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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
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Canada: CIBT completes $30.3m land deal

lun, 03/30/2020 - 02:21

Canada-based GEC Oakridge Acquisition has completed a CA$30.3 million deal to acquire land in Vancouver where it plans to build a residence for up to 475 occupants.

The 18 storey GEC®Oakridge residential tower project will be located less than a 10-minutes from the Langara Community College and will have good access to downtown Vancouver via subway – an area with many education providers for international students.

“This new facility will be able to provide additional and much needed rental accommodation”

The development is expected to be completed by 2023, according to the company.

Parent company CIBT Education Group – which owns business and language colleges, student housing properties, recruitment centres and corporate offices at 45 locations in Canada and abroad – said it plans gain development approval within the year.

“Our goal is to obtain full rezoning and development approval within the year 2020 so that construction may start immediately thereafter,” Toby Chu, chairman, president and CEO of CIBT Group said in a statement.

“This new facility will be able to provide additional and much needed rental accommodation to nearly five hundred occupants.”

In total, the development budget for the GEC® Oakridge project is approximately $103 million, he added.

The coronavirus pandemic has led to homestay families bookings being cancelled in Canada, causing distress to families and students.

“Understandably, many homestay parents are cancelling reservations from students due to health concerns,” Chu added. “However, such action is causing further stress for students looking for a place to live when Metro Vancouver’s vacancy rate is at 1%.”

GEC® facilities are occupied, with some near full capacity, according to the company.

“We will continue to closely monitor the development of the epidemic and assess its impact on our operations, taking all reasonable steps to maintain a safe, clean and healthy environment for our students to study and live and our staff to work,” Chu noted.

Chu added that tuition revenue from CIBT schools – which include Vancouver International College, CIBT School of Business, Sprott Shaw Language College and Sprott Shaw College – will “likely be deferred but not cancelled” due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

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ELT: virtual internships program launched

lun, 03/30/2020 - 01:27

ELT provider British Study Centres and international internship provider Professionals UK have announced a new Virtual Internship program for students seeking to enhance their careers while learning English.

The online program aims to offer students valuable work skills and practical experience, while also enhance their business English.

“Given the current global climate and situation, virtual programs have never been more relevant, both for delivering learning and for developing highly in-demand career skills,” Bella Cranmore, Business Development director at Professionals UK said.

“We know that this program fits right in with the needs and expectations of the 21st century student”

The program includes one-to-one online English lessons, a virtual internship in the UK, online coaching sessions as well as access to an online learning platform to develop practical 21st-century skills.

“We know that this program fits right in with the needs and expectations of the 21st-century student, helping them develop their English, their employability and the skills they need to succeed in life,” Global Academic director at British Study Centres Siân Hanson added.

A £5 donation per students also goes to the World Land Trust’s Plant a Tree program to “amplify the reduced carbon footprint of virtual internships”.

Developers say the program is “well placed to address travel restrictions and health concerns”, given the current uncertainty with the COVID-19 situation.

Offering training without added travel and accommodation expenses, the course focuses on Digital Marketing and will rapidly expand into other areas such as graphic design, IT development, finance and business administration.

The program is available on a part-time basis, giving students the flexibility to fit the internship around existing studies or commitments while saving on overseas travel and living expenses, the organisations added.

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EAIE survey on impact of COVID-19 on mobility

ven, 03/27/2020 - 08:03

A new report by EAIE into the various impacts of coronavirus on international higher education has found that the coronavirus has significantly impacted the mobility of students.

Research for the ‘Coping with COVID-19: International higher education in Europe’ report started several weeks ago as the effects of the COVID-19 outbreak began to be felt in the continent.

The report is based on 805 responses to this survey from individuals working in HEIs across the EHEA.

“The outbreak’s impact on academic mobility has been a subject of extensive conversation”

According to the report, nearly three-quarters of survey respondents characterise the effects on inbound student and staff mobility as either somewhat significant or very significant.

“COVID-19’s rapid global spread has highlighted the role that international travel can play in the broad dissemination of some communicable diseases,” the report explained.

“For this reason, the outbreak’s impact on academic mobility has been a subject of extensive conversation within the international education community in Europe and elsewhere.”

The survey asked several questions on the subject of mobility in an effort to find out the ways and extents to which the public health crisis is affecting international mobility in relation to European higher education. 

Inbound and outbound mobility, as well as mobility among both students and staff (academic and administrative) were considered.

More than two thirds (73%) of respondents indicated that outbound mobility of students had been affected as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak, while 54% reported that outbound mobility of staff had been affected in some way.

Chart showing survey results for outbound student mobility. Image: EAIE

By contrast, 48% reported that inbound mobility had been affected in some way.

Chart showing survey results for inbound student mobility. Image: EAIE

China was the global epicentre of the outbreak at the time of the survey. As a result, the survey showed that the mobility disruption was felt most in China and Asia more broadly. 

The EAIE survey also explored how the COVID-19 outbreak might be affecting campus life and culture.

Some 70% of respondents said they had received no reports at their institution of discriminatory behaviour toward individuals from (or perceived to be from) countries affected by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

However, 13% of respondents across 21 different countries did report they had received such reports. Of this, 65 individuals provided additional information about how their institutions dealt with reports of discriminatory behaviour. 

The most commonly reported method of tackling this behaviour (46.2%) was to double down on awareness raising and information dissemination, to inform the broader community about the realities of risk and promote factual accuracy in the wider conversation about the outbreak. 

The second-most commonly reported response was to publish or circulate some type of public affirmation of support for the affected population or an indication of zero tolerance for discriminatory behaviour in general.

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Education agencies urge students to postpone rather than cancel

ven, 03/27/2020 - 07:36

“We have been creating campaigns telling people that they should not cancel their programs but postpone for a later date,” CEO of Brazilian agency TravelMate Alexandre Argenta says. The agency has been working closely together with the country’s agency association BELTA, he adds.

Countries closing both borders and visa processing make it “hard to confirm when this later date would be” however, he notes.

Cris Zanin of Yonder Education says that his agency is “reorganising content for those who want to postpone study plans and [creating] other content to help others to manage anxiety and family distance”.

“We are using time to think of other parallel business inside the market,” Zanin explains – echoing the situation as described by other education consultants around the world.

Diogo Rodrigues, CEO of Yes Intercambio confirms that the agency had been having postponements, “but not cancellations”.

“Their concern is not about the coronavirus, but the unexpected high exchange rate we are facing”

“The fact that we are specialised on higher ed – and that our college counselling is providing several months, sometimes years of preparations to students and their families – their concern is not about the coronavirus, but the unexpected high exchange rate we are facing,” he notes.

Yes Intercambio has developed a list of online options to prepare students with summer semester credits online “without jeopardising their academic year”.

“Our main focus is about making sure our students are safe. And that our partners are providing all support needed,” Rodrigues concludes.

TravelMate has also launched free online English classes open to the public through Instagram “to motivate people to continue getting better prepared to travel abroad in the future”, Argenta adds.

Beyond Brazil, the pandemic represents a “short-term disaster” for Paul Moroney of Ireland-based GoLearn Agency.

“But at GoLearn we are viewing it as just that – short-term,” he states.

Moroney expects business to resume in two to three months, “albeit at a slower pace as the economies of both Ireland and target markets recover”.

Some proactive students are planning for June or July, taking advantage of current promotions on offer, he adds. Higher education students still plan for September intakes.

The accredited schools GoLearn works with provide online classes so that the agency “can continue to cater to current students’ need to learn English”.

Similarly, Philippa Dralet ​of Futurystic based in France is promoting partner schools’ “attractive online learning packages”.

Students remain “eager to return to school as soon as they can”

“All my one-year students have returned to their home countries with online teaching put into place by their schools,” she explains.

Schools have all been quick to put effective online programs into place, Dralet adds, but students remain “eager to return to school as soon as they can”.

In Germany, the pandemic has hit members of the country’s association of language tour operators (FDSV) “very hard”, according to managing director Julia Richter.

All language schools in Germany have been closed since April 16, and outbound travel bookings are down.

“The Easter business is practically eliminated,” she explains. “Most German states have cancelled school trips until the end of the school year. General customer behaviour in relation to new bookings is of course extremely restrained due to the unpredictable situation.”

For youth travel, operators are hoping for the summer, while as far as the adult market is concerned there is hope for late summer and autumn resurgence. “But who knows when travelling is possible again?” she asks.

“Many German tour operators try to offer a travel voucher instead of repayment to the customers in order to postpone the planned trip to a later date. However, this is actually not legally possible in Germany, but it is currently being examined by the government as a possible option,” Richter notes.

“This week we will publish online language courses on our website, so that those interested in language learning can continue to develop their language studies despite the coronavirus,” she states.

“In the end, however, I am sure that we will all come out stronger from the crisis. The desire to travel is still strong and bookings will come back as soon as there are no more travel warnings.”

Erion Kosovrasti CEO of Albanian agency Tandek Exchange your mind shares Richter’s positivity.

Despite the “great social and financial” impact the pandemic has had on business – leading to postponed or cancelled study plans, particularly to the US – the “situation has not discouraged students to send their inquires for studying abroad or exchange programs”, he says.

“Classroom education is most popular in Albania so the students can interact with others and share their experiences in an international environment,” Kosovrasti explains.

“We cannot lose trust and hope,” he says. “We continue to process student applications in accordance with the guidance and regulations from our partners. We will support our staff by hoping that this global “nightmare” called COVID-19 will be defeated and everything will come back to normal, again.”

“We try to find new products such as live stream courses or online courses”

The stark truth is that the pandemic has changed everything for now, however. Owner of Aspect Study Abroad in Ukraine, Larysa Neklyudova details that in March, all requests and bookings stopped in one day.

Aspect – which specialises in young learner programs – has witnessed the sector’s “dramatic impact” from the pandemic, Neklyudova notes.

“Not many families would risk sending their kids abroad if they are not sure that their health can be secure.” Neklyudova is putting faith in online provisions, too.

“At the moment we just collecting all the information about online courses and we hope that that is a good option to do something useful during a quarantine which might prolong through summer,” she says.

One of Kazakhstan’s biggest agencies, Alem Education faced “a strong wave of panic from parents the first days of coronavirus”, its CEO Dina Aisarina tells The PIE. The majority of students have opted to remain in countries where they study, however.

“Many of them decided not to go back and preferred to stay closer to their alma maters.”

Partners have effectively regularly updated Alem about safety regulations they follow in order to help international students stay safe, Aisarina indicates.

However, she highlights that transition to online study platforms has not been smooth. “Not much attention yet is paid to the options of online classes,” in her experience, but the agency is working to promote digital provisions.

Lockdowns in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan and UAE have “badly effected” operations for Yes Atlas, its CEO and founder Haitam Giat reveals. It is a similar story for many agents in the MENA region, he says.

“We do remote support for existing students only, who want to cancel or want to return back home,” Giat explains.

“At this stage we are learning the situation, reducing cost of operation and try to find new products such as live stream courses or online courses.”

Like in Kazakhstan, students in México have not been opting for online education, Karla Rios of Conexion Global Mexico details.

“Our priority is trying to postpone the program for upcoming students so that they do not cancel,” she says. So far the agency has not had any cancellations, but students are postponing programs until 2021.

“We are also focusing on promoting programs for September when hopefully everything will have been settled,” Rios explained, adding that Conexion Global has had to bring most of its students back to México.

The situation will be exacerbated if the coronavirus pandemic continues into summer, meaning Conexion Global will have to cancel all summer programs, including groups, Rios adds. Like Richter in Germany, the whole sector seems to have the same question: who knows when travelling will be possible again?

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Testing providers launch at-home exam solutions

ven, 03/27/2020 - 05:43

Testing providers are opening up access to at-home English exams with real-time human monitoring to ensure test integrity, while the coronavirus pandemic continues to disrupt the international education sector.

ETS has introduced an at-home testing solution for test takers affected by the coronavirus pandemic, while iTEP International is temporarily waiving test centre requirement, paving the way for test takers to use its virtual proctoring process.

iTEP announced it would begin at-home options from March 17, while ETS, which runs the TOEFL iBT® test and GRE® General Test, opened up at-home testing solutions from March 26 in response to the pandemic.

“It was imperative for us to create a timely, flexible and reliable solution”

“Our goal is to ensure test-taker health and safety while maintaining test security and integrity of scores for our partner schools,” iTEP said.

Many of the organisation’s exams had already been designed to be delivered at home, iTEP added, meaning it had been a “quick and efficient transition”.

iTEP’s Virtual Proctoring service will offer the same admissions exams and pricing, and has enhanced its Fotosure security software to ensure results remain reliable.

Human remote proctoring service ProctorU® will oversee ETS’s at-home exams. Unlike iTEP’s provision, ETS exams will be available in the US, Canada, Colombia, France, Germany, Italy, Spain Hong Kong and Macau to begin with.

The testing provider is working towards extending the locations of its at-home solutions, it added.

“It was imperative for us to create a timely, flexible and reliable solution to allow students the opportunity to take these tests, so that they can complete time-sensitive applications that will allow them to continue on their educational journeys,” said Alberto Acereda, executive director of the Global Higher Education Division at ETS.

ETS understands the challenges test takers are facing worldwide, and this solution will not compromise the integrity of its tests, executive director of the TOEFL®Program Srikant Gopal said.

“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,” Gopal noted.

In March, the Duolingo English Test said it had recorded a wave of US institutions agreeing to accept the results of its test in international admissions.

IELTS and Pearson have both brought in additional health and safety precautions to protect the health of test takers and staff in locations where its test is still going ahead. Testing for IELTS and Pearson’s PTE Academic continues to be suspended in many regions in the world however.

IELTS has introduced an online practice test to help students prepare for the exam using real IELTS questions.

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US-bound students being hit by “rampant” agent fraud in Vietnam

ven, 03/27/2020 - 04:28

Families in Vietnam are falling victim to unscrupulous education agents charging for scholarships to US institutions, sources in the country have revealed to The PIE News.

Education agents in Vietnam are taking money upfront with the promise for accessing scholarships to study in the US, and stakeholders in the country are concerned that it will have a lasting detrimental effect on Vietnamese students seeking to study in the US.

“In Vietnam right now, there’s a massive fraud going on with agents,” said Ken Cooper, chairman of Access American Education.

“In Vietnam right now, there’s a massive fraud going on with agents”

Agents are taking a slice of non-merit scholarships – often 20% of the worth of the scholarship – and telling families that only through them, can students access scholarships, he added.

Scholarships can give students a deduction of fees for anything up to US$30,000 – they are little more than discounts, Cooper suggested.

Previously, the I-20 “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status” forms that students need for their applications had been sent to agents, who would keep them until families paid them.

An update in regulations means that those forms are now sent to students, but agents are now telling families they need to pay upfront fees.

“They’re getting upfront money. $5,000-10,000 upfront from the families in order to get the ‘discount letters’. It’s rampant. It’s massive. Lots of agents are doing it,” he said.

Agencies are now using scholarships as headlines to their marketing campaigns and running scholarship events, he added.

“My guess is that parents and students believe it’s a service they’re paying for,” explained Mark Ashwill, managing director of educational consulting company Capstone Vietnam.

“Perhaps they think the agency has some sort of special influence or connection with the institution, and/or they view it as an “investment,” not knowing that it’s unnecessary,” he said.

“[This is] one of many examples of cheating in a still largely unregulated industry. Educational consulting is still the Wild West in Vietnam and many other countries,” Ashwill contended.

According to Ashwill, smaller agencies are being “rewarded” for the scholarships that “their” students earn from good but not necessarily elite institutions.

Larger agencies are more specialised in helping students gain admission to “highly selective colleges and universities”, with packages that include help with writing essays – in some cases, completing them on behalf of students – and other services, including creating extracurricular activities that their clients can add to their application.

“This is yet another example of the adage ‘success without integrity is failure’,” he said.

“Companies that engage in this unethical practice are probably also taking a fee from the parents and/or a commission from the admitting institution.  Think of it as double- or triple-dipping.

“In short, it’s just another way to make money for companies fixated on short-term profit at the expense of ethics.”

Education USA has been a “leader” in telling families they do not have to pay agents, Cooper explained, but the message is not effectively reaching families.

“It’s just another way to make money for companies fixated on short-term profit at the expense of ethics”

“I guess it’s because it’s a rising middle class and the parents just don’t have the knowledge that these are discounts, not scholarships. Now, that being said, there are merit scholarships, but you don’t have to pay for them either. You apply to the school.”

Education USA attends events and fairs in Vietnam, Cooper added.

“I love Education USA for doing that. That’s why I beg them every time I do a fair…I’d rather the government [came to explain] students do not have to pay advance fees to agents to get scholarships.

“You don’t have to pay advance fees to get essays written. You don’t have to pay advances. Come to the American centre and we’ll help you. Go to an AIRC certified agent. They’ll help you,” he said.

US schools must be checking with students to find out whether they paid for scholarships, Cooper warned.

“I hope that schools speak to kids on Skype [and ask] ‘did you pay?’ because that’s the only way the school could be not complicit. They have to take the initiative.

“And by the way, if they get caught on this, they’re [taking] a risk. There’s no doubt if this becomes an issue where a kid says, ‘hey, I paid $10,000 for that scholarship’, they’ve got a problem.”

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How do you show solidarity virtually?

ven, 03/27/2020 - 04:14

Back in the early days of developing the #WeAreInternational campaign, we were trying to think of something which would help us express solidarity between the UK and international students.

Long before Meghan made it famous again at her wedding, there was one piece of music we thought could go alongside the images of friends across national boundaries – Stand By Me. We made our film and the soundtrack felt perfect.

Only how do you communicate solidarity when you are not only two metres apart but perhaps separated by continents and time zones?

How can you communicate not only course content and assessment regulations but ideas, reflections, friendship and warmth.

How do you let someone know they are part of an educational community, that they may be distant but they are not alone?

Discovering the answer to that question is not going to be easy but we are all learning now that online connection doesn’t take less communication, it takes more.

Learning how to build a community at a distance is something we are all doing in real time under Covid-19 lockdown as we determine that physically distant won’t mean socially isolated.

One friend says her teenager is staying in touch with her friends through memes. There are virtual coffee breaks and glasses of wine. Friends are reaching out to one another across the world with pictures and affection.

People whose social media accounts were always strictly professional are loosening their stays and sharing their feelings because we really are all in this together, frightened, vulnerable, hopeful and human.

“We really are all in this together, frightened, vulnerable, hopeful and human”

And as is so often the case, music speaks. It isn’t just the songs from the balconies of Lombardy. Musicians play together via Zoom. Soloists and choirs perform. Experiencing this builds bonds, just as a shared Spotify playlist once brought together a new cohort of students travelling across the world before they met face-to-face. Now these points of contact remind us that we can be together even when we are apart.

Which brings me back to #WeAreInternational – a campaign that began in a pub in Sheffield between students and a university, one determined to communicate solidarity on the face of division.

I remember the first time I threw out a call via Universities UK asking if others would support our efforts, not at all sure anyone world want to come to that particular party. But it turns out they did.

Pretty soon a hashtag helped identify a virtual community of stubborn Citizens of the World. I have friends because of it I’ve never met face-to-face and I call them friends because connections have deepened and we have shared both triumphs and losses. We recognised friendship and strength-in-togetherness online.

Now, wonderfully, that campaign has a new national home at UKCISA and the first-ever #WeAreInternational student ambassadors. I feel like a proud aunty. Who knew that a twinkle in the eye in a Sheffield pub would result in such a beautiful family.

But now, like all families, international education is facing perhaps its greatest ever time of challenge as we face up to something most of us never imagined. Is the party over?

Well, some things are bound to change, at least in the immediate future but I, for one, will do all in my power to ensure that it is not international education and the possibility for students to learn with one another and across national divides.

I believe that we make a better world through education and that it will take all the voices of the world to work out what that means. Our world would be impoverished if we lost that possibility of connection.

The #WeAreInternational campaign taught me that those voices are out there, we just need a means to connect them. This is communication which doesn’t just broadcast or impose messages but which provides a forum and which learns as well as teaches. There is a global choir out there with an amazing range of voices and music.

Let’s build on that now. In the heroic effort to put courses online and to ensure international students won’t have their educational dreams thrown off course, let’s remember the more personal parts of what builds a community. It isn’t a nice-to-have extra, it’s what gives us courage. It’s what will get us through to whatever new world awaits.


• Ruth Arnold worked at the University of Sheffield as Director of Public Affairs and is now a senior advisor for Study Group.

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Turn a crisis into an opportunity – IHEF online

ven, 03/27/2020 - 03:20

A “hard look” at the need for international travel and a shift to a combination of face-to-face and online learning provisions partially due to the innovations borne out of the COVID-19 crisis were just some of the predictions discussed during UUKi’s International Higher Education Forum online conference.

We as a sector are actually, in a way, another fossil fuel industry”

Focusing on the topic of  ‘what will international education look like 20 years from now?’, a panel of experts across higher education, edtech, climate change and sustainability put forward their thoughts on what factors are on the horizon for the future of the sector.

Director of Pomegranate Global and co-founder of Climate Action Network for International Educators, Ailsa Lamont, started the discussion with a focus on how the international education sector can step up and do more around climate change.

“We do have a slight pause on emissions at the moment…[but] this problem of climate change is not going away,” she noted.

The fact is that we as a sector are actually, in a way, another fossil fuel industry. Our primary business model is flying around the world and encouraging people to fly.

“And I think it’s pretty clear that given all the technology that we have today and our knowledge of the carbon cost of travel, that if we were to start from a clean sheet and redesign the whole business, international education probably wouldn’t look quite like it does today.”

Lamont said the sector needs to take a “hard look” at the flights being taken and see if they really are necessary.

“The carbon cost of international educational operations needs to be put front and centre of every of our strategy…your institution might actually be able to help turn this particular [coronavirus] crisis into an opportunity to innovate and to really take some action.”

In response to the coronavirus pandemic, a large number of edtech companies are offering services to universities, schools and students to limit the disruption to learning.

At social learning platform FutureLearn, CEO Simon Nelson told delegates that there has been a “huge spike” in interest as of late, with around 90,000 enrolments from 90 countries in a new course, ‘COVID-19: Tackling the Novel Coronavirus’.

 

I guess we will get into the questioning of whether we believe this is just a temporary blip or if this represents a paradigm shift for online learning and the transformation of higher education,” he told delegates.

I don’t think that means it does away with the need for or the desire for face to face learning. But I think it challenges the questions about when it is important to come face to face, and when you can use the power of digital technologies to deliver a high-quality learning experience.

Another panellist, principal and vice-chancellor at the University of Glasgow, Anton Muscatelli said that while the coronavirus crisis has acted as a catalyst for the uptake in online programs at many institutions, it has been something that Glasgow has been looking at for 24 months.

“Although it wasn’t seen as the majority of our provision, [online] is something that will take a much bigger slice,” he said.

“[Online] is something that will take a much bigger slice”

“Depending exactly on how the disease cycle works, we are looking at how we can provide more hybrid provision, and how we might be able to start a number of courses purely online.

I actually think that from 2022 onwards, we could be in a world in which most universities will provide a combination of [online and face-to-face teaching] across the board, because of the innovations we’ve been able to introduce now,” Muscatelli added.

You can read about how the international education sector is responding to climate issues in our latest PIE Review digital magazine

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UK: boarding students’ mental health concerns

jeu, 03/26/2020 - 04:13

A small number of international boarding school students are stranded in the UK because of coronavirus and may face problems with their mental health, according to industry professionals.

Most international students returned home after schools in the UK were recently closed by the Department for Education in response to the pandemic.

“The mental health dimension to this is huge”

The closures coincided with the end of term and at boarding schools like Bedales in Hampshire, students were allowed to leave early. However, the Boarding Schools’ Association has confirmed that a number of students have been unable to return home.

“In line with government guidelines, BSA schools are now closed with the exception of children of key workers, vulnerable children and some who were unable to go home due to travel and health restrictions,” Robin Fletcher, chief executive of BSA, told The PIE News.

“BSA and our members are working closely with authorities to support the NHS and vulnerable people at this time,” he added.

Yasemin Wigglesworth, executive officer of guardianship accrediting body Aegis, explained that both guardians and schools are looking after those students who are unable to return home.

“Some schools are staying opening for as long as needed so some students are remaining there, whilst others are staying in homestays arranged by their guardianship organisation,” she told The PIE. 

“Those remaining over Easter will either stay with homestays or in school, if open.

“Our guardians are still working hard to try and get their remaining students on flights home where possible. It’s been an extremely intense and pressured time for guardians.”

Wigglesworth added that the gratitude from overseas parents for the support received by guardians has been “overwhelming”.

Caroline Nixon, general secretary of The British Association of Independent Schools with International Students, told The PIE that the first thought of UK schools is to keep students physically safe, but their mental health must also be considered.

“Whether they are still in the UK  or whether they are still to be placed somewhere, the mental health dimension to this is huge and is going to go on being huge as long as people are cooped up and a long way from home,” she said.

The BSA recently held a webinar for its members, which was presented by positive psychology coach Ruth Hughes, to help them understand how coronavirus might impact their students’ psychological wellbeing.

Hughes spoke to The PIE about the risks to students’ mental health by referring to SCARF, a psychological model that explains social behaviour.

“If you look at the central points of identity as being status, certainty, autonomy, relatedness and fairness. All of those are going to be adversely impacted by being left behind,” she said.

“It’s been an extremely intense and pressured time for guardians”

Hughes explained that students are in a very uncertain situation, not just because they don’t know when they will be able to go home, but also because students don’t know if their school friends will be returning for the summer term.

She explained that this could negatively impact their mental health.

“At the moment a lot of schools don’t know if they are going to open for the summer term, and if they are when. So some of these kids were left thinking that term will open as normal after the holidays. Now is that going to happen?” she added.

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Recruitment continues via virtual events

mer, 03/25/2020 - 15:46

While lessons move online and campuses close, student recruiters are embracing virtual tours and recruitment fairs in efforts to keep universities and prospective students connected as more and more countries go into lockdown.

UNIVER, an online platform for international students focused on the Middle East and North Africa, will be running a virtual recruitment fair from April 19-21 in the face of the increasing difficulty of doing in-person recruitment.

“We are at the peak of the 2020 recruitment cycle… universities are facing stark challenges”

Students will be able to join online chats and video conferences, including with Unibuddy student ambassadors and student accommodation providers Unilodgers, to learn more about courses abroad.

“One of the biggest impacts of the coronavirus here in MENA is on the student recruitment process,” said UNIVER COO Amanda Gregory, who is based in Bahrain.

“We are at the peak of the 2020 recruitment cycle and with the cancellation of multiple events, many due to government restrictions, including school visits all across the region, universities in the region and globally are facing stark challenges.

“We recognise the long-term impact that the current crisis is going to have on international student recruitment and the commercial reality of not being able to deliver yearly marketing plans.

“As we are on the ground in the region, we are effectively able to keep the communication channel open and deliver the targeted numbers of applications without recruiters having to even leave their desks,” Gregory added.

Meanwhile in North America, virtual tours have been in use for years to allow international students to view campuses abroad but are now being offered to domestic students too. Unibuddy recently announced it is partnering with more than 80 colleges and universities in the US to help host college tours.

Universities will be able to host virtual events and chats with prospective students through the platform.

“When I was younger, it wasn’t practical to visit most colleges,” said Unibuddy CEO, Diego Fanara.

I know what it’s like for today’s students; a huge decision to be made with only websites and brochures. I created this tool to help students connect directly with each other to talk about what it’s really like to attend a particular institution.

“It’s critical now more than ever to partner with these institutions to better reach and serve prospective students – even in a world of social isolation and quarantines,” he added.

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“Five year recovery period” predicted for global student mobility

mer, 03/25/2020 - 09:38

The mobility of international students could take up to five years to recover from the coronavirus pandemic across the world, as universities continue to grapple with the “extraordinary set of challenges” the crisis has created.

This is the view of Simon Marginson, director of the Centre for Global Higher Education, speaking at the first virtual iteration of UUKi’s annual conference.

As the world faces an economic recession – losing up to 10% of GDP worldwide – the middle classes which have sustained the growth of international education will temporarily shrink, he suggested.

“As a sector we are looking over the edge into a very significant financial abyss”

“The overall position for international education is… going to take a massive hit,” stated Marginson. “I think we are looking at least a five-year recovery period in terms of the numbers of people that move between countries for education.”

While health factors associated with the Covid-19 pandemic will impact the sector in the next 12 months, the following economic recession will create a “very long recovery period”.

“As a sector we are looking over the edge into a very significant financial abyss,” University of Exeter vice-chancellor Steve Smith agreed.

“With most institutions being able to cope with reduced finances – albeit at the cost of investment in major student and staff facilities – but most worryingly to be honest, we are totally uncertain where the bottom of this is going to be,” he said.

Smith said reliable predictions of international recruitment for next year are “impossible”.

Commentators agreed that enrolment for the next academic year will look different, with universities grappling with how to deliver programs virtually and market them internationally.

We will need stronger online prototypes says Marginson, face-to-face teaching will not be Business as Usual in September #IHEFonline – but there is a status advantage to IRL learning

— Amy Baker (@amybakerThePIE) March 25, 2020


Emerging markets – South Asia, India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and sub-saharan Africa – where many educators source students, will be most impacted by the pandemic both health and economically, Marginson stated.

“In many respects in the English speaking countries, this has been a supply driven industry… We are now seeing a flip around in that to see what has become a buyer’s market where we will be hunting for scarce international students,” he suggested.

“The competitive effects will be greater than before,” he added. Additionally, health facilities and reputation in education destination countries “coming out of the pandemic will become very important”.

Marginson also indicated that East Asia countries recovering faster than their counterparts will lead to shifts in student mobility.

“There will be more students coming out of east Asia earlier than they will out of other regions of the world. East Asian countries – China, Korea, Japan – will become larger providers of regional education than they have been,” he explained.

“The competitive effects will be greater than before”

“The capacity of families to buy into international education on the scale that they have is now gone. We need to think about ways in which we can provide a better experience than we have provided before, including better health security,” Marginson concluded.

Combined with the “financial hardships that will inevitably follow” the virus, pressures associated with climate change may also lead to reduced international tertiary mobility, Smith noted.

Rapid innovation in online teaching could add to the way the crisis will “change universities and how they operate, teach and research forever”, Smith told delegates at Universities UK International‘s online IHEF conference.

“As professionals [we] will all be so used to working remotely and via online platforms that in some cases we will never go back to old habits,” Smith suggested.

The “impressive” shift to online delivery has created a question of quality, Marginson added. Online provision systems need to be ramped up in the northern hemisphere to prepare for an academic year that will be predominantly or wholly online that is “likely to persist into 2021,” he said.

However, online provision will not replace face-to-face education in the long term, Marginson predicted. Students will continue to seek immersive experiences in other countries, and perceived “status benefits” attached to face-to-face education will continue.

Asked if universities should price differently for online programs, he said, “If online is going to become a longer-term substitute for face-to-face learning, as it will in some cases, it needs to be seen as a substantially different product.. and it will need a separate pricing structure. The idea that we charge exactly the same price for any kind of online [product] as we charge for face-to-face has to go.”

UK universities have been “struggling to repatriate students”, Smith noted, with some stranded due to closed borders and suspended international flights.

Motivating stuff from Exeter VC Steve Smith: Don’t forget about Brexit, Need back-up plan for int’l collab post-covid, UK HE sector will be one of leading sectors & key to local recovery #IHEFonline @UUKIntl pic.twitter.com/Ys2STyKHpB

— Tom Windle (@windle_tom) March 25, 2020

Whatever the outcome of the crisis, “the UK has to move decisively towards increasing the percentage of international students studying at all levels in the educational system,” Smith concluded.

“Education and research are becoming worldwide more and more international every year,” he said, affirming that the UK should continue to invest in its research output and that it would continue to be world-leading in this respect.

“The education research systems that prosper in the world will be those that are international in focus, producing research that combines the talents and insights of the leading researchers in more than one knowledge economy and supporting and educating students in an increasingly, maybe totally digital way.”

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Visa extension for students in UK confirmed

mer, 03/25/2020 - 05:24

The UK government has confirmed that all international students in the UK who are unable to return to their home country because of the coronavirus outbreak will benefit from a visa extension until May 31.

The announcement, dated 24 March, explains that the rule will apply to anyone impacted because of self-isolation or due to travel bans preventing them from returning home who has been unable to leave since January 24.

Despite the well documented sudden travel of international students as many prefer to be at home during the most severe period of the pandemic – learning online – many others have decided to stay in the UK because of the cost of returning home at short notice, travel bans or self-isolation.

The news also means students can apply to switch routes, such as from Tier 4 to Tier 2

A dedicated COVID-19 immigration team has been set up within UKVI to make the process as straightforward as possible. Anyone in this situation just needs to contact the UKVI team, via an email address, to let them know their visa has expired and they will be issued with an extension.

Home Secretary, Priti Patel, said, “The UK continues to put the health and wellbeing of people first and nobody will be punished for circumstances outside of their control.

“By extending people’s visas, we are giving people peace of mind and also ensuring that those in vital services can continue their work.”

Threads on student social media forums reveal a lot of concern in the student community – many are worried about what to do with their belongings if they return home.

Professor Steve Smith,  vice-chancellor and chief executive of the University of Exeter, confirmed in a webinar organised by UniversitiesUK International that this was keeping staff at his institution busy at present.

The news also means students can apply to switch routes, such as from Tier 4 (student) to Tier 2 (General Worker), whilst remaining in the UK.

UKVI will continue to process applications as quickly as possible, however some applications may take longer than usual due to COVID-19 related operational pressures, stated the government.

Those who contact the Home Office for these visa extensions will be expected to return to their home countries as soon as possible once flight and border restrictions are lifted. No immigration enforcement action will be undertaken during this time for those who email the Home Office as outlined above.

In light of the current advice on self-isolation and social distancing, the Home Office is also waiving a number of requirements on visa sponsors, such as allowing non-EU nationals here under work or study routes to undertake their work or study from home.

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Joybrato Mukherjee, DAAD president, Germany

mer, 03/25/2020 - 04:53
The German Academic Exchange Service or DAAD is the largest German support organisation in the field of international academic co-operation. Its new president, Joybrato Mukherjee, was vice president of the organisation until December 2019. The transition into the new role has been a smooth one despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, he told The PIE News, as he detailed what he hopes to achieve next.

 

The PIE: As president of DAAD, what are you hoping to focus on? 

Joybrato Mukherjee: In this new decade, we will have to focus on technological innovations – all the digital technologies, virtual environments, augmented reality options that will dramatically affect our understanding of intercultural experience and international collaboration. This is certainly a topic that we have to delve into much more deeply than we have.

“In this new decade, we will have to focus on technological innovations”

To what extent can we use digital options to also perhaps replace some physical mobility, given the carbon footprint of our organisation? I mean, we are an agency that funds individual mobility – we have to take the climate political debate into account for our strategy for the future.

Europe will be a major focus of ours too. What can we contribute in order to stabilise the common European research and teaching space?

The third area has to do with the worldwide tendency of an increasing number of countries becoming challenging or even difficult partners. How do we defend our European values when negotiating with countries or with partner institutions that have other political systems that disagree with the values that we operate on?

The PIE: What projects has DAAD either started or planned to start with universities in more ‘difficult’ countries?

JM: China, for obvious reasons at the moment, is a challenging partner. We do have various transnational projects with Chinese universities as well as partnerships on collaborative projects, e.g. between German Universities of Applied Sciences (traditionally labelled  ‘Fachhochschule’) and Chinese partner institutions – the Sino-German University of Applied Sciences.

Another challenging and important partner at the moment is Turkey. In Istanbul, a new campus of the Turkish German University was inaugurated by [German] chancellor Merkel and [Turkish] president Erdogan in January.

It’s a project funded by DAAD – a German university with a German strategy and structure but on Turkish soil, co-funded and co-financed by Turkey and Germany.

In Germany, we are currently discussing a lot to what extent the collaborations between Turkey and Germany can be upheld given the political situation in Turkey. But this project shows that a scientific academic platform for research and teaching is an important transnational project.

The PIE: How does DAAD decide which projects are important and which ones it wants to fund?

JM: That depends. Proposals may come from individual universities that approach DAAD with an idea for a transnational project. The idea may come from inside DAAD as well. Suggestions can also come from the political sphere. The German-Turkish University was created as an idea by considerations of politicians in Turkey and Germany. Our job is to turn an individual or political idea into a solid, substantial roadmap for setting up a viable academic project.

The PIE: Bringing it back to what you mentioned about DAAD’s role within Europe and stabilising that research space. Why is that so important now?

JM: We want to see that the common European research and teaching area we have created through Bologna, Erasmus+ and other projects doesn’t fall apart. Brexit is probably the most substantial manifestation of those centrifugal forces that we can see all over Europe.

“We hope that Britain will continue to take part in Erasmus in the long term”

We hope that Britain will continue to take part in Erasmus in the long term. It’s a wonderful platform to provide young students with an intercultural experience in another European country. This, at the end of the day, will help create a kind of a European identity in young citizens all over Europe. And creating this identity is key to keeping Europe and the European Union together.

This is not only for altruistic reasons. I mean, if we want to stay competitive in the world and on a global scale, then we also have to bring together the academic forces of all European countries.

The PIE: Do you see Germany’s universities identifying themselves as European or German in the first instance?

JM: The DAAD is a German organisation, but in our mission statement, we say we are a German organisation in Europe. What we have to do constantly, continuously, is to think about our strategy at both levels. Of course, we are a national organisation, we are funded as a national funding agency by national ministries. But major funding comes also from the European Union, as we are the national agency in Germany in charge of the entire Erasmus program.

What I meant when I talked about the global scale of competition was that if we want to compete with the strongest universities worldwide and with rising academic powers like China, then we have to accept the fact that we can only stay competitive if the best German and European institutions join forces in transnational projects.

Of course, European funding for these joint projects and mobility is key. That’s the reason why we want, in the post-Brexit phase, to find a solution to keep Britain as one of the strongest academic nations in Europe when it comes to European funding and European programs.

The PIE: In terms of working with those institutions that you’re competing against, say, if it’s American universities or Chinese universities, do you see that benefit in working together more closely with partners in those sorts of countries?

JM: Competition doesn’t mean that we don’t want to cooperate or collaborate. Despite the increasingly challenging situation in China, and despite the disagreements that we have with the current federal administration in Washington, we are and will in the future be strongly interested in collaborating with the best universities worldwide.

We want our best scholars to spend time at the best universities worldwide, to invite people from over there to our universities, and we also want to see student mobility increase, especially with partners in the US and China. But that doesn’t mean that we are not fully aware of the fact that at the global scale, we are also in a competition for the best talent worldwide.

“I think universities in Germany have learned a lot from American institutions and others”

China has increased funding for higher education dramatically from a European perspective. And of course, it’s all about getting the best talent, students, researchers from all over the world. America has been for many years the best example for that.

The PIE: Can German universities learn from the US in terms of attracting the best talent?

JM: I think universities in Germany have learned a lot from American institutions and others, for example, by providing English medium study programs. Today there is a vastly different situation than, let’s say, 20 or 30 years ago.

The PIE: One thing I would propose that the rest of the world could learn from Germany is refugee integration at universities. Could you tell me a bit about your work at that level?

JM: We do believe that we have been very successful at integrating refugees into our high education system. In the autumn of 2015, DAAD created two new programs. The first – ‘Welcome’ – was intended to fund students who would support refugee students when they began to study at German universities. The focus was not so much on providing money to the universities or to administrative structures, but to student bodies.

‘Integra’ is the second program that we created. That one was intended to provide funding for institutions to provide language courses and support structures for refugee students so that they would learn more about the German system.

Four years down the road, we see that 25,000–30,000 of those refugee students that came to Germany from 2015-18 are now enrolled at German universities. And we will have to monitor that closely over the next couple of years. But so far, we would say we have been quite successful at integrating refugee students into our higher education system.

The PIE: You mentioned the carbon footprint of international mobility earlier. What sort of projects is DAAD working on to counteract that?

JM: There are various options here, and I guess we are at the beginning of a long road. But we have to accept the fact that funding more and more individual physical mobility can’t be the only option for our future strategy.

We have to ask ourselves which mobilities can be replaced by virtual or augmented reality scenarios. Is it necessary to provide funding for this or that conference? Is it necessary to have all the interviews of the applicants in face-to-face situations?

“So far, we would say we have been quite successful at integrating refugee students into our higher education system”

At the extreme end of that line of options is a science fiction scenario perhaps, but let’s see where technological innovations will head over the next 10, 20 or 30 years. The question arises whether a semester abroad can be conducted partially or fully in an augmented reality scenario.

Also, intercultural experience can also be gained on our international campuses of German universities, for example. Each German university has an international campus. How can this potential be used more strategically for providing German students with an intercultural experience? For us at DAAD, generally speaking, the intellectual challenge is how to dissociate intercultural experience and physical mobility.

We could think about scenarios where students from other countries would not study at a German university by moving physically to Germany, but in a virtual environment.

Long-distance learning platforms are also an option. My aim is to think more strategically about dissociating these topics, which so far, have always been seen as belonging together.

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Brazil: students cheated as agency closes

mer, 03/25/2020 - 03:39

Students in Brazil intending to study abroad have been cheated out of their money by an unscrupulous agency operating in the country, according to authorities who are continuing investigations to identify those responsible.

According to local media, Agência Mundi has closed its offices in São Paulo and its website asks that “no further payment be sent” to the agency.

Procon – Procuradoria de Proteção e Defesa do Consumidor – a government agency that is designed to protect, guide and defend consumers in Brazil, said Agência Mundi has scammed students in excess of R $1 million (approximately £165,000).

“If you multiply by the amount that each person has paid, the loss actually amounts to R $1 million”

“If you multiply by the amount that each person has paid, the loss actually amounts to R $1 million. Procon will apply fines proportional to this billing,” Procon executive director, Fernando Capez said.

“At the same time, in parallel, [we are] seeking a police investigation to pressure the owners of the companies [to] be criminally prosecuted and thus have to appear to defend themselves,” he added.

While Agência Mundi kept money students paid for trips, school enrolments, and accommodation, the agency is also known to owe English language schools money.

Agência Mundi is the third agency to close in Brazil in recent years.

Time2 Travel, an agency specialising in travel to Ireland announced it would close due to financial difficulties in June 2019.

In December, owners of another agency – 4U Intercâmbio, which also had offices in Ireland – allegedly disappeared with money from the packages purchased for English courses and accommodation for European countries.

“What is odd is that all of them happened very similarly,” one agent in Brazil told The PIE News. “The way they closed it, doesn’t [seem] like the company was trying to honour debts.”

Students should ensure they request an invoice from the school, as well as set out a payment deadline with the agency, the agent explained.

“Also, the agency always should give the possibility that the student can pay by himself directly to the school, otherwise it’s a questionable attitude from the service provider,” they added.

According to other sources, Agência Mundi primarily offered budget courses.

Speaking with The PIE, one agency said they had been approached by some students who had been in contact with Mundi.

“Since we work closely with colleges and university programs, and most of our partners are not budget, as Mundi offered, the little we could do to help them was to offer another program in one of our school partners,” they said.

Agência Mundi may have suffered due to sudden exchange rate changes, another added.

The agency focused on English language and Work & Study programs and was “selling promotional packages at lower prices than the schools with high quality, with long payment instalments”, they explained.

“When a sudden rise in our exchange rates came, sales probably dropped this year and it became impossible to keep up the business,” they explained.

“It brings a bad reputation for the whole market because people become worried about putting their money into any agency”

For Alexandre Argenta, CEO of Brazilian agency TravelMate, the situation has two dimensions for the market.

“It brings a bad reputation for the whole market because people become worried about putting their money into any agency.

“But on the other hand, it is positive because it cleans the market of companies that are not well organised or established, showing people that they should trust on the more traditional agencies that have been in the market for decades,” Argenta said.

It’s important that those traditional agencies hold the BELTA seal and membership, he added. Agencies must offer a variety of international education programs to stay healthy, Argenta contended.

“Due to the sales seasons of each program – teen programs, high school, languages course, work & study, work & travel, au pair, higher education and so forth – this is the only way a company can have business throughout the whole year, having consistent financial flow non-stop,” he said.

“Selling multiple countries is also important because when unexpected immigration changes happen, shutting down some programs, the agency will always have an alternative to continue in the business.”

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UKCISA names int’l student ambassadors

mar, 03/24/2020 - 06:47

A group of ‘exceptional’ international students have been selected to take part in the UK Council for International Student Affairs’ #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors program.

Launched in 2019, the program aims to connect international students to an “exciting network” of emerging global talents and future leaders through their experience studying in the UK.

“It was a very competitive process, so huge congratulations to all those who have been selected”

The first cohort of 10 students come from countries spanning the globe, including India, Botswana, Germany, US, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam, Nigeria and China.

The scheme is part of UKCISA’s wider #WeAreInternational campaign which aims to promote the value of international students on UK campuses.

“I’m delighted to announce that our #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors program is now underway,” said UKCISA chief executive, Anne-Marie Graham.

“It was a very competitive process, so huge congratulations to all those who have been selected for the program.

“UKCISA is leading the development of a new chapter for the award-winning #WeAreInternational campaign, broadening the campaign’s reach and celebrating international students from schools, colleges, universities and study abroad programs.”

Graham explained that the program aims to empower international students to be key partners in shaping a quality student experience so that they can use their knowledge of studying in the UK to influence policy and lead the #WeAreInternational campaign.

Student ambassadors include Abdullah Umar Zulaidi who is currently a second-year student at Newcastle University pursuing an undergraduate degree in Politics and Economics and Yunyan Li, a second-year PhD student in Social Policy at the University of Bristol.

“I’m thrilled to introduce you to our first cohort of #WeAreInternational Student Ambassadors,” she said.

“These inspirational students have demonstrated great determination and drive to develop their own skills by representing their peers, and are passionate about ensuring that the lived experience of international students is understood by policymakers at national and institutional level.”

A full list of student profiles can be seen here.

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Global: student visa application services halted

mar, 03/24/2020 - 02:59

The US State Department suspended visa application services – including those for student visas – at its embassies in most countries last week, with services for citizens remaining open and emergency visa services available “as resources allow”.

A total of 8,742,068 immigrant and non-immigrant visas were issued by US foreign posts in 2019, of which 398,357 were F (student) or M (vocational student) visas.

“Depending on the situation, this [closure] can be adjusted to an even later date”

On its online visa application service portal, the US lists the first available appointment to apply for a student visa in Beijing as “November 29, 2020”, although stakeholders told The PIE News they are hopeful this will be adjusted in the future.

Despite the World Health Organisation continuing to “advise against the application of travel or trade restrictions”, many countries around the world have issued travel restrictions, including major study destinations such as the US, Canada, China and Australia.

However, this has now extended to multiple countries halting visa services, which could lead to a backlog that impacts students wishing to study abroad later in the year.

According to VFS Global, the visa processing company that operates visa services for 64 governments around the world, services have shut down for visa for many EU countries including popular study destinations such as Ireland, Denmark, France, Finland, Switzerland and Belgium.

Embassies and visa services are so far unable to give a date as to when normal visa services will resume.

“Our consular desks are closed until at least April 6,” explained a spokesperson from The Embassy of the Netherlands in China. 

“Depending on the situation, this can be adjusted to an even later date.”

But not everyone is shutting down. The Ukrainian Embassy in China told The PIE students can continue to apply for visas “without any restrictions” and some countries are still offering reduced services. Ukraine is currently home to over 75,000 international students.

“INZ’s Beijing, Mumbai and Manila offices are temporarily closed. INZ remains committed to minimising the impact on visa processing times. The Palmerston North Office in New Zealand remains open for student visa processing,” explained Immigration New Zealand.

“Their priority is to process applications from students already in New Zealand who may have visas expiring soon. They will process other applications as resources allow.”

Canada and the UK have closed visa centres in many places, including cities in China and India, but remain open in other areas.

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English Australia says sector needs rescue package of AU$87m

lun, 03/23/2020 - 19:32

COVID-19 is “decimating” Australia’s English language teaching sector and without immediate government support, many high quality colleges in the country will be forced to close, the CEO of English Australia has warned.

Posting on the English Australia website, Brett Blacker explained that the association of English language schools had written directly to Australia’s prime minister Scott Morrison on March 22, requesting the provision of a rescue package totalling AUD$87 million.

“As a sector 100% reliant on foreign nationals the impact is clear. We need support and we need it now”

He said the package consists of eight points including concessional loans for eligible ELICOS businesses; grants for businesses to provide courses online; payroll assistance grants; and a sector support payment to help English Australia support members, business owners and students.

It also includes a request for a waiver of student visa fees and the removal of Austrade service fees to access data and marketing assistance.

Blacker said he has also held discussions with senior officials for the Department of Education, Skills and Employment related to the requests.

“As a sector 100% reliant on foreign nationals the impact is clear. Our message is clear. We need support and we need it now,” explained Blacker.

Ian Pratt, the managing director of Lexis English which has six centres in Australia and employs 330 people, told The Australian the business had suffered “massive cancellations”.

Pratt would not estimate how long the business could hold out, but he said the private part of the English tuition sector was facing extinction in a matter of weeks.

“Industry-wide, I’m hearing people saying two weeks, I’m hearing people say six weeks,” he said, adding that it would not be easy to restore the industry after a collapse.

“We have very highly trained staff and, when we lose them, it’s going to be spectacularly difficult getting them back,” he said.

Despite many countries introducing school closures as a means of slowing the spread of coronavirus, schools in Australia are not currently required to close.

“I spoke with senior officials at DESE, who confirmed that education is considered an essential service and therefore colleges may remain open,” Blacker said, adding that all colleges need to comply with requirements for closing if a case of COVID-19 is identified.

He said that colleges may choose to teach remotely “if this is deemed the most appropriate action in your circumstances”.

“DESE has also confirmed that colleges can deliver courses to students that are not in Australia if circumstances require. Colleges will need to follow the advice that has been previously provided… and [ensure] the learning outcomes can be achieved,” Blacker added.

“When we lose [the staff] it’s going to be spectacularly difficult getting them back”

He noted that the Department of Home Affairs has not yet advised on visa processing and whether it is still processing visas since the ban was imposed on all foreign traveller from entering Australia as of March 20.

“I have already stressed my view that they must continue to process visas to ensure we are in a position to recover in the future,” Blacker continued.

“We face the greatest challenge that our sector has ever faced, but our sector is incredibly capable and resilient.

“English Australia will do everything in its power to make sure that our sector survives,” he added.

Earlier in 2020, DESE released a snapshot of international students who studied ELICOS as part of a study pathway, with figures showing mixed results for the sector in 2019.

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Canada makes major concession on entry for international students

lun, 03/23/2020 - 09:56

International students will be exempt from Canada’s travel ban as long as they have a valid study permit or had been approved for a study permit prior to March 18, when the travel restrictions took effect.

This is a major concession from Canada for its sizeable international student community – it is also making concessions for its temporary foreign worker program. Full details of the exemption are expected to be detailed early next week, according to the IRCC communique.

“These international students and faculty are valued members of our university communities, and are contributing to Canada,” Universities Canada president Paul Davidson said.

“We are very pleased to see that the government recognises this and is ensuring they will be able to return to Canada.”

Foreign students are now anticipated to travel to Canada as planned for spring-term (May) enrolments, according to Canada-based Gautham Kolluri, who runs global education counselling firm CIP Study Abroad and has many Indian student clients.

“I am hoping that institutions can come up with some support”

But he said that students would need assistance from the colleges they were enrolled with to help them navigate logistics from airport pick-up to organising accommodation, especially for an initial 14-day isolation period.

“I’m looking into booking furnished homes and hotels,” he told The PIE News, explaining that his agency is already an exception in terms of organising interim housing for students as they arrive. “Most students have nobody out here,” he said.

“It’s very difficult logistics that we have to co-ordinate now,” he said. “If the government has advised that students have to stay self-isolated for 14 days…for new students…we have no understanding how to do it. I am hoping that institutions can come up with some support.”

Asked if some students would decide not to enrol, Kolluri said he felt those who had already made the financial investment would decide to travel anyway, despite it being unclear now how they would access the studies they have paid for.

“I don’t see any students really saying, sorry, we are not interested, we are going back, especially from India – the largest second-largest market for international students,” said Kolluri.

“They will come. I talk to thousands of students every month through our social network. It’s a very big commitment for students and their parents’ financial commitment and also given their interest to study abroad – especially given that this would lead to post-study job opportunities and permanent resident pathways. This is a very important decision for the students.”

Lane Clark, president and CEO of the Canadian College of English Language (CCEL) and Canadian College, told The PIE that he and his staff were “relieved” by the government’s decision even though operations have already moved online.

“We are happy to hear that, when it is safe to reopen, students will be able to arrive and attend classes,” he said.

“I have never seen something this impactful on this industry and truly hope we will all come out intact on the other end. There have been many localised issues over the years, however this is a complete standstill, the magnitude of which has the power to shift our entire industry.”

A spokesperson for the University of Alberta added that they were also pleased to see the regulations clarified by the IRCC and will continue to support all its students as the world “adjust[s] to the ever-changing realities of this global pandemic”.

The exemptions also include all temporary foreign workers, with particular mention being made of seasonal agricultural workers, those working in fish/seafood and caregivers.

I don’t see any students really saying, sorry, we are not interested, we are going back”

Workers in the low-wage stream of the Temporary Foreign Worker Program will also be able to work for two years, instead of just one.

“Our government will continue to take the measures necessary to protect the health and safety of Canadians, including putting in place social distancing, isolation and travel restrictions to reduce the spread of COVID-19,” commented Marco E L Mendicino, minister of immigration, refugees and citizenship.

“Today’s announcement will ensure both a robust response to addressing the spread of the virus and that our farmers, fishers and other producers have the workers they need, when they need them, to strengthen Canada’s food security and provide other vital services.”

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IB May 2020 exams will no longer be held

lun, 03/23/2020 - 06:57

The International Baccalaureate exams set for May have been cancelled due to the coronavirus pandemic, impacting the plans of more than 200,000 students around the world.

In a letter to sent schools and examiners on March 22, the IB said the examinations, which were originally scheduled for between April 30 and May 22 for diploma program and career-related program students, would no longer be held.

“The IB with considerable advisement from stakeholders… has determined the most responsible and ethical way forward”

The two-year IB diploma program, aimed at pupils aged between 16 and 19, provides an internationally accredited qualification for entrance into higher education institutions.

According to the organisation’s website, as of March 2020, there were 6,966 programs being offered worldwide, across 5,263 schools in 158 countries.

“Our students, their well-being and their progression in future stages of life have been at the forefront of our thinking as we respond to this extraordinary pandemic,” a statement on the website explained.

“As an organisation, it is critical for us to ensure that the options we provide our global community of IB World schools are based on compassion for our students and teachers and, fairness for the difficult circumstances our students and educators are experiencing,” the statement read.

“We are grateful for your patience and consideration. As a result, the IB with considerable advisement from stakeholders across the globe including schools, students, universities and official bodies has determined the most responsible and ethical way forward.”

In a list of FAQs, the IB said that moving the date wasn’t an option as creating examinations for over 200,000 global students each year takes a considerable amount of work, with the work beginning at least 18 months before the date that students will finally sit the exam paper.

“Behind this process, there is also a large infrastructure of printing, posting and scanning the papers. These companies carefully schedule their work to ensure they can support multiple assessment bodies across the world throughout the year.

“If we moved the examination session these companies may not be able to support the IB,” the organisation explained.

In addition, it said the COVID-19 outbreak is affecting different parts of the world at different times and is a rapidly evolving situation.

“Currently, there are schools globally who are not affected and whose students are preparing to take their examinations in May, while for other schools, it is not yet certain that they will be open for the exams.

“Even if we were able to move the examination session, we may find the same problem as now, with some schools able to sit the exams and others not.”

“The student will be awarded a diploma or a course certificate which reflects their standard of work”

Information about the Middle Years Program eAssessment examinations due to be held May 11-22 will be provided next week, the statement explained.

“Depending on what they registered for, the student will be awarded a diploma or a course certificate which reflects their standard of work.

“This is based on student’s coursework and the established assessment expertise, rigour and quality control already built into the programs,” the statement concluded.

Full details will be sent to schools by March 27.

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Canada adjusts to huge movement of students, online shift

mar, 03/17/2020 - 15:52

In response to the growing COVID-19 epidemic, Canada’s prime minister Justin Trudeau has announced the country will be closing its borders to non-citizens and those without permanent resident status starting on March 18. The announcement is expected to impact a large number of international students, many of whom are in Canada and now considering travelling to return home.

Canada is the world’s third-leading destination of international students, with 642,000 in 2019. Some 56% come from India and China.

Stakeholders explained that many international students, planning to return home for a summer break anyway, may now consider leaving early, not just because of the travel ban but also because institutions were making all courses accessible online.

“Our priority now is international students on campus”

Speaking from self-isolation in Ottawa, Trudeau pointed out that the government was acting on the advice of public health officials in its new travel rules.

“It is a significant step. It is a step that we take in exceptional circumstances, but it is the right step,” Trudeau explained. Canadians abroad are also being urged to return home and a loan program established to help this happen.

As a result of the measures, international offices in Canada are faced with “unprecedented daily changes and challenges”, director of the internationalisation office at Memorial University of Newfoundland, Sonja Knutson, told The PIE News.

“The FAQ’s that we wrote on Friday no longer applied as of Monday,” she said.

“Our priority now is international students on campus – while international students are welcome to stay in Canada, most are worried – they don’t know whether they should return home immediately and finish their terms by distance, or whether they should stay.”

Knutson said the biggest unknown is whether students can gain re-entry to Canada come September.

“Those that are considering staying are asking how they will afford to stay here over the summer as most were planning to work and many workplaces are reducing staffing.

“We can’t give blanket advice – situations are case-by-case, taking in study permit expiry, health insurance, and status of the home country; some have closed borders already,” she added.

“We have sent messages to our students abroad ensuring they are making their way home – Memorial had already taken that step on March 15, but now the federal government has also stated that all Canadians and permanent resident are urged to return.”

At Trent University, Cath D’Amico, director, international, told The PIE, that there was not necessarily a level of panic among students – a number of whom had seen an early coronavirus curve in Asia – but that reassurance about their decisions and the legitimacy of their study permit were paramount.

[Students] needed those kinds of reassurances that their study, right now, is still legitimate, even though it’s transitioned to an online delivery, and that their future studies would not be compromised because of the switch,” she related.

But some educators have taken to social media to voice their concerns over the impact the measures will have on international students.

One major problem with the govt announcement. In banning boarding/entry to all non-residents (except Americans), no exception has been made for visa students who are abroad as part of Cdn univ programs and who were encouraged by universities to return. Completely unacceptable.

— Craig Scott (@CraigScottCA) March 16, 2020

Vice president partnerships at Camosun College in British Columbia, Geoff Wilmshurst, told The PIE that the institution is focused on assisting the return of its study abroad students all of whom are in Europe this semester.

“We have offered additional monies to assist them to book a flight home and offering other supports.

“This, of course, will impact our spring and summer semesters. Our efforts are focussed on retaining international students that are currently at the college and those that are in-country and looking for study opportunities,” Wilmshurst added.

Gabriela Facchini, manager of International Business Development and Partnerships (Latin America, Europe, Turkey, Korea and Japan) at Sheridan College in Ontario said that her institution’s number-one priority right now is to “do our part in helping our community, our province and Canada to slow down the curve of infection of COVID-19”.

“Sheridan and I believe most, if not all, public institutions have closed this week to allow faculty the time to adjust the curriculum to go online for the rest of the semester,” she told The PIE, adding that other staff will work from home as March 18, and that a webpage has been set up to help the community stay informed.

Facchini said that the closing of Canadian borders means that May semester new students may not be able to start their programs at Sheridan.

“To that effect, we are allowing students to defer their start dates. Also, Sheridan will issue a full refund of fees if students are not able to travel to Canada [and] deferrals of fees and enrollment to January 2021 may be requested and approved where possible.”

“As the situation is so fluid, it is hard to predict what will happen in the weeks ahead”

Additionally, Facchini told The PIE that some students have requested to go home for the remainder of the semester.

“We are uncertain right now if this would have any effect on their eligibility for Post-Graduate Work Permits once students graduate,” she added, saying that it also may be difficult for students to return to Canada should the situation changes and in-person classes were to resume.

“As the situation is so fluid, it is hard to predict what will happen in the weeks ahead.”

Knutson at Memorial agreed: “it is an unprecedented time for us, we are all leaning on lessons learned from previous crises but this current crisis goes far beyond what we have previously experienced.”

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