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Germany and Kenya to establish university of applied sciences

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 10:52

A binational university of applied sciences is set to be established in Kenya as a joint project with Germany, it has been announced, in order to help upskill the Kenyan workforce to meet the demands of the economy.

The Eastern African-German University of Applied Sciences is expected to serve as a model of a university of applied sciences which is closely connected with industry, to strengthen the ties between education and business.

The institution, which is projected to have a capacity of between 4,000 and 5,000 students within ten years of opening, will specialise in teaching in the subjects of mechanical, electrical and civil engineering.

It will also teach entrepreneurship, and provide TVET teacher training.

“Kenya is developing into a regional economic and technological hub”

A declaration of intent to establish the Eastern African-German University of Applied Sciences was signed at the German-African Business Summit this month in Nairobi by Jutta Frasch, the German ambassador to Kenya, and Fred Matiang’i, the Kenyan Minister of Education.

The details of funding this institution are still under review, but an intergovernmental agreement on the financial aspects is in the pipeline.

The financial contribution from the German side, however, will be focused on the curricula development, teacher training and training of research staff, as well as the deployment of German lecturers and administrators to work with their Kenyan counterparts, according to Helmut Blumbach, DAAD regional director, Nairobi.

“The idea is not to build a new university from scratch but to stage an open competition among existing Kenyan universities which would like to remodel their programmes along the principles of a university of applied sciences,” he told The PIE News.

It is also expected to cater to both businesses and students from across the East African region, Blumbach added.

Many education stakeholders in Kenya view the German universities of applied sciences “as a model for practice-oriented academic training offering qualifications relevant to the labour market”, commented Blumbach.

“The country’s academic and higher education sector are experiencing rapid growth”

And there was already interest from universities of applied sciences in Germany to participate in a collaborative project with Kenya.

“With its growing industries, improving infrastructure, creativity in ICT development and thousands of business start-ups, Kenya is developing into a regional economic and technological hub,” said Blumbach.

“It is therefore an ideal environment to create a model of a technical university which is closely linked and adapted to the needs of the booming economy.”

This project will help further cooperation between Germany and Kenya, said Margret Wintermantel, president of DAAD.

“The country’s academic and higher education sector are experiencing rapid growth, the economy and diverse industrial branches are booming, there’s a vibrant entrepreneurial scene of medium-sized companies,” she said.

“I am delighted that, with this new project, we can further intensify our cooperation with Kenya and the region of Eastern Africa.”

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UK’s Right to Rent checks affecting int’l students

Tue, 02/21/2017 - 05:16

Fears that legislation mandating that landlords check tenants’ right to rent in England may deter some landlords from letting to foreign nationals – including international students – appear to have been realised, as two national surveys suggest some landlords are doing just that.

In a survey of 108 landlords by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, half (51%) said that the Right to Rent scheme has made them less likely to consider renting to foreign nationals.

And in a second survey of 57 student landlords in England by StudentTenant.com, nearly a quarter (23%) said they would be less likely to rent to an international student now than before the checks were introduced.

Under legislation that came into force in February 2016, landlords can face a fine of up to £3,000 or jail time if they fail to verify that prospective tenants are legally allowed to live in the UK.

They must do this by asking tenants to produce an eligible passport, birth certificate, immigration documents or a biometric data card.

“There is no evidence that it is doing anything to tackle irregular immigration”

But StudentTenant.com’s survey suggests this some landlords are being over-cautious, as more than three-quarters of those surveyed (76%) said they would not consider a tenant who was unable to immediately produce this documentation immediately.

The survey also revealed that landlords are divided as to whether or not they believe the changes help to identify people who are in the UK illegally.

Close to half (47%) said they don’t think the tenant checks will have a “genuine impact on filtering out illegal immigrants”, while just over a third (36%) believe there will be an impact.

Alarmingly, although the majority of landlords surveyed said they were aware of the Right to Rent changes, 16% said they were not. A further 2% were unsure whether or not they had known about the changes.

“When the new Right to Rent regulations were introduced there was uproar amongst the landlord community, because of the supposedly unfair burden placed on them in relation to enforcing immigration laws,” commented Danielle Cullen, managing director at StudentTenant.com.

“I have to say that the apparent ineffective implementation of the regulations so far seems to have warranted that uproar, particularly given the adverse effects on the international community legally residing within the UK.”

The UK Council for International Student Affairs was among the organisations that warned the Right to Rent scheme could make life difficult for international students. Before the nationwide rollout, its chief executive, Dominic Scott, said the scheme entailed a “clear risk of discrimination”.

However, Scott said the association has not received many reports of international students being affected by the policy so far.

“We have been surprised that we have not had more reports of difficulties for international students as we warned at an early stage that they would face problems,” he told The PIE News.

This may be because managed student accommodation (such as that belonging to universities) is exempt from the policy, he said, but added: “Clearly many of those using the private sector are facing what looks like direct or indirect discrimination.”

The JCWI study appears to highlight broader issues with the scheme and landlords’ response.

Forty-two per cent of landlords said they would be less likely to rent to someone without a British passport as a result of the Right to Rent regulations. This rose to 48% when survey participants were explicitly asked to consider the sanctions they might face for violating the regulations.

This is despite the fact that a British passport is only one of the documents that would provide assurance that a tenant is legally allowed to live in England.

As well as the 51% of respondents who said they would be less likely to rent to a foreign national from outside the EU, 18% said they would be less likely to rent to European nationals as a result of the scheme.

Saira Grant, chief executive of JCWI, said the study demonstrates the Right to Rent scheme is “failing on all fronts”.

“It treats many groups who need housing unfairly, it is clearly discriminatory, it is putting landlords in an impossible position, and there is no evidence that it is doing anything to tackle irregular immigration,” she said.

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eLearnAfrica partnership to reach 10 million students

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 11:12

New online learning platform, eLearnAfrica, has partnered with the Association of African Universities to expand access to its courses to a targeted 10 million students across the continent.

Through this partnership, university students will be able to access courses offered through the platform online or through a mobile app.

The partnership means that Association of African Universities‘ 380 member institutions across 46 countries will also be able to offer courses through eLearnAfrica’s learning management system.

“The AAU is the most important higher education coordinating body”

Using the services provided by the online learning platform to expand their own educational opportunities will enable AAU’s members to expand their reach to greater numbers of students, particularly in more rural areas.

Etienne Ehouan Ehile, secretary general of the AAU, said Africa faces a constant challenge of having only limited access to quality higher education.

“Therefore building capacities of African universities to be innovative in their teaching and learning methods for increased access to quality higher education is top priority for the AAU,” he said.

“This partnership with eLearnAfrica will help us achieve this goal.”

eLearnAfrica currently offers over 1,000 courses from higher education institutions worldwide, as well as vocational courses in a number of professional development fields, including business administration and software development.

The online platform only launched in November last year. However, since its inception, the site has had close to one million visits.

“The AAU is the most important higher education coordinating body,” said Brook Negussie, CEO of eLearnAfrica. “We are looking forward to developing and delivering content with the member universities throughout Africa.”

With the demand for higher education far exceeding the supply on the continent, online delivery is increasingly being looked at as an alternative way to address capacity constraints.

“Online degrees are a great way for universities to extend and diversify their academic reach in a sustainable and scalable manner,” said Negussie.

“We hope to significantly increase the number of students earning degrees in the next few years by literally putting in the palms of their hands the tools they need to succeed.”

“Online degrees are a great way for universities to extend and diversify their academic reach in a sustainable and scalable manner”

eLearnAfrica also works with other MOOC providers, including UK-based FutureLearn, as well as US-based edX, to offer online courses from some of the world’s top institutions.

The platform also uses itSM solutions to deliver on-demand programmes in the medium of video.

In December, eLearnAfrica also partnered with Zambian Open University, which is now offering courses through the platform. The university enrolled around 3,000 students in 2016, and with this partnership, expects to grow numbers by another 50%.

Unicaf University has also recently signed up to offer courses through the website. Unicaf, which originated from Cyprus, provides scholarships for students in sub-Saharan Africa to study at its partner institutions online.

“Unicaf University is a leader in the provision of online degrees with world-class professors, made affordable through generous scholarships,” said Negussie, adding: “We are excited to offer Unicaf University’s programmes on eLearnAfrica.com and look forward to our mutually beneficial co-operation in the years ahead.”

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EduCo announces first Irish pathway partnerships

Mon, 02/20/2017 - 08:51

EduCo International Group, a global postsecondary education provider that operates pathways and managed campuses in Australia, the US and Canada, has announced its first pathway partnerships in Ireland.

The two new pathway programmes aim to ease entry to Maynooth University in County Kildare and Dublin City University for international students at both the undergraduate and postgraduate level.

“EduCo is very proud to add Europe to our portfolio of destinations”

Students on the pathway programmes will be fully integrated into their chosen university’s campus, but will benefit from smaller class sizes.

The pathways “will provide unique and exceptional academic opportunities” as the company moves its pathway offering into Europe for the first time, according to the company’s CEO, Joff Allen.

“[EduCo] is very proud to launch the partnerships with these world-renowned universities and to add Europe to our portfolio of destinations,” added Allen.

“Ireland offers a remarkable combination of quality education, industry-linked universities and a safe and welcoming environment for international students.”

Explaining the decision to enter the Irish market, Jacob Kestner, managing director of EduCo International in Ireland, noted: “There is some uncertainty around traditional destinations such as the UK at the moment and the timing of the launch has created a lot of excitement.”

Unlike some other pathway providers, which operate branded courses on university campuses, EduCo acts as a white label partner, and so the new programmes won’t be marketed under the EduCo brand.

This also means the company won’t take over admissions for the new programmes, but will help with recruitment by promoting the courses in source markets and presenting qualified candidates.

As well as pathway provision, EduCo also operates student recruitment and conversion campaigns, on-campus academic provision and student support services.

Its existing partners include the University of Maryland, Baltimore County in the US, Acsenda School of Management in Canada and Southern Cross University in Australia.

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Safeguarding international students at work

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 06:31

“Exploitation among international students is no longer a peculiar phenomenon,” says Nina Khairina, national president of the Council of International Students Australia. “It is almost to the point where it seems normal.”

Khairina’s comments about exploitation in the workplace represent a serious problem for an international education industry that is aiming to improve the overall study experience for foreign students. 

International students play an integral role within both Australian and New Zealand workforces, taking jobs largely in the hospitality, retail, construction and cleaning industries. Working while studying is an opportunity for students to make some extra money to cover additional expenses; a chance to interact with the wider community; and a means to get much needed work experience and develop soft skills before starting their careers.

“Exploitation among international students is no longer a peculiar phenomenon”

But as Khairina points out, when it goes wrong, working while studying can be a situation which creates problems for students: their limited knowledge of workplace rights, cultural misunderstandings and, at times, desperation for money leads to exploitation so extreme in some cases that it resembles modern day slavery.

Mostly out of sight from the public eye, despite several highly publicised incidents involving convenience store chain 7-Eleven and Australian department store Myer, well-established exploitation strategies are a pervasive problem which threatens to damage the reputations of both Australia and New Zealand’s international education industries.

While a programme is in session, students in New Zealand can work up to 20 hours part-time per week if they are in their final two years of secondary schooling, a tertiary programme with a minimum two years duration, or in an English language course that meets certain requirements. During holiday periods, students may work full-time, while postgraduate students can work full-time throughout the year.

Australia similarly allows part-time work for appropriately aged students in secondary school, tertiary education or English education while their programme is in session, but students must not work more than 40 hours a fortnight. Working hour allowances for coursework-based master’s and doctorate courses are both uncapped, as too are all other students when their course is on break.

Bare Necessities

Students and government officials have different interpretations of the purpose behind working while studying.

“The ability to work while studying can be a good experience for an international student”

Both Australia’s Department of Immigration and Border Protection, and Immigration New Zealand are clear: working while studying should be treated as a cultural and career opportunity.

“The ability to work while studying can be a good experience for an international student, especially if they find work in an area that is related to their study,” says INZ general manager, Stephen Dunstan. “The ability to work part-time while studying also connects international students to the New Zealand labour market context.”

According to both departments, work rights aren’t meant for students to pay tuition or living costs, and international students are required to either prove or declare their financial capacity to cover both while studying before they can receive a visa. But according to Khairina, the belief that students seek work for cultural experiences is less than pragmatic.

Accommodation shortages driving up rent prices, lack of transport concessions and rising living costs all contribute to additional spending while studying in both Australia and New Zealand. Khairina says money from work becomes a necessity for many international students.

And she adds that financial jams aren’t the only situations that can lead to a student being exploited.

International students can lack awareness of their workplace rights, often being told they are entitled to far less than they are; they fear deportation or inability to find a job; or an employer confiscates their passport and uses it as a bartering tool to get them to undertake work to earn it back.

“If you don’t get paid or you’re underpaid, it means that your tenancy becomes an issue”

The dangers of visa breach

In Australia, Redfern Legal Centre’s international students’ service solicitor, Sean Stimson, compares the conditions of some international students to slavery.

Stimson says while the traditional model of underpayment coupled with cash-in-hand wages still exists, a new and arguably more serious evolution of that model has emerged. Now, underpayment or non-payment is used to blackmail students.

“There’s a knock-on effect that happens with underpayment or non-payment. Students have a job to pay for their accommodation. If you don’t get paid or you’re underpaid, it means that your tenancy becomes an issue; you have the potential to become homeless,” he says.

What’s being done?

There are several governmental and third party organisations fighting labour exploitation.

New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, through its Labour Inspectorate, and INZ have been particularly active in working together to investigate employment law breaches.

“The Labour Inspectorate encourages anyone concerned about their employment situation, or the employment situation of someone they know, to call its contact centre where their concerns will be handled in a safe environment,” says Mason.

Concerns raised through this service have resulted in heavy fines for several employers, including one instance of a New Zealand restaurant forced to pay NZ$91,000 in law breaches and wage arrears.

INZ itself also provides extensive information to international students once a visa is issued.

“There is a wealth of information available for students coming to New Zealand,” says Dunstan at INZ. Websites such as NZ Study+Work, New Zealand Now, NZ Ready and the New to New Zealand Facebook page were all developed to empower students to recognise exploitation before it occurs, he adds.

Australia’s Fair Work Ombudsman similarly partners with DIBP to investigate exploitative practices and enforce penalties. The record fine went to a Brisbane 7-Eleven franchise, which was forced to pay over A$400,000 for underpaying workers.

Third-party organisation RLC, which provides free-of-charge legal services to the New South Wales community, and United Voice, which has authored several reports exposing exploitative companies, both work closely with international students to fight exploitation, with United Voice also providing information to help students avoid these situations.

“We really want to ensure students have a great education here and an overall great experience”

But, despite the good work of these organisations, resources are stretched.

StudyNSW director Peter Mackey points out, however, that his organisation has limited funding to continue its support. To ensure their few resources go as far as possible, United Voice and RLC and other organisations battling exploitation are starting to focus their efforts on on thwarting it at the root.

Future Moves

After revising its Pastoral Care for International Students Code of Practice earlier this year, New Zealand is looking to further cement its commitment to positive student experiences with the development of the International Student Wellbeing Strategy, a cross-department approach to the industry’s responsibilities to international students.

“For a couple of years now, we’ve been trying to work out a way we can look at it from a student perspective rather than a government perspective,” says John Goulter, general manager of stakeholders, communications and intelligence at international education peak body, Education New Zealand.

The strategy, he says, seeks to cover the whole student life cycle with four main points: quality education, economic wellbeing, health and safety, and inclusion. Workplace exploitation will be addressed by the strategy.

Goulter, like many others within both the New Zealand and Australian international education industries, is very clear why he is undertaking work to protect international students from workplace exploitation.

“We really want to ensure students have a great education here and an overall great experience. Anybody who undermines that will see that there are consequences.”

  • This is an abridged version of an article which first appeared in The PIE Review edition 12.

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London rises, Montreal wins in latest student city index

Fri, 02/17/2017 - 05:22

The bilingual French-English city of Montreal in Canada is officially the best student city in the world, according to the latest QS Best Student Cities ranking, with Paris dropping to the number-two position and London rising up the ranks to be considered the third best.

This year, the cities were ranked based on a survey of 18,000 recent graduates and students as well as the usual five metrics of: university rankings, student mix, desirability, employer activity and affordability.

Seoul in South Korea and Melbourne in Australia made a diverse top five, with another four countries in the top 10: Germany, Japan, the US and Hong Kong.

Only Canada and Germany had two cities in the top 10, with Montreal and Vancouver placing first and 10th, and Berlin and Munich placing sixth and ninth.

At McGill University, which is the highest ranked of Montreal’s two universities, staff welcomed the news but said the city’s creative spirit was unquestionable. “While I find this amazing news, I can’t really say I am surprised,” said Ollivier Dyens, McGill deputy provost student life and learning.

“We know from years of research that the most creative cities are also the most tolerant”

“Montreal is a city where ‘Il fait bon vivre’,” he said. “Montrealers, like McGillians, are tolerant, gentle and creative and they welcome students and immigrants from all over the world with open arms. And we know from years of research that the most creative cities are also the most tolerant.”

Another interesting finding this year was that all of the UK’s cities rose up the rankings, suggesting that the Brexit decision hasn’t hindered the UK’s appeal to international students.

In fact, according to QS, the UK’s ascendency was in part due to its improved affordability, thanks to the weakened value of the pound sterling.

With London in third position, Edinburgh was in 18th position, Manchester in 23rd and Glasgow in 34th within the top 50.

“It’s great to see the continued appeal of London and the UK in general after a year of political surprises and change,” commented Gary Davies, director of recruitment and international development at Roehampton University.

“This result reflects the great experience that London and its universities have to offer students and we are all working hard to ensure that experience is even better in the future than it is now.”

Seoul in South Korea also fared very well this year, moving up six positions to fourth. Seoul has 18 universities that feature in QS’s World University Rankings, including Seoul National University, ranked at 35.

Top ten Best Student Cities, 2017

  • Montreal
  • Paris
  • London
  • Seoul
  • Melbourne
  • Berlin
  • Tokyo
  • Boston
  • Munich
  • Vancouver

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English New Zealand rebrands with new logo

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 10:24

New Zealand’s peak body for English language providers, English New Zealand, has launched a new logo set to better reflect the organisation’s key value propositions and help students identify member institutions.

“We made a decision to refresh our look and develop a ‘member of’ version to assure education retailers, students, and government and academic pathway stakeholders that schools displaying this logo meet our additional and rigorous TESOL-specific standards,” English New Zealand executive director Kim Renner said.

Comprised of New Zealand’s fern iconography and green and black, the new logo is a significant departure from the former logo, and incorporates new elements meant to capture the “environmental experience students can enjoy while learning English” in the country.

Renner told The PIE News English New Zealand, which represents 27 ELT providers in New Zealand, “consulted [members] throughout the process and the end result incorporating the fern, an iconic image associated with New Zealand, embodies exactly who we are.”

She added the new logo sets have been well received by members so far. It features prominently on the association’s website, which also directs students to learn about Game On English, an English language and rugby course which is being heavily promoted in Japan in particular.

English New Zealand is one of the country’s oldest ongoing international education peak bodies, having celebrated its 30th anniversary last year.

The new logo follows several changes for English New Zealand, including appointing its first executive director, Renner, as well as working to establish a cross-sector working group for international education.

Renner said the organisation expected further initiatives throughout 2017, including a review of its strategy for capability building and market development, and hosting the quality assurance and benchmarking in ELT (QALEN) symposium alongside its first ever conference.

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Almost 20% of Australian grads have an overseas experience 

Thu, 02/16/2017 - 05:58

Almost 20% (24,715) of all Australian graduates from an undergraduate programme have had an overseas experience, according to a survey of 36 Australian universities.

The i-graduate survey of Australian Universities International Directors’ Forum members shows that students who had taken part in some form of overseas study experience increased 19.5% to 38,144 students in 2015, compared to 2014.

With all other major study destinations amping up efforts to get more domestic students overseas, the report shows Australia is far outpacing its peers. Corresponding figures in the US show 15% of students study abroad, in the UK it’s 5% of graduates and in Canada it’s as low as 2.3% of domestic students.

“I’m not understating it when I say that the New Colombo Plan has changed the face of outbound mobility in Australia”

“I think Australia is doing so well in this area because we are a relatively small number of universities, that communicate and collaborate extremely well, that have the national-level support for mobility from the Foreign Minister down,” said Rob Malicki, director of AIM Overseas, a third party study abroad provider.

“Australia is quite unique in our level of collaboration, I think. Couple that up with now excellent national visibility and imperative and that’s why we’re cooking with gas.”

Malicki said Australia’s outbound mobility is “on the threshold of a tipping point” after “growing systematically” over the last decade. “The universities have been well invested in outbound mobility for the past 10 years and it is starting to really show,” he told The PIE News.

“All areas of mobility are improving: administration, programming, collaboration, marketing and research – how we capture our statistics. It has become a much more visible part of institutions’ missions and KPIs.”

Almost 40% of all overseas experiences were in the US, China, UK, Indonesia and Canada with the US proving the most popular, attracting 13% of all experiences, while China and the UK each attracted 9%.

But a huge part of Australia’s success is the New Colombo Plan, relaunched in 2013, that provides mobility grants to students to study and work overseas. The number of undergraduates studying in the programme’s “priority destinations” (China, Indonesia, Japan, Cambodia and India) in the Indo-Pacific increased 32% in 2015.

“I’m not understating it when I say that the New Colombo Plan has changed the face of outbound mobility in Australia,” said Malicki.

Similarly, Trevor Goddard, a member of the board of directors at the International Education Association of Australia and a member of the DFAT New Colombo Plan Reference Group, said NCP is “redefining mobility” in Australia.

“It’s starting to become woven into university marketing and recruitment, scholarship offices, alumni engagement, international and industry engagement offices and within the careers and leadership space – so not simply transforming students through their education, it is transforming institutional internal structures through capacity and services around student mobility,” he told The PIE News.

NCP’s influence has also gone beyond the traditional education sector, observed Goddard, with corporations such as the National Australia Bank aligning their Asian internship programmes with the NCP opportunities.

And the increased mobility to Indo-Pacific countries isn’t at the expense of US, Latin American and European destinations but rather indicative of increasingly career-savvy students, he said.

“Anecdotal studies show many students take several short-term mobility programmes throughout their degree”

“Alignment to the Indo-Pacific is not surprising considering the growing number of organisations with diverse operations across the region and in Australia.”

Among undergraduates, short-term study made up the majority (77%) of mobility programmes – 15,748 – followed by exchange programmes and internships or practical placements. Research-related experiences were most common among postgraduate students, making up 30% of all overseas travel in this cohort.

Discussions abound in the sector about the impact of short-term mobility programmes, but Malicki said international educators “shouldn’t be prescriptive” about which type of overseas study students undertake.

“I believe we are facilitators first and foremost and shouldn’t be zealots about ‘programme type x is better than program type y’. If the experience is a quality one, and it’s having a positive impact on participants, that’s about all I care about,” he said.

Goddard added that anecdotal studies show many students take several short-term mobility programmes throughout their degree, rather than semester or year-long stints overseas. “These experiences should be encouraged,” he said. “We should refrain from looking at these options as ‘an either or’  as there are strengths to both models.”

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Lower Indian applications dampen New Zealand’s visa approval rates

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 06:09

Declining visa applications from India have led to a 20% drop in the total number of students applying for a visa to study in New Zealand from offshore in 2016, according to new statistics from Immigration New Zealand.

Detailing the number of student visas granted and declined for offshore applicants during the 2016 academic year, the statistics show 11,000 fewer applications than 2015, down from 61,500 to 50,200. The decrease in turn resulted in 37,600 visas granted, a decline of 5,700 from 2015.

India, which saw significant growth in 2015, accounted for the majority of the 2016 losses, with 9,500 fewer applications (total applications made in 2016: 16,380) and 5,200 fewer visas granted (total visa’s granted in 2016: 7,562)  than in the previous year.

“The decline reflects a range of factors including greater scrutiny of student visa applications by INZ”

“The decline in [2016] student visas from India reflects a range of factors, including the change to Rule 18 (English language requirements for international students), and greater scrutiny of student visa applications by INZ,” a spokesperson for Education New Zealand and INZ told The PIE News.

Rule 18 previously allowed students to obtain a visa by showing evidence of instruction in English, rather than a formal test such as IELTS.

ENZ and INZ said while applications and grants were down when compared to the previous three years, the total number of student visas had continued to grow in line with expectations and the figures represented an anomaly.

“INZ received a surge in applications in 2015 from applicants who would have been affected by the change to Rule 18 in October 2015. This has somewhat distorted the application volumes as people that usually would apply in the first few months of 2016 applied before the rule change,” the spokesperson said.

The Philippines, which was also affected by changes to Rule 18, had the second largest drop after India, with 1,300 fewer applications (total applications in 2016: 1,677) and 1,100 fewer grants (total grants in 2016: 1,204), compared to the previous year.

Still, when numbers from India and the Philippines are removed from total figures, growth was weak throughout 2016, with a gain of just 591 visas granted.

Approval rates for both countries also continued to slide despite measures to counter it, however, overall rates improved from 70% to 75%.

Rachel Honeycombe, board member of private training establishment peak body, ITENZ, said her members had been mindful of upcoming changes and took “taken precautionary measures to ensure that the significant drop from India did not impact too much on their overall student numbers.

“Members are focusing on diversifying into new and emerging markets and are also working closely with INZ Mumbai to ensure clear communications and strategies are in place for processing enrolments from the Indian Sub-Continent,” she added.

Chris Whelan, executive director of Universities New Zealand, said universities had not experienced significant reductions in the number of visas granted to Indian students.

“Indian students are attracted to this country because of the quality of the education. We don’t see that changing”

“Eighty-three per cent of Indian students currently studying at New Zealand universities are doing so at postgraduate level,” he told The PIE News.

“They are attracted to this country because of the quality of the education. We don’t see that changing and so expect the numbers of Indian students at New Zealand universities to continue to grow.”

While he said there was an expectation for growth, he said universities like other sectors were aware of becoming too reliant on China and India as a source of international students.

“There is a need to diversify. This is not just for the benefit of international education as an industry, but also for the students. We want them to develop international networks and to be confident in working across cultures,” he said.

ENZ is currently developing a new international education strategy to see the country’s industry continue to grow and remain sustainable. It is expected to be released later this year.

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British Study Centres expands into Algeria

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 05:33

British Study Centres will open its first overseas franchise in Algeria, it has announced. The new location is set to begin operations in the second quarter of the year.

Located in the city of Oran in the northwest of Algeria, the new franchise will focus primarily on teacher training and will also offer corporate training courses.

BSC Algeria will operate out of the convention centre in Le Meridien hotel complex. It will have an initial capacity of 100, but there is potential for it to grow further in the existing facilities.

“It’s an exciting market and still very much a pioneering phase for ELT”

The franchise will offer the Cambridge CELTA course, in addition to ELT and in-company training.

There is great potential for ELT in Algeria, according to Steve Phillips, managing director of transnational education and pathways at British Study Centres.

“It’s an exciting market and still very much a pioneering phase for ELT, especially in Oran,” he told The PIE News.

BSC Algeria will begin operating in the second quarter of this year. It already has an initial corporate contract, but more are expected in the future, said Phillips.

British Study Centres was acquired by Real Experience Group last year, for an undisclosed amount, just after the group also bought Experience English. Combined, the group became the UK’s largest group of premium language schools with seven locations across the country.

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Sean Stimson, Redfern Legal Centre, Australia

Wed, 02/15/2017 - 03:14
As the International Students’ Service solicitor at Redfern Legal Centre, a not-for-profit community centre based in Sydney, Sean Stimson looks after the legal needs of more than 240,000 international students across New South Wales. He says one of the biggest problems for international students is workplace exploitation. He spoke with The PIE about student exploitation and the work RLC is doing to prevent it.

The PIE: How did RLC become involved in international education?

SS: In 2011, after identifying high levels of exploitation in the local international student community, RLC established New South Wales’ first dedicated specialist legal service for international students (RLC International Student Service).

Since the introduction of the service, we have run a weekly advice night that assists international students with legal needs. This state-wide service conducts consultations via video link, telephone and face-to-face meetings. The service provides a comprehensive level of services, ranging from advice-based assistance through to full court representation.

The PIE: With the work you’ve done around workplace exploitation, do most of those services come after it’s occurred?

SS: Historically, I would have said yes, but when we started to look at what’s happening to international students, we decided that there were issues that related to conflicts with legislation. It’s those conflicts that I think allow for our students to present to us.

“A very high proportion of employers will deliberately try to get their international student employees to breach their visa conditions”

In the last few months, we have actually looked at policy review. We’ve broken down the issues in regards to legislation to see what protections should be put in place.

The PIE: What does workplace exploitation look like for international students?

SS: [International] students can work 40 hours a fortnight while in term. Outside of term, they’re unrestricted. Arguably, the government is taking a position that if you are paid the correct award, 40 hours of paid work a fortnight is enough for you to survive. I think that’s the issue international students are experiencing.

Are those hours enough for an international student to be able to survive? It depends on lots of variables.

What is impacting on the viability of a student to be able to study and survive is whether they are being paid the correct amount. They’re not. We’re seeing underpayment or non-payment of wages pushing an international student into a position where they need to work more in order to survive [violating the terms of their student visa].

There are also knock-on effects that happen with the underpayment or non-payment. If you have a job to help pay for your accommodation and you don’t get paid or you’re underpaid, it means your tenancy becomes an issue and you have the potential to become homeless. So then there’s another legal problem that starts to present itself.

Secondly, if you have to pay a proportion of your study fees, you might not be meeting those requirements, which then can affect your study progression. If that’s the case, then it becomes a visa issue.

“We’ll ask whether or not there are other people employed within that employer that are in a similar situation”

The PIE: Why does this happen?

SS: A very high proportion of employers will deliberately try to get their international student employees to breach their visa conditions. Then they use that as a means by which they can dictate back to the international student with that threat of a breach.

It’s almost become a business model. We’re seeing more and more of the same characteristics of an employer setting a chain of events in motion so that it leads to a potential breach of visa. That’s why we saw the need to look at policy review.

The PIE: What does RLC do to help international students who are being exploited?

SS: It varies. We’ll look at what breaches may have occurred in regards to the visa, we will assess based on those breaches and we’ll ask whether or not there are other people employed within that employer that are in a similar situation.

What we’re finding more and more often is there are multiple international students who are employed by that one employer who are in a similar situation. We will then take that client or clients on and pursue it through remedies.

Those remedies can be a letter of demand as a first initiative. The second is to the Fair Work Ombudsman; and then obviously through the courts themselves. We’ll assist all the way through. What we’re trying to do is highlight to employers that if the conduct you are overlaying with international students is part of your business model, we will pursue you.

The only way we’re going to create any change is to actually prosecute someone and take them through the courts so they can see there’s a detriment. We will have a client come in and the employer is an employer we’ve had an issue with before. [The employer’s] business model is: “Let’s get away with what we can because the detriments to us are very light. It’s still attractive to our bottom lines to adopt this business model, it doesn’t matter even if we run through the courts and get a fine.” It’s been broken down to the extent where they can actually work out their profit and losses against having this business model.

“More and more employers are starting to look at international students as incredibly vulnerable”

The PIE: Is RLC advocating for tougher penalties for employers who are repeatedly doing this?

SS: As much as we’d like to see employers being penalised more for their conduct, and there’s a lot of laws in place to do so, I think if an international student knows they can come forward without the fear of DIBP taking a position, that’s where you’re going to create some form of change. Employers know that international students are unlikely to seek legal advice from RLC or approach the Fair Work Ombudsman because they know they have breached their visa conditions.

That’s the thing you’ve got to overcome, because as soon as you know that as an employer, you’re likely to adopt that business model yourself because it’s very attractive for your bottom line. The downside is, what we’re seeing now is a race to the bottom.

More and more employers are starting to look at international students as incredibly vulnerable and a means by which they can make their bottom line more attractive for themselves. That is why I think we’re seeing more and more systemic issues than we had in the past.

The PIE: Does this have repercussions for the domestic job market?

SS: I think yes. I really do. I think if you have a business model that is a race to a bottom, then ultimately what you are doing is undermining the domestic market. An employer knows they can get away with paying as little as A$8 an hour, where if you had a domestic student who knows the minimum wage is $17.29 (in 2016), then ultimately they’re going to employ the international student who’s prepared to work for less.

I don’t think the international student is undertaking the paid work for less purely on the basis of they are cheap labour. It’s because they actually don’t understand. I think if you spoke to the majority of my clients and said you are entitled to $17.29, without exception, they’d say: “We didn’t know that. We were told the hourly rate was $8, or $10, or $12 per hour.”

If you have it so that everything’s on parity, so everybody knows the minimum amount they should be paid is whatever it is, you’re going to be in a position where an employer will employ the person who has the best skill sets for that particular position.

All the time you’re not legislating and you’re not suing the employers it’s going to have a detrimental effect on the domestic marketplace.

“We actually have orientation weeks where we will head out to the providers and we provide information on site”

The PIE: Is it difficult to get education providers to understand and listen to the importance of the work RLC is undertaking?

SS: Not really, no. We deal with a multitude of the universities and smaller and private education providers. The majority of those refer students to us on a regular basis. We have good communications with them. We actually have orientation weeks where we will head out to the providers and we provide information on site. That is usually at the request of the education providers themselves.

I don’t think that’s a problem. They know what’s happening and they want to do everything they can to assist international students in their plight.

The PIE: What will RLC be focussing on in the future?

SS: Addressing the legislation and actually putting reviews in place. That’s what we’ve been working on over the last six months internally with the employment practice as well.

Until there is some form of protections that will allow for an international student to approach the Fair Work Ombudsman without fear possible breaches to any visa conditions will have ramifications for them, we’re always going to see those clients.

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FutureLearn secures its first US partners

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 07:18

FutureLearn, a MOOC platform owned by the UK’s Open University, has announced five US universities will be offering courses through its system, marking the first time it has partnered with educational institutions in the US.

American University, Colorado State University, Penn State University, Purdue University and University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business will all be offering a number of courses on the platform this year, further expanding FutureLearn’s global reach.

Simon Nelson, CEO of FutureLearn, said the company has been working towards bringing on US educators for some time. The new addition will help to accelerate the platform’s growth in the US, one of the biggest markets in the world for online learning, he said.

“We want to create portfolios of more professionally relevant courses and qualifications”

“I think it will broaden our reach in the US, but also increase our credibility all over the world by having these prestigious new institutions alongside our existing partners,” he told The PIE News.

With its new partners and courses, the company is aiming to tackle the challenge of upskilling the workforce, both in the US and internationally.

“We want to create portfolios of more professionally relevant courses and qualifications that people who work, or are about to enter work, or are trying to get jobs, can use to develop further their skills,” he said.

“Not to the exclusion of the broader range of content we offer, but definitely we think that this is one of the most important areas of value we can bring to learners.”

The US institutions have already announced five courses in subjects including persuasive communication and data science, with several more expected in the coming months.

Tom Steenburgh, senior associate dean for executive education and non-credit at UVA’s Darden School of Business, said FutureLearn’s focus on the community of learners aligns with the school’s “collaborative and participative approach to business education”.

“Darden looks forward to the partnership providing another avenue for the school to drive innovation in pursuit of transformational learning opportunities for all,” he said.

In December, FutureLearn announced a partnership with Deakin University, its first with an Australian institution, to offer a series of postgraduate degrees to online learners.

The platform now has a total of 119 partners, of which 70 are universities.

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Apollo Education Group acquired for $1.14bn

Tue, 02/14/2017 - 06:04

Apollo Education Group, which owns the University of Phoenix and BPP Law School, has been taken off the public market in a $1.14bn acquisition by a group of investors, who have pledged to raise estimations of the US’s for-profit education sector.

The acquisition of the for-profit provider is led by private equity giant and McGraw-Hill Education owner Apollo Global Management (no relation to Apollo Education Group), with The Vistria Group and Najafi Companies completing the consortium.

The $10-per-share deal was approved by Apollo Education Group’s shareholders on May 6, 2016.

“This transaction will allow us to accelerate our efforts to improve outcomes for all of our students”

This is despite some resistance by its top two shareholders, who argued they would lose out on future profits.

UK asset manager Schroders, which owned more than 13% of Apollo Education, wrote to its chairman urging the board “to reject any proposals that would deny shareholders the opportunity of benefiting from this significant recovery potential,” Bloomberg reported.

“We see the potential for multiple hundreds of percent of upside in Apollo [Education]’s stock from current levels over a period of years,” Schroders’s global value team wrote.

First Pacific Advisors LLC, the company’s second-biggest investor, also objected, claiming Apollo Education is worth about $29 a share and telling its clients a $1bn deal “would be unquestionably rejected by us, and we hope every other shareholder would reject it”.

The total value of the deal, though huge, is nevertheless worth just half of the $2.1bn the company generated in net revenue in FY16.

The acquisition was expected to be completed by the end of the company’s fiscal year in August 2016, but was delayed by a lengthy review by the Department of Education.

The for-profit education sector in the US is undergoing extreme scrutiny at the moment, and the University of Phoenix, one of the country’s largest for-profit providers, has faced controversy of its own. It was investigated by the Federal Trade Commission in 2015 to determine whether its recruiters had engaged in “deceptive or unfair acts or practices” in advertising its programmes and their future job prospects.

Announcing the proposed deal in February 2016 – then valued at $9.50 a share – the buyers hinted they intended to work to rehabilitate the for-profit sector.

“For too long and too often, the private education industry has been characterised by inadequate student outcomes, overly aggressive marketing practices, and poor compliance. This doesn’t need to be the case,” commented Tony Miller, COO and partner at The Vistria Group and former deputy education secretary at the US Department of Education.

Miller has now been named chairman of Apollo Education Group’s board of directors, indicating the consortium will forge ahead with this plan.

“Too often, the private education industry has been characterised by inadequate student outcomes and poor compliance”

“We believe we are uniquely positioned to enhance efforts by University of Phoenix and the other Apollo Education Group schools to improve student outcomes,” he said.

Apollo Education Group’s CEO, Greg Cappelli, confirmed that the buyout would enable the company to complete a “transformation plan” at the University of Phoenix.

“This transaction marks a significant milestone in our company’s history, and will allow us to accelerate our efforts at [our subsidiaries] University of Phoenix, Western International University, College for Financial Planning and Apollo Global to improve outcomes for all of our students in the US and around the world,” he commented.

Apollo Education Group operates education brands including Bridge School of Management in India, Brazilian post-secondary education provider FAEL, and UK-based BPP Holdings, through an 80% ownership of Apollo Global (no relation to the management group) a joint venture with The Carlyle Group which owns 20%.

Apollo Global acquired BPP for £303.5m in 2009, four years before it was granted university status.

The same day Apollo Education Group went private, another for-profit giant, Laureate Education Group, issued its second IPO in a bid to raise $490m.

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For Generation Z, study abroad culture tops academics

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 09:23

The desire to explore other cultures is the main driver for high-school aged students to consider studying abroad, according to new research from AFS Intercultural Programs.

In a report, Mapping Generation Z: Attitudes toward International Education Programs, AFS also found that anglophone destinations are the most popular among this generation.

The research surveyed 5,255 high school students aged between 13 and 18 from 27 countries between March and December 2016.

“Gen Z students don’t just want to simply travel to other countries”

Around two thirds (67%) of respondents placed a higher value on cultural experiences when studying overseas than scholastics and education, it found.

Daniel Obst, president and CEO of AFS, said it is clear that Generation Z is more keen to add ‘global’ to their identity than previous generations.

“Gen Z students don’t just want to simply travel to other countries; they are looking for authentic experiences through the eyes of local people,” he told The PIE News.

Students with a primary focus on cultural experiences, but with low financial resources, dubbed ‘cultural hitchhikers’ by the report, made up 36% of respondents.

‘Cultural floaters’, or the students with high financial resources and who aim to experience other cultures, accounted for 31% of respondents.

Breaking down survey responses by nationality, three quarters of European students valued cultural exploration more than academics, along with 57% of students from Latin America, 58% from Southeast Asia and 72% from North America.

Meanwhile, 21% of respondents were considered  ‘academic achievers’, students who place a high primary focus on scholastics, but have low financial resources, while ‘resumé packers’, those with high financial resources and a high interest in educational achievement, accounted for the lowest proportion, 12%.

“I expect we will see more resumé packers in the future as students at a younger age become more aware – from their schools, parents and future employers – of the value of international experiences and global competence to achieve future success,” said Obst.

Top destinations reflected leaders in HE study abroad; anglophone countries were considered the most attractive to 77% of Generation Z, with the US, UK and Australia most preferred.

Western European countries, including Germany, France and Italy, were favourable to 65%, with Brazil and China faring the least favourably, pointed to by only 38% of respondents.

“These findings paint a picture of large growth potential for the traditionally popular English destinations and set the tone for increasing competitive pressures among them,” notes the report.

“These findings paint a picture of large growth potential for the traditionally popular English destinations”

Security issues topped the list of personal concerns for study abroad. During the survey’s first months before May 2016, security concerns were only an anxiety for 36% of students. But that proportion increased in the period after.

“During the months after repeated terrorist attacks became highly publicised worldwide, we noted a concern rate of 52% for the same issue,” the report states.

Making no friends was a concern for half of the respondents, followed by homesickness, and school re-entry requirements upon returning home, each shared by 48% of students.

While none of the respondents had been on an international exchange previously, 60% said they had already considered the possibility.

In order to harness that interest into more students studying overseas, word of mouth will be essential, according to Hristo Banov, manager of the management information unit at AFS, and the study’s lead researcher.

“While nowadays students get personal testimonials not just from their immediate friends and family circles, but also from their extended social media footprint, the relevance of ‘genuine, personal referral’ remains unchanged,” he said.

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US: int’l graduate enrolment growth stabilising

Mon, 02/13/2017 - 06:10

First-time international enrolment growth at US universities held steady in 2016, up 5% for the second year in a row. However, the growth rate of international graduate applications is slowing as interest from key source markets drops, spurring the Council of Graduate Schools to warn universities to not take continuing growth for granted in the current policy environment.

The figures in CGS’s International Graduate Applications and Enrollment: Fall 2016 report are a marked change from two admissions cycles ago, when international graduate enrolment drove much of the growth in first-time enrolment at US universities.

“We may see fewer surges of international graduate enrolment and observe more modest changes over time”

“International students are and will continue to be a significant part of US graduate enrolment,” the report says, but adds: “We may be reaching a point where we will see fewer surges of overall international graduate enrolment and observe more modest changes over time.”

Of the 92,500 international graduate students who enrolled in US universities for the first time in fall 2016, Chinese nationals accounted for the largest share (36%), followed by Indian students (27%). Overall, 77% of first-time international enrolments were from Asia.

Contributing to the growth, 2016 saw a turnaround in first-year enrolments from European graduate students, which rose 8% after several years of declining enrolment growth rates.

Australasian enrolments also saw healthy growth of 7%. However, first-time graduate enrolment of nationals from the Middle East & North Africa dropped by 11%, including a 13% fall from Saudi Arabia.

“The continued increase in enrolments is good news for US universities, but we can’t take that position for granted,” commented CGS president Suzanne Ortega.

“Universities in the US and around the world are waiting to see the potential impact of the uncertain policy environment on the mobility patterns of international graduate students.”

The CGS figures also revealed that growth in international graduate applications is slowing, adding to the uncertainty. The figure grew by just 1% in 2016 to 838,627, down from 3% in 2015.

Decreases in applications from key source markets – most notably Brazil, down 11%, and Saudi Arabia, down 20% – counterbalanced a 4% rise from China.

Other important markets that saw applications fall included India (-1%), the Middle East and North Africa (-5%) and South Korea (-5%).

In light of the findings, the report counsels that public policy must continue to be conducive to attracting graduate students and enable them to stay and work post-study.

“As a matter of public policy, we cannot afford to lose our standing and competitiveness to attract global talent to our graduate institutions,” the study warns.

In terms of subject distribution, engineering was the most popular field of study, accounting for 30% of applications and 26% of first-time enrolments. Mathematics and computer science followed, attracting 21% and 20% of applications and first-time enrolments respectively, followed by business, with 17% and 20%.

Master’s and certificate programmes were the biggest draw for international students, attracting just over two-thirds of total applications (68%) and nearly four-fifths (78%) of first-time enrolments.

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Singapore’s public and private providers strive to stay on top

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 05:41

Conversations in or about Singapore invariably turn towards notions of success. How the country turned around its economic and political fortunes under Lee Kuan Yew; how a precocious Joseph Schooling overcame his mentor Michael Phelps in the Olympic butterfly final; and how schools in Singapore produce students who know what it takes to make the honour roll.

This success extends to its position as an education hub, although competition is rising in the east. “I think Singapore still has a lot to offer as an education destination,” says Shabir Aslam, director of the British Council in Singapore. “There have been improvements in infrastructure, in government support for educational excellence at all levels and the two main public universities rank highly in the world university rankings.”

National University of Singapore is ranked number one in Asia and Nanyang Technological University is regularly in the top five. Aslam continues: “This, alongside an educational environment that is welcoming and open to partnership and collaboration, has helped to promote Singapore as one of, if not the most, sought after educational destinations in Asia.”

International intake

Gauging the exact number of international students in Singapore is like trying to find a piece of chewing gum on the MRT subway network. Parliamentary replies from 2015 at least fill in some of the gaps. According to one, “The proportion of international students varies by faculty, ranging from around 1% in medicine and law, courses highly popular with Singaporeans, to 27% in science and engineering.”

That means just over one-third of the broader private sector student intake in Singapore is international

While common estimates put the number of international students in public universities at around 15%, the picture is clearer when examining the private education sector in Singapore. Its regulatory body, the Council for Private Education, states that approximately 77,000 local and 29,000 international students are enrolled in private tertiary colleges, with the most popular offering UK university qualifications via partner institutions.

That means just over one-third of the broader private sector student intake in Singapore is international. Many hail from mainland China, followed by ethnic Chinese from Malaysia, Indonesia and Vietnam, others from those countries and a steady intake of Indians.

It seems the old colonial tie is hard to break too. There are 120 private colleges providing UK qualifications in Singapore, including LaSalle College of Arts (pictured), which delivers its degrees in partnership with Goldsmiths, University of London. Kaplan’s Higher Education Academy runs a Singapore campus that teaches thousands of students degree programmes offered by UK and Australian university partners.

Singapore represents itself at global education fairs as a doorway into Asia

However, Singapore does face mounting competition. “The private education sector in Singapore is definitely entering a new phase in its evolution,” says Aslam, “and the recruitment strategies now have to reflect the new reality. International student numbers are not the guarantee they might once have been, and increased competition from China in particular will make it more difficult for some of these private education institutes in Singapore to continue to compete.”

Public v private tensions

The private education sector also faces competition from its public sector: the stellar reputation of public universities in Singapore, where more than 50% of students gain significant international experience during their courses, has been reinforced in recent surveys conducted by the Singapore Institute of Management. In results published in the gently pro-government Straits Times, significant gaps in job and salary outcomes were revealed to exist between graduates of three of Singapore’s six public universities – National University of Singapore, Nanyang Technical University and Singapore Management University – when compared with students with degrees from a variety of private colleges.

While some critics suggest the spread of private colleges surveyed was an inadequate sample, the real message is perhaps that private colleges need to ensure employability is high up their list of outcomes. Initiatives such as ‘Skills Future Singapore’ (aiming to tackle employment issues borne out of an overqualified workforce) also signal the future direction of education policy.

“It has learned fast how to receive international students and how to take care of them properly”

One marketing executive from a high profile Australian partner college in the country believes the education landscape has changed because of “anti-foreign” worker sentiment. “The private education sector takes a beating because we are perceived to be hogging up placements for the government intake for local students,” they comment. “The government wants to see jobs [created] here in Singapore.”

The need to address this underlying tension between the role of private colleges and the demands of the 21st century economy is not lost on Mei Mei Lim, director of Singapore Institute of Management and a volunteer at the Singapore Association of Private Educators. “Private colleges are struggling to compete,” she says. “So we encourage our members [of SAPE] to really transform the way they run their schools to focus on quality teaching, all aspects of student life, improving online learning, leveraging technology to bring the intellectual property outside Singapore. In short, private institutions really need their students to be work-ready.”

Aslam from the British Council concurs. “Work-ready, competency based modules and programmes might be the way forward for some within the private sector. The trend may be that we see a re-alignment of priorities both in the public and private sector educational institutes with a move towards more vocational skills.”

Living and working in Singapore

The relatively high cost of living – and a scarcity of supervised student housing – is a further source of difficulty for international students in Singapore, particularly given the restrictions placed on foreigners to find legal part-time work. Only international students with an official ‘Student Pass’ are able to work, and only if they are enrolled at one of the six public universities.

Despite these concerns, Singapore remains a popular choice for international students, insists Ajay Sukhwani from Mumbai-based Edwise International, which this year celebrated its 25th birthday as a recruitment agency. Each year, Edwise sends to Singapore roughly 200 Indian students – mostly from Tamil Nadu to connect with the diaspora – where about 70% of those study business management courses.

While Sukhwani is sometimes daunted by the difficulty in securing suitable accommodation for his students – most private colleges are unable to provide any – he is positive about the overall student experience.

“Singapore has come a long way in this respect,” he says. “It has learned fast how to receive international students and how to take care of them properly.”

High school sector

Singapore’s high school system is regarded as one of the best in the world. Yet even within the country, where the public education system regularly places its bilingual, ambitious students among the brightest in the world, the lure of international schools is proving irresistible for parents and businesses alike.

Until recently, Singapore nationals were forbidden from attending private international schools after early childhood. Should a parent hold a foreign passport, or a child be deemed to have been raised for a significant period abroad, then the Ministry of Education would consider their application (on a case-by-case basis), but for everyone else, the public education system served your needs.

Three land parcels were opened up last year to prospective education brands looking to build a shiny campus

But that has changed and in a bold statement to the international school market, three land parcels were opened up last year to prospective education brands looking to build a shiny campus. It’s not clear yet whether the winning applicants are new or current players in the market; but either way, the demand still clearly exists for high quality international education at secondary level.

The exclusive international schools include the so-called ‘top tier’ of three: United World College, Tanglin and SAC. Next come the highly reputable ‘hybrids’ like Hwachang International, St Joseph’s College and Anglo-Chinese School International, which are allowed to enrol at least 50% local Singaporeans. In the words of one commentator, “they do the IB but sing the national anthem”.

This leaves the remaining 20 or so private secondary colleges to fight it out for the remains of the ‘international’ pool, a mixture of handpicked Chinese and Vietnamese star pupils on scholarships, rich kids from other Asian countries whose families can afford the fees, and your typical ‘expat’ children whose parents work for a global firm.

Whether new high-flying arrivals such as GEMS World Academy and Nexus can achieve their lofty admissions targets remains to be seen and will be closely watched by Tiger Mums and Dads in the Lion City. Like a real estate agent circling enough square footage for a soccer pitch and a recital hall, watch this space.

  • This is an abridged version of an article from the 12th edition of The PIE Review.

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International student completion rates remain high in Australia

Fri, 02/10/2017 - 05:38

The number of international students completing their studies at Australian universities and non-university higher education institutions (NUHEIs) has remained steady for the fourth consecutive year, according to a recent report on higher education from the Department of Education and Training.

The report, which details the percentage of students who have completed their studies four and nine years after commencing university and four and six years after commencing at a NUHEI, found 70.8% of university and 62.8% of NUHEI international students completed their studies over the period 2011-2014.

This is in comparison to their domestic counterparts, with 45% for universities and 45.7% for NUHEIs over four-years.

“As any Australian domestic student will tell you, international students are incredibly conscientious on campus and in their study routines,” said IEAA CEO Phil Honeywood.

“As any Australian domestic student will tell you, international students are incredibly conscientious on campus and in their study routines”

Speaking with The PIE News, Honeywood reasoned the gap between domestic and international student completion rates included different study attitudes in Asia, such as the prevalence of cram schools and after-school tutorials, as well as the implied pressure to perform, based on the substantial financial investment made by a student’s parents.

Time is also a factor. Unlike domestic students, international students are unable to study part-time while in Australia. The nine-year analysis reveals the gap between domestic and international university student completion rates shrinks considerably, to 73.5% and 77.1% respectively.

As well as completion rates, the report details the percentage of students who are still enrolled in their course at the conclusion of the period, those who re-enrolled but dropped out and the percentage of students who did not return after their first year of study.

Rates within all four categories experienced minor shifts, with completion rates shifting downward 0.4% and 2.3% and drop out rates after a year increasing 0.7% and 0.4% for universities and NUHEIs respectively.

“Completion rates for overseas higher education students studying in Australia have been relatively steady over recent years,” ACPET CEO Rod Camm said.

“Overall, there’s not a lot of movement in completion rates for both domestic or international students studying at NUHEIs.”

Camm added year-to-year variability is influenced by a significant number of different factors, meaning it is difficult to get a clear picture on particular trends in the data.

“I think we really have to do more research into student behaviour to ascertain what’s behind drop out rates,” Honeywood said, echoing Camm’s comments.

“We really have to do more research into student behaviour to ascertain what’s behind drop out rates”

In particular, Honeywood said the simplicity of the data, which does not specify the reason a student does not complete their studies, means part of the overall story is being lost.

Details like if students change their minds after commencing studies and transfer to a different course within their institution are lost in the current completion rate data collection. Likewise, students who choose or are poached by cheaper and “easier” to enter institutions or students choosing to transfer into “better-known institutions” to complete their studies aren’t shown.

“Some of these drop-out rates don’t properly reflect the fact that students transfer into other courses and I think more data is required before we can make any substantial conclusion,” he said.

“It’s a two-way street. I’ve had complaints from high quality private providers who’ve said to me ‘we’re leaking students in second and third or fourth year to public universities… because they want to actually graduate with a better-known public university or public TAFE diploma or degree’.”

Meanwhile, non-continuation rates in the UK show international drop out rates after the first year have fallen considerably in the past decade, finally lower than or on par with domestic student figures.

The proportion of non-EU students not continuing into second year has decreased from 11.5% in 2003/04 to 6.7% in 2012/13. The change is even greater among non-EU foundation students where drop out rates have fallen 23.6% in 2003/04 to 12.2% in 2012/13.

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China: provincial licensing for education agencies abolished

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 10:29

Study abroad agencies in China will no longer need to be licensed by provincial authorities in order to operate, the State Council has announced, which should make it easier for newer businesses to enter a market that is currently dominated by larger, long-established brands.

Until now, each provincial authority has set its own requirements for education agencies, such as minimum registered capital, that they must fulfil before they can be licensed.

“The MoE should work with the State Administration of Industry and Commerce to strengthen the guidance and services of study abroad agencies”

But a directive published by the State Council on January 21 states that they will no longer have to obtain a specific license from the provincial education bureau, but will still need a general business licence to operate.

However, the directive makes clear that the Ministry of Education doesn’t view this as a relaxation of the regulations, but instead intends to strengthen agency oversight in other ways.

The Ministry of Education and the State Administration of Industry and Commerce will be tasked with fortifying regulatory oversight of study abroad agencies, it says.

The two government bureaus will also create updated sample contracts for education agencies to use.

“After the examination and approval, the Ministry of Education should work with the SAIC to study and formulate the relevant model text of the contract, to strengthen the norms, guidance and services of study abroad agencies,” it states.

“Within the scope of responsibility, the Ministry of Education, SAIC and other departments need to enhance supervision [of education agencies]… and investigate and punish violations of the law,” it continues.

The scrapping of provincial licensing comes as good news for newcomers to the agency business, as the current regulations are seen to protect big-name brands that have been in operation for several years.

“It seems more unreliable and amazing applications will be thrown onto the desk of AOs. Confusion!”

“More and more big companies will lose the control over the market to talented individuals with little investment or no investment at all,” predicted Shiny Wang, academic principal of Beijing Kaiwen Academy and director of college counselling at Tsinghua University High School.

However, there may be some challenges in their implementation, he added.

“If the newcomer independent counsellors… follow the transparent/fair approach of counselling and offer professional services with integrity, it will be really helpful for the students and colleges,” he said, but stressed that a statement of principles of good practice must be established to ensure a level playing field.

And with more agencies entering the market, it may be difficult for parents to discern which are reputable. “They will get lost in the sea of overwhelming counselling service companies; [it’s] hard to judge who will be professional and responsible,” noted Wang.

However, the custom of parents and students relying on word-of-mouth recommendations to find reputable agencies is unlikely to change no matter how many agencies operate in the market noted Peng Sang, president of the Beijing Overseas Study Service Association, a membership body of 150 education agencies.

The policy could also lead to a greater volume of fraudulent applications warned Wang: “It seems more unreliable and amazing applications will be thrown onto the desk of AOs [admission officers]. Confusion!”

International education institutions should therefore be more vigilant when it comes to screening students, advised Sang.

Rather than offering attractive commission to bring in high volumes of students, he said in future cooperation with agencies, educators “should take into account more our students’ individual characteristics, and that your admission standards are matched.”

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Queensland launches IET Partnership Fund

Thu, 02/09/2017 - 06:52

The first round of Queensland’s partnership fund to support the state’s recently released International Education & Training Strategy to Advance Queensland 2016-2026 has been rolled out on the Gold Coast.

The Queensland International Education and Training (IET) Partnership Fund, launched by Queensland education minister Kate Jones, will provide A$6m over five years to support programmes and ideas that align with the strategy’s key initiatives and goals, including building market share to 20%.

“IET is incredibly important to our state’s economy, contributing $2.8bn annually in export revenue and employing 19,000 Queenslanders,” Jones said in a statement.

“With the right initiatives we can grow IET to be worth an estimated $7.5bn delivering an additional 6,000 jobs by 2026”

“With the right initiatives we can grow IET to be worth an estimated $7.5bn delivering an additional 6,000 jobs by 2026.”

One of the largest of its sort in Australia, the fund seeks to uncover “grassroots ideas” from a range of stakeholders, including institutions, local government, community groups and students, as well as help establish organisations to develop initiatives to support international education.

Funding packages available range from $5,000 to $150,000, with applicants required to match the amount received.

Among the initiatives outlined in the state’s strategy announced in November 2016 were regional goals which aim to encourage students to study outside of capital city, Brisbane, which currently attracts a third of the state’s international students, 50,000.

Tom Tate, mayor of the city of Gold Coast, south of Brisbane, said in a statement his city’s schools were embracing international students.

“We are committed to growing international education here on the Gold Coast, not just through our schools but also at Griffith Gold Coast and at Bond University,” he said.

The launch of the IET Partnership Fund will be followed by the inaugural IET summit, also on the Gold Coast, next month, which will bring together industry stakeholders to discuss how to grow international education in Queensland.

Expressions of interest for funding will close on February 27.

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Erasmus students struggle to make local friends – ESN survey

Wed, 02/08/2017 - 10:51

In a large-scale survey of how friendly universities are, Erasmus students said they struggle to make friends with locals while on exchange, negatively affecting their overall experience.

The survey of 12,365 homecoming Erasmus students carried out by the Erasmus Student Network, argues unfulfilled friendships could contribute to lower satisfaction rates among study abroad students. It also reveals that students often find the career and language benefits of studying in another European country don’t match students’ expectations.

On the bright side, the study also shows that most students learned more than they expected about the local culture of the country where they studied, about other foreign cultures and mostly about their own culture.

“We can conclude that friendship networks are a very important aspect of the stay abroad for international students”

As might be expected, longer stays abroad appeared to correlate to a greater improvement of perceived foreign language skills, knowledge of the host country’s culture and employability.

Another outcome that students said surprised them is that they developed far more friendships with students from their own country than they expected while studying abroad.

This contrasts with reports by many of the participants that it was difficult for them to make local friends. Around 40% said they felt local students weren’t interested in interacting with them; 33% said there weren’t enough opportunities to meet local students; and 23% cited different lifestyles as a barrier to international friendships.

ESN also carried out a survey of 9,387 local students, exploring their experiences of interacting with foreign students. Almost half (46%) said they had no international friends.

“This unfulfilled desire [to make more local friends] could be a reason for lower satisfaction with the stay abroad experience,” the study notes.

“We can conclude that friendship networks are a very important aspect of the stay abroad for international students. Friendships with local, multinational and co-national students positively contribute to the general satisfaction with the stay abroad,” it continues.

Given that both international and domestic students reported few opportunities to interact with each other, the study recommends educators work to create these opportunities through initiatives like a buddy system that pairs international students with local mentors.

Only 68% of students surveyed said their institution offered a buddy system. And those students who were assigned a buddy weren’t always convinced of their usefulness, rating the buddy system on an average 4.53 out of 10 (where 10 is most useful).

Mentoring should be expanded the study suggests but universities should “place the focus on training the local students for the tasks of becoming a useful buddy.”

The study notes that as well as having an impact on academic progress, longer periods of overseas study naturally lead to more social interactions, resulting in better integration in the host country.

“The destination itself doesn’t play an important role in students’ satisfaction”

The European Commission should work to promote the benefits of longer stays among national agencies and higher education institutions, it argues. Meanwhile, universities should encourage students to take part in 12-month exchanges rather than shorter placements, it says.

It found satisfaction levels didn’t differ greatly depending on whether or not students went to their first choice of country or institution. “This suggests the destination itself doesn’t play an important role in students’ satisfaction,” the report notes.

The survey also supports the theory that mobility leads to more mobility. More than two-thirds of those who had studied abroad (70%) said they were interested in pursuing a master’s degree abroad after their exchange experience.

“Overall, students without a study abroad experience show a greater tendency to stay after their studies in their home country and students with a study abroad experience tend to subsequently migrate mainly within Europe,” the study notes.

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