The PIE News

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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
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“For established providers of online learning, it’s business as usual”

ven, 04/03/2020 - 06:20

Carl Lygo, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Arden University, explains how universities will need to adapt to a “new normal” of supporting students online following Covid-19.

“Now more than ever, the world needs higher education. Experts are on the front line fighting this pandemic, and science is the guide in this battle. In the inevitable economic recession that the world is entering, people will be looking to upskill and take refuge whilst the world adapts to a “new normal”.

The higher education industry has shown great resilience in dealing with the recessions of the past, and I am sure the entrepreneurial zeal of the sector will shine through to support people in their hour of need.

“I am sure the entrepreneurial zeal of the sector will shine through to support people in their hour of need”

Arden University is currently delivering 100% online education worldwide supported by an amazing team of people all fully working from home. Our experts have carried on throughout this pandemic so that our students are able to make the most of the global “working from home” philosophy.

Therefore, there is absolutely no need for our students to put their careers on hold. We have continued developing the university, offering new degree programmes targeting the jobs of the future.

The majority of our students study purely online, but we also have teaching centres in Berlin, Birmingham, London and Manchester where students study partly online and face to face. We have replaced these face to face classes with online face to face teaching, training all faculty on the use of our preferred software within the space of a couple of days. Communication has been the key throughout the organisation.

Traditional degree providers who rely on the uniqueness of their real estate, their halls of residence, and whom have a de-centralised approach to the delivery of teaching are really going to struggle to adapt. I have seen this for myself with my children’s schooling. I have five children aged nine through to 16, and I have been witnessing their schools attempts to deliver online education.

“International students are going to ask tough questions about how their university dealt with the coronavirus”

The teachers have been a bit reluctant to embrace new technology, hardly offering any face to face online classes, and the interaction has been minimal. My youngest boy said to me that it is “fake school” because it is online. I then showed him an Arden University online class and he asked me why his school could not be like this.

The truth is that it takes time to develop a proper online pedagogy, but I am hopeful that out of this pandemic there will arise a widespread acceptance that online can be even better than traditional campus-based education. Campus-based universities are probably hoping that the consequences of this pandemic are going to be over in the next six weeks, but I just don’t see how that is realistic.

Even if there are not second and third waves of infection as countries come in and out of lock downs, students are not necessarily going to want to travel immediately. We are now always going to be thinking about the next mutation of the virus, and when will the next pandemic happen.

The new “normal” for the world is going to be very different to the globalisation we have been familiar with. I am sure we will still see flows of students travelling to study, but it will take time to build confidence again.

International students are going to ask tough questions about how their university dealt with the coronavirus. Were students evicted from their accommodation and made to feel unwanted?

The German government has announced a financial aid package for international students as well as automatic visa extensions. I think students will want to reduce the risk of being caught in such a pandemic again, and will seek more innovative ways of completing a degree.

I was one of the first to sign up as a NHS Volunteer, and we are supporting our colleagues at Arden University to also volunteer on full pay. It is so important at this time to support the wider communities that we all belong to.

Education is about helping others and our team have devoted their careers to helping students achieve their ambitions. It is only natural we want to help the NHS at this time.

2021 is going to be the year for those who have seized the opportunity and adapted. In my office I have a framed quote from Winston Churchill: “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.”

Carl Lygo, Vice-Chancellor and CEO of Arden University

Previous columns:

“We will survive. We have to”: View from AIFS, Bill Gertz

How do you show solidarity virtually?, Ruth Arnold


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NZ unis brace for significant drop in int’l students

ven, 04/03/2020 - 05:24

After closing its borders to most travellers in mid-March, New Zealand’s educational institutions are bracing for the impact of a drop in international student numbers.

Student visa holders can no longer enter the country unless an exception is made by Immigration New Zealand, while those currently in New Zealand have seen their visas automatically extended to September 25.

The country had recently reported an uptick in international student numbers at universities – post-study work rights had made it a more popular destination with Indian students, for example – with numbers growing 9.8% in 2018.

“Our major issue is not knowing how long the borders will be closed”

“New Zealand universities are facing the situation where they will have at least a quarter to one-third of their international students not turning up this year,” Universities New Zealand’s chief executive Chris Whelan told The PIE News.

“This will have a carryover effect next year, with uncertainty around borders opening and changing economic circumstances in the countries many of our international students come from.”

While Whelan added that universities are trying to adapt by “moving term dates, moving to block courses, and moving all learning online”, uncertainty over when students can return makes planning difficult.

“Our major issue is not knowing how long the borders will be closed. We are doing scenario planning but it is too early to say anything at this stage,” he said.

Immigration New Zealand has encouraged students to contact their education provider to discuss learning arrangements, adding that online attendance will be recorded.

“Providers have been agile and innovative in their responses. Many have moved to online delivery to continue to provide teaching and learning,” Grant McPherson, chief executive of Education New Zealand, told The PIE.

“Government agencies are also working closely together to identify and resolve issues for students and the sector. This includes developing modelling of future scenarios.”

In terms of language schools, the 22 members of English New Zealand usually enrol about 17,000 students a year.

With a little over 3,000 still in classes and the prospect of new students low – as is the case for language centres in the UK – the sector is hoping for extra government support.

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Australian PM says no financial assistance, agency groups work for wider support

ven, 04/03/2020 - 04:41

Australia’s PM Scott Morrison has said during a press statement that international students, if they cannot support themselves, should consider returning home – pointing out that a requirement of visa issuance is showing proof of funds to support their first year of study.

More than a million people in Australia on temporary visas, including many international students, are excluded from recently unveiled government assistance packages. 

Morrison said that exceptions had been made however for some temporary residents: “For those backpackers in Australia who are nurses or doctors, or have other critical skills that can really help us during this crisis, then there will be opportunities for them,” said Morrison.

He was referring to a policy move that enables two profiles of student to work beyond their visa-allocated part-time hours: nursing students working in aged care, and for major grocery retailers.

“It is not an unreasonable expectation of the government that students would be able to fulfil the commitment that they gave [to be able to afford first year of study],” said Morrison, speaking to the press.

His statement comes in a week which saw active campaigning from agency associations representing big student communities in the country.

The Association of Australian Education Representatives in Nepal had been advocating for Nepalese students in Australia to be included in government assistance packages and given AUS$1,000 to help them cope with the fallout of the coronavirus epidemic.

The association’s president Dwiraj Sharma said that many Nepalese students in Australia have lost their part-time jobs. Nepal is the third-largest source of international students in the country.

“[It] will place an additional burden on them which could well result in their financial ruin”

According to Sharma, the Nepalese economy is in “free-fall” and the likelihood of parents of Nepalese students in Australia having to pay the fees of their children “will place an additional burden on them which could well result in their financial ruin”. 

The confirmation from Morrison came after the Australian government launched a $189 billion coronavirus economic rescue package to support small businesses, welfare recipients and those who lose their jobs as a result of the pandemic.

At Austrade, Rebecca Hall acknowledged that their job was not to set policy but to work to support international student communities.

She said there was a lot of work going on behind the scenes to ensure that international students could be supported during a difficult time – and that accommodation operators also had a seat at the Global Reputation Taskforce working to achieve this.

“We do know that students and temporary workers are significantly impacted in terms of jobs in hospitality and other retail areas closing, as many Australians are, of course,” she told The PIE News.

“The student support services offered by institutions, but also augmented by state and territory partners, are going to be really critical in the coming months. And we at Austrade are meeting with the states and territories on a weekly basis, working through practical and creative ways that we can support students.”


Meanwhile, AAERI in India has launched a petition calling for a delay to the July intake in Australia to allow students in India and Nepal more time to prepare to study abroad, sit English language tests in some cases and access loans, given the global lockdown and impact on usual preparation services.

Ravi Lochan Singh, president of AAERI India, commented on Morrison’s recent statement.

“The PM is factually correct that international students should have availability of costs for living without being dependent on part-time jobs,” he said.

“However it is also a reality that the Covid-19 situation is unexpected and it is possible that there are some international students who are not able to receive the funds too suddenly from their home countries.”

“Some universities have funded the cost of laptops to enable online mode of study”

Lochan Singh said however that universities had been very responsive to the evolving situation. “Universities have put aside funds to assist the international students and some have also funded the cost of laptops and such to enable online mode of study,” he told The PIE News.

“AAERI sincerely thanks the universities who have come forward to help the international students.

“The AAERI petition has been very well received,” he added. “I have had discussions on this with several university policy makers and am told that most universities are determined to either defer the July intake and/or have an additional intake in the later part of the year.”

He added that some institutions want to offer the July intake as an online option to new students, where the students join the study on campus once the travel restrictions are withdrawn.

“However, Department of Home Affairs in a recent webinar informed that there is no visa required for online study if undertaken offshore and there was clear indication that fresh visas will not be issued till the travel restrictions are [updated],” he revealed.

“Thus to expect new students to start their study in an online mode even before the visa is issued for their travel later in the year is possibly expecting too much. I would strongly recommend that the July intake is deferred to September or October 2020.”

Lochan Singh added that the Indian community had also been extending assistance to international students. “Several Indian restaurants are offering free takeaway food for affected international students,” he related.

Additional reporting by Will Nott.

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CEG Digital & Uni of Portsmouth announce p’ship

ven, 04/03/2020 - 02:29

OPM provider CEG Digital and the UK’s University of Portsmouth have announced has announced the establishment of Portsmouth Online with the aim of delivering “high quality online postgraduate degree programs to students around the world”.

“The partnership will help us deliver high-quality online education to new student cohorts”

From early 2021, the University of Portsmouth, through Portsmouth Online, intends to offer an initial portfolio of postgraduate taught programs purposely designed for working professionals and primarily delivered online with opportunities for face-to-face workshops.

The initial program suite is going to cover curricular areas of data analytics, construction project management, resilience management, international human resource management and cybercrime.

The programs will be led by Portsmouth academic staff, supported by specialist tutors offering 24/7 support.

“The university has ambitious strategic objectives to widen its reach and expand its presence in international educational markets. I am confident that the partnership with CEG Digital will help us deliver high-quality online education to new student cohorts,” explained Paul Hayes, deputy vice-chancellor.

“This partnership shows our determination to grow the reputation of the university internationally and be recognised for academic excellence that helps create the workforce of the future.”

Geoff Webster, managing director of CEG Digital, added: “We are really excited to be working with Portsmouth and helping them fully access the global online learning market for the benefit of prospective students.

He said that global demand for post-secondary education is expected to rise to 263 million students by 2025.

“Universities will not be able to meet this level of demand by traditional delivery. Through our collaborative partnership model, we provide a unique combination of financial resources, pedagogical expertise in a sophisticated digital environment, global market knowledge and an international salesforce.”

“This partnership will significantly extend the range of digital learning opportunities across all levels of our study programs,” added Hayes.

“Increased digital innovation and flexibility will become an important feature of our on and off-campus courses, which will make our outstanding and innovative education available to students around the world, even if they don’t study on our campus.”

Universities have shown increased interest in developing online courses over the last few years, particularly this year due to the coronavirus outbreak which has led institutions turning to edtech to continue classes.

Most that do so opt to work with outside providers who offer a range of services including recruiting, marketing and technological know-how to develop courses.

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Flexible starts, new test rules: UK HEIs address financial risks of Covid-19

jeu, 04/02/2020 - 10:35

The coronavirus pandemic is threatening international enrolment numbers at UK higher education institutions for 2020, which could lead to huge financial losses for institutions, industry leaders have been warned.

While some indicate that universities are seeking to mitigate the impact by focusing on pre-sessional English provisions, concerns surrounding visa applications and widespread student anxiety remains.

Chief executive of Universities UK, Alistair Jarvis, has called for government support at a time when the COVID-19 pandemic threatens a “major financial hit” which would put a lot more universities in a “tough position”.

“We are closer to a university going bust than we have been at any point in living memory”

“You have got a top-end risk of £7 billion of income, which would be well over 20% of university income next year,” he said, adding that most international students are currently making decisions about where they will be studying.

“We are closer to a university going bust than we have been at any point in living memory,” added Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute.

Speaking with The PIE News, founder of university specialists The University Guys and podcast presenter, David Hawkins, said that among the fear and uncertainty, it is “really difficult to talk about the sector as a whole”.

“Everybody’s concerns are going to be different,” he said. “If an institution recruits mostly from its local area, then they’re probably going to be okay.

“If it has 25% of its student body from overseas and mostly from China, then they’re probably not going to be okay, and every variation in between.”

Other sources suggested the Russell Group universities relying on high numbers of students from China could be at risk.

“[Some Russell Group institutions], their postgrad provision – we are talking 15,000-20,000 international students per year – what are they going to do if restrictions stay in play?” one source told The PIE.

“I worry about their future because I think there are going to be mass redundancies.”

Some institutions have already noted a reduction in applications from China this year, with some down between 30-40% for the 2020 intake.

“I’d estimate that we’ll be around 40% down in China, but will stay relatively consistent across all other markets,” one non-Russell Group university told The PIE.

“Overall, that would put us around 25% down this year. It is likely though that we’ll push a lot of students towards a January intake.”

And student anxiety is adding pressure to worries about how international destinations are perceived by prospective students, with one recent survey revealing 86% of 9,000 Chinese students studying overseas wish to return home.

But it’s not just students from China who are being impacted by the uncertainty.

“We just don’t know what the situation is going to be [for] so many different factors: whether will kids be able to come, when will they be able to come – it’s going to be so individual to each country,” said Hawkins at The University Guys.

Brian McNamara, International Recruitment Manager (Asia) at the University of Brighton, said the university is “putting in place a wide range of mitigations” for assessment.

“So far this has included flexibility around start dates, online delivery of pre-sessionals and accepting a broader range of English language assessments but we have a range of additional measures coming in the pipeline,” McNamara indicated.

Others suggested that institutions may bring in multiple intakes throughout the year, including potentially introducing undergraduate courses starting in January.

The University of Bristol has worked to recognise new methods of assessment said the head of International Student Recruitment, Charlie Pybus, such as adding the Duolingo test to its list for 2020’s entry.

“Clearly there are significant barriers for applicants this year…from lack of English testing availability to inability to apply for visas coupled with the anxiety that the situation is causing for students,” he explained.

Bristol has developed an online pre-sessional course to be offered alongside on-campus options, as well as a suite of opportunities for students to engage with the university virtually over the coming months, Pybus added.

“This work will be ongoing as the situation develops across key recruitment markets working closely with a range of stakeholders to understand student concerns and issues, and act to address them.”

Despite the ongoing pandemic, the UK remains a popular prospective study abroad destination, with a new QS report revealing that over 85% of 11,000 prospective international students originally intending to study at a UK university were still open to applying.

“There are significant barriers…from lack of English testing availability to inability to apply for visas”

In response to the survey, Eva Crossan Jory, NUS vice president (Welfare) said institutions need to provide clear communication to all international student applicants and flexibility around start dates, teaching provision and accommodation.

“We would urge the government to demonstrate flexibility in adapting to the difficulties some international students will now face in gaining Tier 4 visas for study and to do all they can to help them come to the UK for the start of the next academic year,” she said.

The reliance on international students “paying over the odds”, demonstrated that the sector’s marketisation is unsustainable and inequitable, she added.

“If more than half the expected intake of international students chose to defer entry or study elsewhere the financial impact on the higher education sector would be grave.”

Additional reporting by Kerrie Kennedy

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Asia ESL industry native English teacher pipeline “empty”

jeu, 04/02/2020 - 05:10

Until China announced it would be closing its borders to non-citizens, schools in the country were doing their best to try to recruit new foreign English language teachers for public schools and training centres, with one chain offering recruiters bonuses of over £800 for every teacher that started before May.

As schools in China’s western provinces reopen and the travel ban takes effect, recruiting English teachers from outside the country is going to be significantly more difficult for an industry that already suffers from a severe shortage of qualified staff. It’s an issue that is likely to impact the ESL industry across Asia.

According to the International TEFL Academy, around 100,000 ESL jobs open up every year – a large proportion of which are in Asia – with only half of all teachers renewing their annual contracts. In China and South Korea, around 1,000 new teachers are hired every month.

“There’s hundreds and thousands of small schools that rely on native language foreign teachers,” explains Jean-Pierre Guittard, owner of edtech company

“You can reopen your school, but where are the teachers going to be?”

“Often these are young people with a technical certificate [TEFL, CELTA, etc.]. Those people are suddenly without employment so they’ve all gone home. And so the concern is, what happens afterwards? You can reopen your school, but where are the teachers going to be?”

Guittard tells The PIE News that his company’s virtual classroom platform has seen a “substantial” increase in interest from ESL schools in Asia.

While some have switched online and been able to keep their teachers employed, institutes are now looking ahead to when those contracts end. Travel bans, lockdowns and unwillingness to travel are going to diminish the number of teaching job candidates.

“They’re gonna have to work harder to recruit new teachers,” he says. “It’s a huge process involving work permits, filtering applicants and training. It’s not simply putting an ad out like here in San Francisco, where I can find a qualified teacher, interview them and if they’re good, they can start in a few days or the next day.”

“It will take months to revamp and to rebuild their staff. Those schools always had an ongoing pipeline of people coming in. That pipeline is empty now.”

How schools react to coronavirus is also going to impact their reputation. Teachers working for some schools – including top brands – have reported being fired and unpaid as a result of the outbreak.

Several reviews from one major chain’s employees claim that the company “took half of every staff member’s February payment with only one week’s notice”.

“You can’t have a four-year-old kid sitting in front of a screen for two hours”

An article from the Japan Times noted that some employers there had also refused to pay foreign teachers (in violation of local law) and that the coronavirus has exposed gaps in Japan Exchange and Teaching contracts that don’t offer staff any protection in the case of serious illness or natural disasters closing their workplace.

In Vietnam, the business model of schools is largely determining their outlook. Those catering to test preparation and older students are finding adopting edtech easier and are able to keep their staff on.

At the English language chain YOLA, where Nam Nguyen is general director, the transition to online learning has been relatively painless. Although some teachers have left, the majority have stayed on.

“We’ve got about 350 teachers in our centres and about 30 teachers have left the country. The majority have returned to their home countries rather than looking for work somewhere else,” Nguyen tells The PIE.

“Others have also resigned from YOLA and taken work with Chinese companies online like VIP Kid but they are still based here. So some of them are waiting out the crisis and then people will be offline again.”

But Nguyen adds that schools who are more reliant on foreign teachers – YOLA has a roughly 50:50 split between foreign and local ones – and those that cater to younger students are seeing their business suffer most severely.

“You can’t have a four-year-old kid sitting in front of a screen for two hours. Classroom management is a whole new sort of dynamic for that type of teacher,” he said.

Although schools are due to open in Vietnam in April – it is likely to be pushed back, however – some parents have also decided they will be keeping younger children at home for the rest of the semester. In this case, it may give some schools a breather.

“So there may be a demand for teacher recruitment in more specialist subjects,” Nguyen says.

“But I can’t imagine kindergarten teachers or general English teachers for younger students being in high demand because of consumer behaviour.”

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US: FEA awards 124 flexible scholarships

jeu, 04/02/2020 - 02:48

The Fund for Education Abroad has increased access to international education by granting 124 new scholarships to US students consistently underrepresented in study abroad.

These flexible scholarships are deferrable through summer 2021, a new offering introduced by FEA to help their new scholars survive the current disruption to higher education caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“In an economic downturn, scholarships are necessary to get students on programs”

Including this new cohort, a total of 590 scholars, including minority, first-generation college and community college students, have benefited from over US$2.1 million in scholarships granted since FEA’s inception in 2010.

This year, 88% of awarded scholars are first-generation college students, 94% are minority, and 35% either transferred from or are attending a community college.

“In finalist interviews over the past two weeks, students overwhelmingly expressed resolve to pursue their study abroad dreams,” said FEA executive director, Jennifer Calvert.

“In an economic downturn, scholarships are necessary to get students on programs. FEA is the only non-governmentally funded national study abroad scholarship provider.”

New this year are four named and dedicated scholarships, including the first-ever funded by an FEA Scholar, the Breakout Scholarship for Community College Students.

Also new are the Eleni Zachariou Memorial Scholarship for Study in Greece, the Holland America Line Scholarship for Students Studying Travel and Tourism, and the Kacenga-Cladera Family Rainbow Scholarship.

The American University in Cairo and the University of Auckland have also funded two new Access Partner Scholarships.

“We expect FEA will be a vital resource to the study abroad sector as it emerges from the current global health and economic crisis,” said FEA chair, Anne Krieg.

“We are particularly grateful to the donors funding six new scholarships, and to all our supporters and partners who have helped us award more than $2 million in scholarships in a decade.”

Have you taken a look at the recently awarded #FEAscholars yet? Learn more about the 124 deserving American undergraduates who accepted “planning scholarships”–to be used anytime before summer 2021–on our website:

— Fund for Education Abroad (@FEAScholarships) March 29, 2020

FEA funds scholarships of up to $10,000 for study abroad, enabling students to study across the globe for a minimum of four weeks to a full academic year.

Selected from a pool of over 2,350 applicants, the 2020 FEA Scholars represent 94 higher education institutions across the US.

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MyGU wins €150,000 grant to further expand

jeu, 04/02/2020 - 01:03

Germany-based edtech startup, MyGermanUniversity, has been awarded €150,000 in public funding grants as it relocates to Germany’s second largest city, Hamburg.

Winning the “InnoRampUp” early-stage grant, MyGU is seeking to further expand the online platform for international students.

The portal has a database of more than 1,650 English-language master’s programs available in Germany. In total, the site shows 20,000 courses at more than 400 universities in Germany.

“We have developed an algorithm that guides students through the individual steps of their journey to a master’s in Germany”

The grant was made possible by IFB Innovationsstarter, a subsidiary of Hamburgische Investitions- und Förderbank, which supports technologically innovative early-stage start-ups.

MyGU has previously been funded by EXIST-Gründerstipendium – Business start-up grant – provided by the Federal Ministry of Economics and Energy in 2018/19.

The founders – Tobias Bargmann and Stephan Paulini – previously worked for the German Academic Exchange Service, heading up the Italian and Peruvian offices, respectively.

With the funding, MyGU will be expanded into the “first personalised platform on the topic of ‘Studying in Germany'”, according to Bargmann.

“So far, all portals that list study programs or provide information about studying abroad leave the students more or less alone with the key challenge: What is relevant for me (and when) in order to start my studies abroad,” he told The PIE News.

“With ‘MyRoadmap’ we have developed an algorithm that guides students through the individual steps of their journey to a master’s in Germany, depending on their profile and the desired project. The first section of this is to go online in the course of the year,” he explained.

MyGU will also add all English-taught bachelor programs that the German universities offer prior to that, Bargmann added.

Moving from Berlin to Hamburg, the company will benefit from an “even more dynamic” university landscape.

“Per capita, Hamburg even has more German universities than the capital, including the University of Hamburg – which has been awarded one of the universities of excellence in 2019, for the first time – but also a number of rapidly growing private and well-renowned universities, including Bucerius Law School, Kühne Logistics University,” Bargmann added.

However, MyGU remains a national platform that provides international students with the “best possible information about all German universities”.

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86% Chinese students want to return home

mer, 04/01/2020 - 10:40

Approximately 86% of Chinese students currently studying abroad wish to return to China, with almost two-thirds of those surveyed in a new report from the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association saying they aren’t satisfied with the actions their host countries are taking to halt the spread of coronavirus.

The BOSSA report, published on March 23, includes responses from almost 9,000 students studying outside of China.

“How educators respond during this time matters more than any other”

The majority of interviewees were doing courses in the US (30%) and the UK (27%). Students in 20 countries were included in the survey, of which just over half were undergraduates and 11% were under the age of 18.

Like many students, their top concerns were getting infected, the impact of coronavirus on their studies and being unable to return home.

Almost nine out of 10 are in countries where the number of cases is considered “moderate” or “severe”.

“How educators respond during this time matters more than any other. Choosing not to enrol next semester is now an option being heavily weighted by some students and parents,” BOSSA spokesperson Jon Santangelo told The PIE News.

Educators should be proactive in reaching out to their Chinese and international students.

“They need to ensure these students have all their essentials or see if they require assistance, from help in finding a flight back home or an apartment if student housing isn’t an option, to psychological counselling.”

Chinese state media has been documenting the work of embassies in providing support for students in a number of countries, including in the UK where more than 8,000 students have received epidemic guides and medical kits.

The Chinese ambassador to the UK, Liu Xiaoming, said that the embassy was in contact with more than 150 universities hosting Chinese students.

Some 13% of students in the report being told to take surgical masks off, with one case in the UK where a student was told to either take his mask off or leave the school, which resulted in the student leaving.

For students that wish to return to China – although half aren’t planning to – 94% say they are prohibited by the cost and shortage of flights.

Fares have risen drastically and routes can now require changing in as many as three different countries. A flight next week to Beijing from London currently costs over £800, while one from New York to the Chinese capital weighs in at £1,500.

Others say they worry about being able to return to study if they choose to leave and the impact it would have on their education.

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Int’l students in Europe face accommodation worries due to pandemic

mer, 04/01/2020 - 07:46

International students across Europe are facing unprecedented problems with their accommodation and some even fear homelessness because of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a new survey and student advocacy leaders. 

Accommodation providers and landlords in many countries are demanding that students continue to pay their rent as per their contracts, even if they have returned home, or if they can no longer work because of lockdowns. 

“It’s a terrible situation…it’s destroying students’ whole experience”

The scale of the issue has been revealed in a survey by The Class of 2020, which shows that 40% of accommodation providers are allowing students that returned home to cancel their contract, while the remaining 60% are keeping students in their contracts, with some offering rent discounts.

Conducted in March, the survey was taken by 38 organisations who are the key players in the student accommodation industry, including the leading operators, investors, suppliers, associations and universities across Europe.

Of the respondents who took part, 24% stated they are providing a rent-free period and 17% are providing discounts. 

The severity of the situation for international students studying in Europe often depends on whether they are receiving funding. 

For those who have remained in their host countries, university dormitories have been evacuated, leading to initial fears that some students would be made homeless.

While this issue is currently being resolved by some universities who are providing students with alternative temporary accommodation such as rooms in hotels, institutions are facing logistical challenges. 

“It’s a terrible situation,” said Gohar Hovhannisyan, vice-president of The European Students’ Union

“Our national student unions are trying to reach out to their local authorities, to institutions and to landlords but this doesn’t necessarily help. 

“It’s destroying students’ whole experience… It creates a lot of negative feelings and this will be very, very hard to recover from. The international dimension of education will find it hard to recover.”

Hovhannisyan explained that many students are unable to pay rent because they have lost jobs due to lockdowns and because they have no social security support. 

“The only thing now that can be done to support students is for the government to call upon the landlords and accommodation providers to be more supportive,” she added. 

Hovhannisyan explained that international students in Europe on the Erasmus program who have had to go home will retain their funding in cases where landlords require them to keep paying their rent, meaning that they won’t have to pay out of their own pocket. 

However, those who are funding their own studies are in a more precarious position, she added.

“In most of the countries, there is no general regulation… so it’s very much upon the individuals to negotiate it and come up with a solution.

“The role of the agencies or institutions who have organised international study experiences for students is crucial. They need to realise that they have a certain responsibility of supporting students to solve this situation,” she added.

Hovhannisyan also called on the governments of  European countries to come up with support mechanisms that will help the students to pay their rents and sustain themselves until the lockdown is over.

But international students who have stayed in their host countries are also facing problems.

Kostis Giannidis, president of the Erasmus Student Network, explained that universities are having to find new accommodation for students after dormitories were evacuated.

“The universities are trying to find alternatives to make sure that the students are not made homeless”

“The universities are trying to find alternatives to make sure that the students are not made homeless,” he told The PIE.

“So for example, some universities have moved their international students into hotels or they have provided accommodation in other places.

“There is a logistical challenge here because if there are many students in the same place it dangerous for their health and so on,” he said. 

The ESN has conducted a survey on the matter, which is due for release in the coming weeks. According to Giannidis, the survey has had 23,000 responses.

He told The PIE that 5% – around 1,150 – of the students stated their accommodation was cancelled by accommodation providers.

“This also causes a distraction and impacts the academic performance of the students, if they have to move from one place to the other.

Let’s not forget that they are still continuing with their academic studies online,” Giannidis added.

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Swifter gov’t bailout vital, says English UK

mer, 04/01/2020 - 07:13

The country’s English language teaching sector needs urgent government clarification that members’ business should be eligible for business rates relief – and the government to move faster on access to loans, says membership body English UK.

English language schools were hit hard, early into 2020, when Chinese student business dried up as the outbreak of coronavirus impacted Wuhan and China first.

Then, as the pandemic took hold, “our Italian business disappeared overnight”, English UK’s interim chief executive of English UK, Jodie Gray, told The PIE News, as school group trips were vetoed.

“Italy and China, as you know, are two of our largest student markets,” she explained (statistics from 2018 below).

Now, as the travel ban has extended worldwide, cashflow is critical – some schools have already closed – and the extensive government business support package unveiled is either too long a pipeline (reports suggest up to three months to secure) or not applicable to the private language teaching sector.

“Language schools can’t claim the business rates relief offered,” detailed Gray – this is at present only available to businesses in the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors plus nursery schools.

Online study prevented businesses from furloughing staff, because they were still required to teach

Increasingly, an anticipation that ELT centres should hold out for anything close to a business-as-usual summer season is also evaporating.

“It’s hard to believe that in early February, we were focused on ensuring capacity for the newly-announced Hungarian scholarship scheme,” related Gray. “Things have changed so quickly.”

As a result, English UK as an association has pivoted into focusing on supporting members as they adapt to a cashflow crisis, and no imminent bookings.

“Staff job roles have changed and most of the team is now dedicated to this,” said Gray.

“And we are supporting in the broader sense – for many of our members, this is their lives and their livelihood; they may have run their language school for decades.”

Attendance at regular webinars and membership activity is staggering, added Gray, noting that such an unprecedented crisis is when membership associations can come into their own.

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Gray acknowledged that the UK ELT market is now predominantly led by junior bookings (a shift over the last decade) and that could pose an additional challenge in terms of market rebound.

“It will be parents’ decision, often, to pay for a course abroad, which depends on their confidence to send children overseas and their ability to invest.”

“That is going to be a problem going forward,” she added.

While many companies have reacted quickly and moved into successful online provision, Gray underlined that this did not necessarily solve a cashflow problem and also prevented businesses from furloughing staff, because they were still required to teach.

Priorities among membership were sustaining their business during the crisis, but also supporting the students also left in limbo.

“One member spent thousands of pounds from their own savings to ensure junior students from Latin America could return at short notice,” she shared.

• Statistics via The PIE Insider.

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Robert Hsiung, China CEO, EMERITUS

mer, 04/01/2020 - 03:51
EMERITUS collaborates with top-ranked universities such as MIT, Columbia, Cambridge and London Business School to give working professionals who cannot enrol in full-time courses access to a more affordable top-tier education. The company’s China CEO, Robert Hsiung, spoke to The PIE about the ambitions of the business and some of the methods used to keep online learners fully engaged.


The PIE: For someone who’d never heard of EMERITUS, how would you describe what the company does?

RH: Our mission at EMERITUS is to enable the world to experience education opportunities available at the world’s top educational institutions. Our founders are from really creative backgrounds, we have Harvard PhDs on our subcommittee and so forth. We’ve been blessed with the opportunity to experience this education ourselves, and we’d like to share that with the world.

“For students, there’s a high opportunity cost from taking a break in their careers to invest in an offline degree”

We have two main businesses, one under the brand name Eruditus. In the Eruditus business, we work with mostly exec-ed programs to launch offline, and online blended programs for executives to upskill themselves and learn about the latest in digital transmission, digital technology, AI machine learning and so forth.

The second major business that we also run is the online business EMERITUS, which also does work in white label capacity. We work with the top institutions to launch online certificate programs.

This is mostly with exec-ed programs focused on management topics such as leadership and analytics, machine learning and other topics. In addition to these two businesses, we’re also launching bootcamps targeted at users looking to learn new skills and to switch to a new career, and online degrees for users looking to earn a degree.

The blended programs with Eruditus are targeted towards mostly CxOs, while the online programs are targeted towards managers and directors to VPs.

The PIE: I expect online degrees and learning is only going to become more and more popular – especially given the current situation with the with coronavirus outbreak.

RH: It will absolutely become more popular. First of all, offline degrees are incredibly expensive. The cost to deliver them is huge and for the students there’s also a high opportunity cost from taking a break in their careers to invest in a degree. A lot of students are realising that the price is difficult to justify as the prices have risen over the past 10 years or so by 8-10% per year!  Compare that to average inflation of 2% per year for all other goods and services.

Now with the online alternatives, it offers students the opportunity to say, ‘Okay, I don’t have to take time off work and I can get the same learning and certification for a significantly more affordable price’.

So, I think this is going to be a trend that is not going to go away. It’s only going to get bigger.

The PIE: What does your business do to keep your students engaged in online programs, because without a brick and mortar school it’s much easier to drop off the radar?

RH: There are two major elements to what we do that keeps students engaged. The first element is how you go about designing the program. We focus on designing a program that is about learning by doing and encourages interactive learning experiences.

We do not ask students to sit there to listen to one-hour-long lectures. We design our programs to really engage [students] with the content. Our videos are not longer than two or three minutes, and after each video, students may do an exercise, a quiz, or engage other students in discussion.

Most educators are used to working with captive classroom audiences where students must dedicate attention for 45-90 minute periods. As a result, as many educators move their classes online during the current COVID-19 pandemic, many do not yet have that recognition of the importance of building interactive experiences.

But students learning on their laptops, sitting in their homes have a hundred different distractions making it incredibly important to build interactive experiences adapted to shorter attention spans.

The second element we focus on, in order to maintain our students’ interest, is the peer-to-peer aspect. There is a lot that goes on in the offline classroom that creates extrinsic motivation to stay involved and engaged in that class. A simple example of this is how seeing your classmate next to you makes you more accountable. You know if I’m going to the same class as you, and if I see that you’re not there, I’m going to text you. That’s going to keep you coming to class.

“In our small online classroom, we have the opportunity to recreate many of the offline peer-to-peer dynamics”

EMERITUS employs what is referred to in the online education industry as SPOCS – Small Private Online Courses. Unlike MOOCs – massive open online courses – enrolment for SPOCs is limited, and courses are taught in a cohort model, where students have the ability to get to know and interact with other students.

That’s very difficult to do with a MOOC where you have thousands of students that don’t get to interact. With thousands of other students, you can easily disappear into the crowd and make excuses about why other students that you do not know are doing better than you.

In our small online classroom, we have the opportunity to recreate many of the offline social, peer-to-peer dynamics common in classrooms. This enables us to drive completion rates to over 80% – 10 times more than common MOOCs.

The PIE: Can you speak more about the markets – where do the students come from? I understand that you have recently launched in China.

RH: We opened our doors in China in the middle of January, unfortunately right before the coronavirus hit. But things have actually been going very well. There was a strong reception for the programs offered by our partners in China. And we’re excited to grow the business in China.

LATAM is also a big growth market for us – we have a strong team there that’s growing the business. We have teams in the Middle East, India and the US as well. Our business is a very global business, and that’s one of the key values that we bring to our partners – this global reachability to help partners grow their business around the world.

The PIE: You cover so many markets and have great ambitions. I’m just wondering if there are any direct competitors out there?

RH: There aren’t many direct competitors to what we do because of our target market. As most of our courses are developed with the executive education arms of the business schools we work with, our courses are firmly targeted at students with at least five to eight years of experience in managerial roles. The other major platforms are more targeted at individual contributors to help them master new skills to change into new jobs.

The major competitors that we face are the thousands of smaller management training outfits that operate locally and have strong local networks of enterprise clients that they serve.

In China, for example, the market for management training is a $50 billion market, but the largest firm in the market has maybe 1% of that market. We see that it is mostly dominated by small operations who have one or two speakers that can rouse a crowd and speak very eloquently about hot topics such as digital transformation or innovation. But their operations, size and reach are limited geographically.

“We’re always exploring new formats around new ways for our students to learn”

This gives us confidence that we can scale by working with top brands and using a blended online/offline format that can cut through the geographic barriers of pure offline management training outfits.

As we move into online degrees and into bootcamp programs targeted at individual contributors with less than five years of work experience who are looking to earn degrees or master new skills to switch careers, we will start competing directly with companies like Coursera and Udacity, as well as 2U and GetSmarter. These will be our competitors in the future.

The PIE: What is the ultimate ambition of the company?

RH: Our company is not restricting ourselves to just the current format that we offer. We’re always exploring new formats around new ways for our students to learn. We’re going to be continually innovating around what it means to learn online, and that will include expansion to other formats, as well as new innovations around the blend between online and offline.

Ultimately, our mission is to increase access to the top quality content, from the top quality schools to students from around the world so that they can make a difference in their lives, change organisations and change the world.

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Bayswater Education acquires LSC

mer, 04/01/2020 - 02:20

UK education provider Bayswater Education has acquired Language Study Centres in a bid to expand its junior market provision, as providers continue to seek consolidation in the market.

Acquired from STS Education for an undisclosed sum, Bayswater said the deal means it can “greatly expand” operations with new locations, courses and an extensive network of international partners.

“We will be able to diversify geographically, broaden our portfolio, and ultimately strengthen our core business”

Managing director of Bayswater Education, Stephan Roussounis, said the deal would strengthen Bayswater’s position within the growing under-18 language travel market.

The announcement comes at a time when “our industry is currently mothballed for the foreseeable future”, he said, but the deal is an investment for 2021.

“By adding LSC’s experience, knowledge and vast international network, we will be able to diversify geographically, broaden our portfolio, and ultimately strengthen our core business,” he said.

“Most importantly, we will be able to reach and provide for a greater number of young international students.”

It is the second acquisition for Bayswater in 2020 after it expanded to Liverpool in February.

LSC will retain its branding and continue to offer high-quality study, social and cultural programs for young international students at centres around the UK.

STS is set to continue collaborating closely with LSC and Bayswater to offer UK-based language travel products, the company’s confirmed.

“This acquisition mirrors similar deals in the education travel industry, as it continues a growing drive towards consolidation,” John Cedergårdh CEO of STS Education said.

“We believe that having the right players dedicating their resources and knowledge to the right areas, the industry as a whole will progress and become the best it can be.”

STS Education will now focus on growing its international high school exchanges – an area where the company has seen “considerable growth”. STS plans to keep bolstering its position while improving its products, portfolio and customer experience.

“I’m certain LSC will greatly benefit from Bayswater’s experience, vision and drive to grow by dedicating 100% of their resources and efforts to the language travel product,” Cedergårdh added.

“We’re convinced that the partnership will be a great success, and we look forward to continuing our collaboration with both LSC and Bayswater Education in the future.”

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“We will survive. We have to”: View from AIFS

mar, 03/31/2020 - 10:19

We were having our best year. AIFS had acquired two innovative organisations, the US based Global Experiences and IEC Online, a German company.

Our global study abroad and cultural exchange programs were approaching 50,000 participants for the year. Morale was high and our talented and experienced staff were planning many new ventures.

Sitting on a balcony in Turks & Caicos on vacation, gazing out at Grace Bay beach, I felt content knowing that we were on the verge of something great. Then the world changed. Flights began to stop, and the program cancellations began in earnest.  A chain reaction duplicated around the globe.

My emotions became overwhelming—first the grief for the sick and dying and then the fear of the unknown. What will become of the field of international education and cultural exchange?

As of today, with no end in sight and the suffering getting worse, here is what I see in our future:

We will survive. We have to. Our mission is too important. If there is one thing the virus has shown us, it is the importance of international cooperation.

We will become smaller in every respect. Participants, staff, locations.

We will go to fewer conferences with less staff in tow. Some will be held virtually but will be less effective as conferences are about networking and social activities. Always have been.

Will our customer support suffer with fewer staff?  When will we begin to grow again?

We will expand usage of Zoom and other communications platforms. Acceptable alternatives but they will plateau when our offices reopen.

There are many options we will have to consider:

Will we, as a field, continue to financially support diversity organisations and send students to non-traditional destinations?  Will we continue to fully support membership-based organisations? Will our customer support suffer with fewer staff?  When will we begin to grow again?

In time we will rebuild. As my friend Alan Goodman, President of IIE and an acute student of history, told me “exchanges always come back strong after pandemics.” This is uplifting and true.

I have been in this field for 45 years, 35 years at AIFS. I can only hope we all recover quickly and continue to bring the world together through international education and cultural exchange.  There is no goal more noble – or necessary during these times.

As Bruce Springsteen said, “No Retreat, No Surrender”

So, see you out there at some point. Stay safe.

William L (Bill) Gertz is the Chairman and CEO of AIFS, a leading global education and cultural exchange organization founded in 1964.


Previous columns:

How do you show solidarity virtually?, Ruth Arnold

Covid-19: Time for the Pace Car, Karan Khemka

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UK: Richmond & China Education Group partner

mar, 03/31/2020 - 09:28

Richmond, The American International University in London, has signed an agreement with the China Education Group which will “secure the long-term future of the university”.

The partnership will make Richmond’s degrees more accessible to students worldwide, the partners said.

“We both keep our students’ interest at the heart of everything we do”

The deal will also benefit students at Richmond, who will be able to access internships and exchange programs at CEG’s international portfolio of universities – which includes nine universities and colleges in China and King’s Own Institute in Australia. In 2019/20 CEG had enrolled approximately 180,000 students from nearly 100 countries.

The university will also have a “greater reach in international marketing and recruitment”.

The partnership will “continue the mission in building an open, vibrant, and internationally focused University that welcomes people from all parts of the globe,” said the new chair of the Board of Richmond, Roger King.

It is a sentiment shared by Yu Guo, co-chairman of CEG.

“Richmond and CEG share a very common mission: to contribute to society through the pursuit of education,” Guo added.

“We also both keep our students’ interest at the heart of everything we do and are immensely proud of our highly dedicated faculty and staff.”

Established in 1972, Richmond is the only university in the UK which awards both UK and US degrees.

“Richmond has successfully built a unique UK-US curriculum over the years, combining the very best of higher education of the world’s two leading systems,” Xie Ketao, co-chairman of CEG added.

The partnership will “further widen [Richmond’s] global reach and develop its leadership in internationally focused liberal arts education” at its London campuses in Richmond and Kensington, Ketao noted.

The university will remain as a self-governing not-for-profit entity.

“I am delighted that this partnership has secured our future and we will continue to develop by providing our unique educational experience for many generations to come,” Phil Deans, president of Richmond concluded.

In 2019, Richmond trustee William G. Durden made a case for how an American liberal arts approach could improve the British higher education system on The PIE Blog.

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US educators push for clarity on work rules and protections for students

mar, 03/31/2020 - 07:59

As coronavirus continues to steer the international education sector further into unchartered territory, a webinar has revealed educators are worried about the enduring appeal of the country as a study destination if visa processing is not revived soon enough, and work rules are not clarified.

With the industry at a ‘shelter in place’ footing with many US universities forced to partially close their campuses, the briefing organised by the Presidents’ Alliance on Higher Education and Immigration in conjunction with NAFSA featured the perspectives of policy experts and higher education leaders.

The sector has concerns around international students’ ongoing access to work rights, via the optical practical training [OPT] programs, amid turbulence in the jobs market.

Although the Department of Homeland Security has confirmed students can continue their coursework online without it adversely affecting their visa status, a letter penned to DHS by NAFSA outlines concerns that remain around OPT, among a wider wishlist.

“We want the government to adapt…to protect the health and safety of international students”

Addressing webinar attendees, NAFSA director of Regulatory Practice Liaison Steve Springer explained the organisation has been looking at some key areas.

“We want the government to adapt, first of all, to protect the health and safety of international students and exchange visitors,” he said.

“We want them to adapt to facilitate the maintenance of status of these folk, and institutional compliance with laws. We want them to use electronic records and documents to avoid the location-based problem.

“And then finally, we want them to provide resources, guidance and other kinds of resources to students and exchange visitors.”

Among the requests in NAFSA’s letter to DHS was for the department to not consider the time spent unemployed during the COVID-19 emergency towards the post-completion OPT and STEM OPT unemployment limits.

“Another issue…will SEVP and DHS make accommodations for students on OPT who are laid off or furloughed?” asked Springer.

“When you’re on OPT or STEM OPT, you’re limited in the amount of time you can be unemployed, so that’s going to be a huge issue for students if they’re furloughed for a long time, and we’re hoping for some guidance on that.”

Described as one of the country’s “greatest strengths” for attracting international students, the number of participants in OPT programs grew by 9.6% to 223,085 in 2018/19.

On March 27,  SEVP updated its FAQ on the question ‘Due to COVID-19, what is SEVP’s advice to students who want to apply for OPT? Is there any chance that students would be able to apply for post-completion OPT from outside the United States?’.

“DHS is evaluating these issues and may issue additional guidance. USCIS adjudicates OPT employment authorisation and status requests for F and M students and has yet to issue official guidance on these issues,” SEVP wrote.

Speaking at the webinar, president of the Illinois Institute of Technology, Alan Cramb, said that clarity on the situation is key, adding that many students come to the US by borrowing money, “sometimes at 12% or higher, and use OPT and CPT as a method to either reduce or eliminate this debt”.

“If OPT is not available or is in doubt, many students will not come to the US,” he warned.

Regarding economic hardship authorisation – where an F-1 student may request off-campus work authorisation based on unforeseen circumstances – professor of Immigration Law Practice at Cornell Law School, Stephen Yale-Loehr, said it is determined on a case-by-case basis.

“We don’t know how the immigration agency is going to interpret [it] or be generous or restrictive in granting it given the coronavirus situation,” he added.

“But simply stating ‘I deserve work authorisation because of COVID-19’ will not work. You need to have very specific, very individualised facts to present a compelling case to the immigration agency about that.”

Springer said that going forward, NAFSA will be shifting emphasis towards what lies ahead for fall 2020.

“That’s obviously a huge issue facing us,” Springer said, while Cramb pointed out that the economic model of education in the US “does not work if there are no international students, even for one semester”.

“If OPT is not available or is in doubt, many students will not come to the US”

“However, we face that possibility this fall [because of] one action; no visas are being given in all consulates around the world for travel to the United States, and students who had their reserved times for an interview had them cancelled with no new date only told reapply later,” Cramb said.

He described the State department’s decision to halt all visa processing as an “unprecedented fiscal and scholarly challenge” to American colleges and universities.

“We must advocate for this process to continue, even if it means that the interview is not done in person and that duel intent should be allowed.”

Cramb added that the most important thing to consider is that how international students are treated today will determine how many international students the US will have tomorrow.

“If we look after our current students and care for them, they will go back to their countries and people will still come.

“If we treat them poorly now or don’t look after them, that’ll have a really bad effect on our future with international students,” he said.

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Preply raises $10m for online tutor service

mar, 03/31/2020 - 07:58

Online learning platform Preply has raised $10 million in additional funding – doubling the total raised in previous rounds – as it seeks to grow its network of 10,000 verified tutors teaching 50 languages across the globe.

The company will use the new funding to upscale in markets across North America and Europe, including France, Germany, Spain, Italy and the UK.

“The new funding allows us to bring US learners a more in-depth and varied offering”

It also hopes to introduce new tools, assessments and homework for tutors and students, as well as expand beyond language training.

“Online learning is changing fast,” said Preply CEO, Kirill Bigai.

“Though the company focuses primarily on language learning today, tutors are also beginning to teach maths, chemistry and creative writing using the platform as we envision a future where anyone can learn anything using Preply.”

The company hopes to open an office in the US by the end of 2020.

“The European market is very multicultural – a lot of people speak or learn two or three foreign languages. This, in turn, means that the European market is more developed,” Bigai added.

“That’s the expertise we’re taking with us to the US. The new funding allows us to bring US learners a more in-depth and varied offering with our unrivalled number and selection of tutors from Europe, Latin America and APAC.”

The round was led by London-based Hoxton Ventures – with participation from European investors Point Nine Capital, All Iron Ventures, The Family, EduCapital, and Diligent Capital. Individual angel investors including Arthur Kosten of; Gary Swart, former CEO of Upwork; David Helgason, Founder of Unity technologies; and Daniel Hoffer, Founder of Couchsurfing also participated.

“Getting to know Kirill and the team at Preply we were most impressed with their tremendous growth already in the US market as well as the size of the global market in online language tutoring,” Rob Kniaz of Hoxton Ventures noted.

“We believe the team has vast opportunity ahead of it, especially in the English-learning segment of the market where Preply already demonstrates market leadership.”

Since being founded in 2013, two million classes have been taught by teachers of 160 nationalities on the platform.

Preply uses machine-learning to increase the efficiency of pairing tutors with learners – leading to smarter connections and more effective language learning. The company also enables tutors to boost their income and maximise classes by providing training and lesson plans.

The new funding will also give Preply the opportunity to develop its mobile offering, streamlining its app to be more efficient and user-friendly.

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Eurocentres looks to “blended” learning product

mar, 03/31/2020 - 02:45

Global English language provider Eurocentres has created a flexible, blended, online ELT product – featuring virtual interactive live classes – for students currently unable to travel to its schools due to the coronavirus.

With a digital core to the ELT business, senior management has explained how they believe the business is well placed to adapt to market conditions and offer an experience that can fit around students’ new reality.

“The idea is simply to make [a product] that’s as flexible as possible”

“We have a point of difference in the market from pure play online providers, which gives students that intense immersive experience,” CEO Zach Holmes said.

“It is a challenge for the whole industry to recreate that because it is different – it’s never going to be the same product.”

The focus for the provider is virtual interactive live classes, personalised tutorials and study plans, he added.

Eurocentres Online has been designed to offer Eurocentres’s usual English language training and 21st-century communication skills online, in order to allow students to seamlessly switch to face-to-face classes when the crisis passes.

“The idea is simply to make [a product] that’s as flexible as possible and that people will enjoy like they would if they travelled to one of our schools,” said Eurocentres’ head of marketing, Alexis Lhuillier.

Class demos will be available for free so Eurocentres can extend their products to the client bases of agent partners.

The blended product will potentially attract new students who might not have plans to travel at all, Lhuillier confirmed, adding that the product is being launched at a time when ELT providers are having to quickly adapt to new circumstances created out of the pandemic.

“What can we do to provide a product that students ultimately want, given the uncertainty that we’re in?” Holmes asked.

“Learning English is still going to be important, [as will] communication skills.”

EC English, St Giles, LAL and British Study Centres have all boosted their online provisions. Some – like Eurocentres – have offered an online product for some time.

“Luckily for us, we’ve had this Eurocentres eLearning platform – my.Eurocentres – product for quite a while now,” said Holmes.

“All of our teachers understand the importance of digital learning and the blended approach.”

Eurocentres already had a product of this type in its strategic plan going forward, Holmes added. “It’s just been accelerated quite significantly.”

“All of our teachers understand the importance of digital learning and the blended approach”

The school will deliver “as much as it can” online before students have the opportunity to return to classrooms to complete their studies, Holmes said.

By improving online provisions, Eurocentres can transform a six week classroom course, into a 12-16 week learning experience, which will maximise student outcomes for less cost, Holmes added.

The blended product, “where students are offered the ability to stay at home before coming into a Eurocentres school – that’s something we want to see longer-term,” he said.

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COVID-19 “tsunami” forces UK ELT closures

lun, 03/30/2020 - 07:05

A new casualty of coronavirus is English Studio – with schools in Dublin and London – which has appointed provisional liquidators following a “tsunami of effects” related to the coronavirus pandemic.

English language school BLC in Bristol has also become a victim of the virus, English UK has confirmed.

English Studio was owned by Ireland-based Kinlay Group, which also owned and operated travel firm USIT Ireland – which is also going into administration.

“We have working tirelessly for the last few weeks to find a solution to save these businesses”

“Only a short few weeks ago, both USIT and the English School were trading well and we had exciting plans for the future, but the tsunami of effects related to the Covid-19 pandemic have left us with no business whatsoever and no possibility of overcoming these challenges,” David Andrews, chairman of Kinlay Group, said in a statement.

The English Studio in Ireland had closed two weeks ago, complying with measures introduced to stem the spread of coronavirus, and its UK school closed on Friday 20 March.

Earlier this month, BLC – based in Bristol in the south west of England – moved all of its classes online, before also ceasing trading.

A third business owned by Kinlay Group – Teach & Travel Group – which provides online TEFL training, continues to trade normally and is unaffected by the decision, the group added.

“We have working tirelessly for the last few weeks to find a solution to save these businesses and in that regard I wish to acknowledge the support of our bankers, Ulster Bank Limited,” Andrews added.

“I and my fellow directors greatly regret having to take this step, but unfortunately, it was the only possible option at this time. We are committed to working closely with the liquidator now in order to get the best possible outcome for employees and customers.”

RTÉ reported that the collapse was caused by a cash flow crisis leaving the companies insolvent and unable to pay debts. Pre-booked customers are owed around €1.2m, it said, which includes approximately 3,000 students who paid deposits of €300 or more for travel to the US this summer.

English Studio managing director, James Birrell, said the “inability to trade or operate over an undefined period and irreparable damage to the junior summer schools as a result of the current Covid-19 pandemic were of overwhelming financial impact to the organisation”.

Together with language school associations, English UK and MEI, management will “facilitate the continued learning of students currently enrolled at the schools via emergency student support schemes”, he added.

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Slower growth in China TNE as focus shifts to “quality over quantity”

lun, 03/30/2020 - 06:52

The Chinese Ministry of Education approved 44 Sino-foreign cooperative ventures in the latter half of 2019 according to documents released this month, bringing the total number of programs approved last year up to 74.

The number of students in China taking transnational education courses – usually involving foreign universities offering full degree programs through local partner institutions, although there are several joint venture campuses – has been increasing over the last few years, particularly among undergraduates.  In the 2018/19 academic year, 78,175 students were on TNE courses, up from 49,680 in 2013/14.

““People are…really focusing on quality delivery and not on building new partnerships”

“I think one of the attractions is that the way we provide programs and the way we study is very different to China,” explained Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading, which has a long-standing relationship with Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology.

“Students and parents believe that this will give them an edge in the job market because not only at the end of these degree programs do students have excellent English, but they will have also developed a different skill set to students following a standard Chinese program,” he added.

According to Raimo, TNE programs are often born out of existing relationships between universities and also benefit staff by giving them the opportunity to learn about different models and ways of working.

TNE partners come from a wide range of countries, from nearby South Korea and Russia to the US, UK, Australia and the Netherlands.

The British Council has noted a “substantially” slower growth in new programs compared to before 2014, which it says is “a result of the Chinese government becoming increasingly selective regarding programme approval, with a shifting focus to quality over quantity”.

“TNE is actually something which the government has an opinion regarding where they want to take things. For them, TNE is actually about boosting local capacity and increasing the quality of teaching in China,” Jazreel Goh, director of education marketing at the British Council, told The PIE News from Malaysia.

“People are… really focusing on quality delivery and not on building new partnerships. If you already have two or three partnerships in China, it’s very difficult for you to then say you want to have more.

“What the government wants to make sure is it’s about quality and that you have the resources to concentrate on your current provision,” Goh added.

At a conference in 2019, the British Council referred to “mismatched marriages” in TNE in China where the foreign partner university ranks significantly higher on the THE ranking than its counterpart.

In 2018, for example, Australian universities in the 1-200 bracket didn’t partner with any universities higher ranked than the 601-800 bracket.

China is the top destination for many universities when it comes to TNE, having overtaken Malaysia several years ago.

However, as fields like student recruitment try to move away from over-dependence on China, Eduardo Ramos, head of TNE at UUKi, said this is less of an issue in the sector in countries like the UK.

“What the government wants to make sure is…[that] you have the resources to concentrate on your current provision”

“Where you have 11-12% [Chinese market share] in TNE, you have double that in international students from China coming to the UK. If you don’t include the EU as well, it comes to over 30%  now,” he said.

“From a systemic perspective, we have a very strong relationship as a sector with China as a TNE partner. But it is not a complete dependency and we actually have a quite diversified landscape.”

Other countries that have expressed interest in developing more TNE partners include Cyprus, Sri Lanka and Myanmar (Burma), who have seen their markets grow by 244%, 87.5% and 55% since 2013/14 respectively.

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