four-week lockdown period, and for students working in healthcare sector for a three-month period.

While this is welcome news, student group NZISA is also advocating for tuition fee reductions for the first half of 2020.

In a media release entitled International Student Fees: What are we paying for?, the group writes “The value of the education international students are currently receiving is disproportionate to the cost they are paying to institutions.”

It suggests fee reimbursements of 50% for the first half of the academic year (lockdown began in New Zealand on 26 March) and fee reductions for the second half of the year “in the event that the New Zealand government decides to maintain Alert Level 3 or 4 in response to Covid-19”.

Stakeholders have also warned education providers in the country to brace for a drop in new international enrolments due to the global pandemic.

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UK: int’l students call tuition payment “painful”

mer, 04/08/2020 - 04:59

Almost half of the international student respondents to a recent survey by payments company Flywire have said they wouldn’t recommend a university to others if they experienced difficulties during the payment process.

Conducted in 2019, the survey interviewed 166 international students from China, Indonesia, India, Nigeria and Vietnam currently studying in the UK.

“If the students don’t feel they are getting [a good payment experience], then it really can begin to influence their view of the university”

With 63% of students noting that a “slow and painful” tuition fee payment process would negatively impact their view of the university, the research suggests institutions need to find a broader range of payment options for students that are adapted to payment preferences in their home countries.

These findings are particularly significant as six out of 10 respondents claimed that their experience of paying fees had been problematic.

Common issues included 53% being worried about security, 70% about the ability to track payments and 19% saying they had experienced hidden or unexpected charges such as foreign exchange rate conversions and extra bank fees.

“Sometimes we see universities that might have gone to recruit students from a new country and haven’t considered at all how they’ll make payments. They need to consider that because it’s an overall part of the process,” Simon Read, vice president of education, EMEA at Flywire told The PIE News.

“What really came out within the survey was the feedback that if the students don’t feel they are getting [a good payment experience] then it really can begin to influence their view of the university.”

Four out of five international students want to be able to pay their tuition digitally, including 13% by mobile.

A further 86% expressed a desire to be able to use a payment method popular in their home country, such as Alipay or Wechat for Chinese students, while two thirds would like to pay using their home currency.

Read told The PIE that he believes universities need to also consider that in light of the coronavirus outbreak, digital payments are going to be more necessary than ever, adding that Flywire may look into running the survey again in the future to assess its impact.

“If there were universities right now still insisting on a standard traditional bank transfer for students that are in different countries, potentially they’re asking them to physically go to a bank to make payments in the world where people are in lockdown,” he explained.

“The move to digital really is fairly critical right now because we shouldn’t be asking anybody to leave their homes in countries where they’re not supposed to in order to do physical bank payments.”

The report can be viewed here.

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Canada unis help with student self-isolation

mer, 04/08/2020 - 03:47

Canadian universities have introduced a range of measures to help international and domestic students returning to Canada from study abroad to self-isolate for 14 days upon entering the country to prevent the spread of coronavirus.

Canada revised its travel ban on the entry of foreign nationals last month to make exceptions for international students with permits issued before March 18.

“Universities across the country are…taking strong measures to encourage physical distancing”

At the University of Victoria in British Columbia, self-isolating students are being moved temporarily to private rooms with either private or specially designated bathroom facilities.

The university is also supplying masks, providing meal deliveries three times a day and encouraging students to stay in contact with friends and relatives digitally.

Similar measures can be seen on campuses across the country. The University of Alberta, Ontario Tech and the University of Calgary are also relocating students and trying to reduce the density in residential buildings and providing helplines for students in self-isolation.

“Universities across the country are following the directives of local, provincial and national health agencies and taking strong measures to encourage physical distancing,” Universities Canada president, Paul Davidson, told The PIE News.

“They are also reinforcing that all students, faculty and staff must self-isolate for 14 days if they are returning from travels, as directed by the federal government.”

The measures being taken are, however, limited to students staying in on-campus residences.

According to Statista, in 2018 only 15% of international students in Canada lived in university residences. Almost two-thirds rent accommodation either alone or with others, meaning that they are largely responsible for making their own arrangements.

“We’ve been assisting students who are returning and giving them the public health directives to self-isolate. We don’t expect these students to be returning to campus,” a spokesperson from the University of Waterloo told The PIE.

“For any of our students still in residence, about 900, we’ve put in social distancing measures and have space available for students should they need to self-isolate, which hasn’t happened at this point.”

Janice Johnson, assistant dean of Students (Residence) at the University of Alberta told The PIE that the health, safety, and well-being of students is the main priority.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for our students which is why we are continuing to provide support and resources for those who remain in our residences,” Johnson said.

“To maintain the safety of our residence community though, we are unable to accommodate temporary housing for non-residents who have been directed to self-monitor or self-isolate by Alberta health services.”

Johnson added that current residents who need to self-isolate are being accommodated and supported on a case-by-case basis, including current residents who have returned from travel abroad.

“We do want to provide support for those students who may be unable to return to their homes though, including our international students who may be unable to go home over the summer because of the COVID-19 outbreak in their home country.

“We understand that this is a difficult time for our students which is why we are continuing to provide support and resources”

“This is why our residences remain open, and why we are offering available temporary and long-term housing options to our students who may normally live off-campus,” she added.

Many international students have chosen to stay in their home countries and continue studying online rather than return immediately to Canada, despite measures put in place to support international students who are concerned about finances and visa issues.

The conditions which require self-isolation have also been expanded over the last few days. Several provinces, including Manitoba and Nova Scotia, have begun asking domestic travellers entering from other parts of the country to take the same measures as those returning from abroad.

Further north, travel bans are in place (with exceptions for residents and critical workers) in Nunavut and the Northwest Territories.

There have also been reports of people being turned back while trying to enter Quebec and Prince Edward Island, who have restricted entry to “essential travel” only.

Universities have additionally encouraged students to go online to avoid feeling completely isolated.

At the University of Toronto, one theatre and drama studies student has been performing Shakespeare via Zoom through an initiative called The Show Must Go Online, while others have been sharing advice from astronauts on how to cope with self-isolation.

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UK government to tackle foreign interference at universities 

mar, 04/07/2020 - 08:28

The UK government will tackle foreign interference at British universities by working with Universities UK and by promoting the diversification of international students, according to a document obtained by The PIE News. 

In November 2019, a Foreign Affairs Committee inquiry found “alarming evidence” of Chinese interference on UK campuses, and that the Foreign and Commonwealth Office was failing to protect academic freedom in the country. 

“The protection of academic freedom and freedom of speech lies at the heart of our HE system”

Entitled ‘A cautious embrace: defending democracy in an age of autocracies’, the FAC inquiry said that the FCO’s role in advising universities on the potential threats to academia from autocracies had been “non-existent”. 

It also claimed that the UK government had not engaged sufficiently with other departments to develop a coordinated response. 

Now the FCO has responded to the inquiry, acknowledging that academic research and innovation could be exploited by state or state-linked actors which do not respect fundamental rights and freedoms or who are hostile to UK interests. 

“The protection of academic freedom and freedom of speech lies at the heart of our higher education system,” the response read.

“The government is clear that any attempts to interfere with these core values will not be tolerated.”

According to FCO, there have been cases of autocratic state actors putting pressure on universities and academics in the UK to avoid certain topics or self-censor their research or course content. 

The department also explained that there have been reports of pressure or influence being exerted on overseas students and autocratic state actors targeting research collaboration. 

UK government departments, including the FCO, the Department for Education and the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy are now working together to identify and mitigate these risks.

The FCO has also turned to the HE sector and tasked Universities UK with addressing the full range of risks to institutions. 

“In light of the evolving threat of foreign interference to the higher education sector’s core values, infrastructure and research collaborations, the government has asked UUK to accelerate and expand their efforts—and the task and finish group they have established—to address the full range of risks,” the FCO response explained.

“Government will continue to support this sector-led approach by providing specialist advice and expertise.

“We consider that this sector-led approach, supported by the government, is the most effective strategy to address this challenge.”

A UUK spokesperson told The PIE that UK universities are global institutions and the value of their education, research and collaborations with global partners is essential.

 “Academic freedom, freedom of speech and institutional autonomy are critical to the success of the UK’s universities,” they noted.

“Protecting these characteristics in a constantly evolving landscape is of the utmost importance.

“Following the government’s response to the FAC report, Universities UK continues to work with the UK government on a range of initiatives to make sure that decisionmakers at universities have the information, advice and guidance they need to make informed choices.” 

The spokesperson said that UUK is set to publish guidelines to support decisionmakers in the autumn.

Countries around the world are keen to cooperate and share best practice to tackle the issue of foreign interference, according to the FCO.

The department explained that it is engaging with international partners including counterparts in the US and Australia, on the threats to academia. 

The FCO is using a network of posts, as well as bilateral and multilateral meetings in London and overseas at senior-official level, to raise the issue of interference in academia with trusted partners. 

The threat of autocracies using financial muscle to leverage influence through the withdrawal of funding was brought up in the FAC’s initial inquiry.

In response, the FCO has explained that greater student diversity will play a key role in protecting academic freedom. 

“The government is aware that some autocratic states have been known to use the threat of financial leverage to achieve their goals,” the response noted. 

“Universities will be well aware of the possible risks associated with dependence on a single source of funding, whether that is from a single organisation or from a single nation.”

The FCO said that the government’s International Education Strategy, which seeks to increase the number of international students in the UK to 600,000, will help to diversify student recruitment. 

“Recruiting international students on a sustainable basis is one way in which universities can protect themselves from these risks,” the FCO said. 

“Universities will be well aware of the possible risks associated with dependence on a single source of funding”

During the initial inquiry, the FAC suggested that the UK engage with Commonwealth countries to diversify student recruitment, and this point was acknowledged by the FCO. 

Nick Hillman, director of higher education think tank HEPI, said that some thought had gone into the government’s response but that it is “a little overly defensive and not altogether clear on international students.”

“It warns universities against relying on too few income streams before telling them to recruit international students from a broader range of countries,” he told The PIE.

“This is odd for two reasons. First, recruiting international students is done, in part, precisely to diversify income streams compared to the past.

“Secondly, if universities have been over-reliant on Chinese students’ fees relative to fees from other students, this is mainly the Government’s own responsibility – or rather the responsibility of the earlier [David] Cameron and [Theresa] May governments.”

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EAIE pens open letter to European Commission

mar, 04/07/2020 - 05:36

In response to the ongoing COVID-19 crisis, the European Association for International Education has delivered an open letter to the European Commission, applauding it on the steps taken so far and issuing an appeal for continued attention on several fronts.

EAIE president Sabine Pendl wrote that in light of the “extraordinary circumstances currently facing the international higher education community across Europe”, the association congratulated the EC for its fast action to issue essential practical advice on Erasmus+ and mobility.

“The EAIE is convinced that approaches to international education will be significantly altered”

“The challenges to mobility and to the normal operations of higher education institutions presented by the COVID-19 outbreak require flexibility from all of us,” wrote Pendl, adding that the EAIE would like to see all Erasmus National Agencies taking “decisive action” in support of those engaged in Erasmus+.

The letter also called for students receiving Erasmus+ grants to continue to collect financial support in full if they earn the necessary ECTS credits, regardless of how  (online or face-to-face) or  where  they are earned.

“The European Commission is asking higher education institutions to move in this direction so that the academic progress of students is preserved,” the letter added.

The third request was for students facing interruptions in their programs and who need extra time to complete coursework or requirements be given “reasonable flexibility with deadlines, taking into account everything from differing levels of internet access to time zone variables”.

“The EAIE encourages all the international education community to be generous and cooperative to make it possible for students to attain their goals,” wrote Pendl.

The letter also requested for careful attention to be paid to the mental health and emotional well-being of students who have been adversely affected by the crisis, and urged the EC to consider aligning the current plans for flexibility as much as possible.

It listed specific actions that should be taken now to safeguard that next generation of Erasmus+ programs.

“The course of the COVID-19 pandemic is uncertain, but the EAIE is convinced that approaches to international education will be significantly altered,”  added Pendl.

“The European Commission and the EAIE can and should be at the forefront of these developments.”

The letter in full can be read here.

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Santander & IE Foundation offer 15K+ scholarships

mar, 04/07/2020 - 01:20

Santander Universities and the IE Foundation have launched the Santander IE Education Aid Fund, which will aim to provide 15,500 digital scholarships to educators, university students and young professionals.

The training intends to develop “essential skills” required to navigate a new global landscape during and following the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We want our teachers to be better prepared to develop their learning skills, in face-to-face as well as digital environments”

A total of 10,000 school teachers and university professors will be eligible for the Santander IE Online Specialisation in Digital Education for Instructors course, aiming to teach tools for successful online course delivery.

A further 5,500 scholarships are available for university students and young professionals from 14 countries.

Students aged 20-35 are able to develop digital and leadership skills through the Santander IE Online Scholarships in Digital Strategy, Technology and Leadership, while 500 candidates will be able to take High Impact Online Programs via the Santander IE High Impact Online Program Learning Scholarships.

Those on the High Impact course will complete a five-week course in English or Spanish covering areas such as new technologies for business, digital marketing, leadership in times of uncertainty or data science and visualisation.

All scholarship recipients will receive training in English and Spanish and will be taught by IE University faculty.

“We do not know what the post-COVID19 education and labour market environment will be like, but what is foreseeable is that digital skills will be more decisive,” said Javier López, global director of Social Impact at Santander Universities.

“With this initiative we want our teachers to be better prepared to develop their learning skills, in face-to-face as well as digital environments and for young people to take better advantage of online training resources and acquire the necessary skills to successfully face a professional future that will be increasingly digitised.”

For an “institution linked to education”, it is the IE Foundation’s duty to support instructors around the globe, the organisation’s director-general Geoffroy Gérard said.

“[Instructors] are essential for the continuation of educational activity at this critical time,” he noted.

“Young people are also affected by the health emergency and can strongly benefit from programs that allow them to accelerate their learning curve and enhance their skills in digital transformation.”

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Germany: FDSV members see 15% drop in 2019

lun, 04/06/2020 - 09:17

The number of language learners travelling from Germany via Association of German Language Schools and Language-Tour Operators (FDSV) members dropped by 15% in 2019, while the length of programs are continuing to shorten, statistics have revealed.

The language school and travel sector has come to a “complete standstill” due to the coronavirus pandemic, the survey noted. In 2019, the FDSV estimated that around 140,000 language student travelled overseas from Germany.

“We know from countless conversations with disappointed customers…that the need for other forms of teaching is enormous”

“One thing is for sure, the need for language training remains high,” FDSV said.

In 2019, English strengthened its position as most popular language choice for clients booking via FDSV, the choice language for 79% of customers overall. In 2018, it represented 76.5%.

In terms of choice destination, the UK increased in popularity and grew 5% – being selected by half of FDSV bookings in 2019. Other destinations remained stable or dropped slightly.

However, “trends and views are under the current circumstances hardly possible”, the organisation indicated, adding that providers in Germany are trying to bridge the difficult situation with alternative online language courses.

“We know from countless conversations with disappointed customers who had to cancel their language study trip at Easter that the need for other forms of teaching is enormous,” chair of the FDSV Board of Directors Peter Schuto said.

Should the situation be relaxed by May, a portion of the summer business can still be saved, according to FSDV.

However, all school trips are cancelled until the end of July, when the school year finishes. Educators will have to hope for this to return next year, the organisation said.

“In the adult sector, bookings will most likely pick up again quickly.” The booking behaviour for young learners will depend more on global travel warnings being rescinded. 

Young learners made up around 64% of all clients – “significantly larger” than the adult sector at 36%.

The costs of courses decreased by almost 5% compared with the previous year – with the average price standing at around €1,261 and lasting just under 14 days.

Since 2017, the average price of language trips has dropped by around 17%.

Released in conjunction with Hochschule Heilbronn FDSV’s market survey results have been released in the middle of the corona crisis.

Despite indications of reductions in numbers study travel students from Germany, the organisation noted that direct comparisons with last year’s survey are difficult due to different companies taking part in the survey.

Beyond the coronavirus crisis, providers will also have to wait to see how Brexit and the USA’s political course affects the number of Germans travelling overseas for language training.

FDSV also added that to its knowledge there are around 95 providers of language travel courses in Germany – half of these follow German travel law with the remainder not assuming liability for trips booked.

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Aus: int’l students to be given access to superannuation savings

lun, 04/06/2020 - 05:05

Australia will allow international students access to retirement savings that they have accumulated while working in the country if they are facing financial difficulties due to the coronavirus.

The announcement has been hailed as a “positive step”, and will benefit students who have been unable to access government payments, such as the new JobKeeper funding – introduced as a result of the pandemic.

“My message to our international students is: you are our friends, our classmates, our colleagues”

Currently only offered upon leaving Australia, the new legislation will provide international students who have been in the country longer than 12 months with immediate access to accumulated superannuation (pension program) funds.

Applications for the early release of superannuation will be accepted through the government website from 20 April.

Acting minister for Immigration, Alan Tudge, said the changes announced will help temporary visa holders who may have lost work hours as a result of the coronavirus continue to support themselves while in the country.

“In line with changes being made for Australian citizens and permanent residents, most temporary visa holders with work rights will now be able to access their Australian superannuation to help support themselves during this crisis,” he said.

However, echoing sentiments shared by the Australian prime minister on April 3, Tudge added that temporary visa holders unable to support themselves under the arrangement over the coming six months are “strongly encouraged to return home”.

“For these individuals, it’s time to go home, and they should make arrangements as quickly as possible,” he said.

Tudge added that the government will further engage with the international education sector, which is already providing some financial support for students. Some providers are offering fee discounts, he said.

Minister for Education in Australia Dan Tehan added that the government “continues to work with universities and the international education sector to minimise the impact of COVID-19, and that includes finding innovative ways to support international students”.

Those students working in aged care and as nurses will also be permitted to work beyond the 40 hours per fortnight that international students are limited to.

Students employed in major supermarkets also had those hours extended to “help get stock on shelves during the high demand”,  but that extension will be removed from May 1, the government added.

“I also encourage our international students to take advantage of the mental health support offered by their education provider. My message to our international students is: you are our friends, our classmates, our colleagues and members of our community,” Tehan said.

A message on international students

— Dan Tehan (@DanTehanWannon) April 4, 2020

The Queensland International Education and Training Advisory Group has proposed a National Hardship Fund, in an open letter to the prime minister Scott Morrison.

“As part of the COVID-19 response package, we are requesting your government to urgently consider establishing a National Hardship Fund to support the International Education and Training sector,” the letter read.

The industry is “subject to severe stress”, with the country’s 570,000 intentional students and its providers at risk.

“Without some support, these students will become a public health and humanitarian risk for the Federal, State and Territory governments,” it continued.

Universities and TAFE face “significant financial challenges”, while private colleges and English language schools are “at imminent risk of closure”.

“We believe that it is imperative to help keep the doors of our education institutions open, and provide support to alleviate the hardship being experienced by these students, many of whom have lost part-time jobs, and are struggling to meet their tuition and accommodation payments while finding money for food and groceries,” the letter noted.

“Given the lack of any political appetite from the major parties to permit international students’ access to welfare programs currently available to Australian citizens, a National Hardship Fund appears to be our best way forward,” chief executive of the IEAA, Phil Honeywood explained.

“We believe that it is imperative to…provide support to alleviate the hardship being experienced by these students”

Although many ELICOS students will not be able to access Australian superannuation or benefit from relaxed working opportunities, the initiatives are “positive steps towards including measures for international education in national support packages”, Brett Blacker CEO at English Australia said.

“Each week of this pandemic seems to bring a new challenge, but I am confident that our sector can meet these challenges,” Blacker noted.

“The ELICOS sector is full of innovative and passionate people, who are all working together to keep our sector alive and our students supported through the greatest challenge that our sector has ever faced,” he added.

“Any country that decides that international education is going to become a major industry… they need to be able to show that it’s a two-way street,” Honeywood told SBS News.

“That in difficult times, there is an acknowledgement that these young people do need help on a case by case hardship basis.”

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Develop “proper” online solution, ELT providers told

lun, 04/06/2020 - 02:03

Education providers need to develop a “proper solution” for delivering English language programs or risk closing down, an edtech entrepreneur has warned.

Jarrad Merlo, the co-founder of Australia-based E2Language, is urging English language providers to ramp up online provisions. The provider has recently launched its E2 classroom platform.

“We’ve spoken to a number of teachers and they’re starting to burn out with lesson preparation”

Failure to adapt to a new market caused by the coronavirus pandemic will cause staff burnout and slumps in revenue, which could lead to the closure of some schools for good, Merlo suggested.

In an article published online, Merlo laid out short-term workarounds for providers struggling with digital conversion of their courses.

“I’m raising my hand as the co-founder of this platform to say, ‘hey, you know, we can help you out’,” he told The PIE News.

“We’ve spoken to a number of teachers and they’re starting to burn out with lesson preparation – the shift to technology is a pretty stressful time for those guys.”

E2Language – endorsed by NEAS – has been building its E2 classroom platform for the last two years, and it is now reaching out to English language providers on to it.

The provider is currently working with the University of Queensland, Pearson – on its PTE academic test – and Cambridge Boxhill Language Assessment owned Occupational English Test.

E2Language can “get a school up and running on the platform really quickly”, Merlo explained.

“What seems to have happened is that [providers are] so concentrated on the present moment that they are just doing whatever they can,” he said. They’re not looking for a solid proper solution.

“Zoom screen sharing documents from your desktop is not going to fly for longer than a couple of weeks,” Merlo said.

“If you don’t shift to a proper solution in the next two weeks, I think students will leave.”

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Canada: some int’l students eligible for support

ven, 04/03/2020 - 07:22

The Canada Emergency Response Benefit, which provides temporary income support of CAN$500 a week for up to 16 weeks to those who stopped working because of COVID-19, has been confirmed available for international students if they meet certain requirements. 

According to a post on the Canadian government website, CERB is available to those resident in Canada who have stopped working because of COVID-19 and have not voluntarily quit their job; who had an income of at least $5,000 in 2019 or in the 12 months prior to the date of their application; and who are or expect to be without employment or self-employment income for at least 14 consecutive days in the initial four-week period.

“If you are a student who had a job last year and were planning on working this summer you do not qualify for the benefit”

“Workers who are not Canadian citizens or permanent residents – including temporary foreign workers and international students – may be eligible to receive the benefit if they meet the other eligibility requirements,” the government statement explained.

The statement explained that the benefit is “only available to individuals who stopped work as a result of reasons related to COVID-19”.

“If you are looking for a job but haven’t stopped working because of COVID-19, you are not eligible for the benefit.

“For example, if you are a student who had a job last year and were planning on working this summer you do not qualify,” it read.

Good news: The Canada Emergency Response Benefit (CERB) is confirmed to be available for international students

— CBIE | BCEI (@CBIE_BCEI) April 2, 2020

The announcement has raised concerns for some students in Canada, including graduating students looking for summer work who won’t qualify for the benefit.

“Extremely disappointing to hear that the CERB announced from the federal government does not support students who had intended to work this upcoming summer. This gap in eligibility means that students may not be able to afford rent or tuition in the fall semester,” wrote one academic officer on Twitter.

“Many students do not qualify for [Employment Insurance] and rely on seasonal summer employment as a means of collecting savings for the year ahead. Students who have already had many plans derailed, are left wondering how they will get by and/or if they will return to school in the fall.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Philip Shea, an international education specialist based in Ontario, suggested that many international students would be eligible considering their allocation of 20 hours per week part-time study.

Many working in Canada for four or five months would have earned around CAN$5,000, he estimated.

CBIE president and CEO, Larissa Bezo, described it as an “unprecedented time of challenge for students studying in Canada”, both domestic and international students.

“Education institutions across Canada are deeply committed to providing the necessary supports to international students presently studying in Canada, including academic accommodations, support for their mental well-being, emergency financial assistance for students in need, housing support, technical support, and the likes,” she told The PIE.

“In addition to the initiatives and efforts of individual educational institutions, we are encouraged with the responsiveness of policymakers in responding to the input of key stakeholders in working to quickly to introduce greater flexibility to existing immigration and other frameworks in Canada to support our students at this critical time.”

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