The PIE News
Opening six days a week in central Sydney, IDP has unveiled a new flagship office and student centre that has been explicitly designed to foster a sense of community among IDP’s diverse student client base.
Andrew Barkla, CEO of IDP, described the new open design as “bringing together the offline and online experience” by combining face to face counselling on offer with technology that includes register on arrival functions, self-service kiosks for completing online applications, free wifi and mobile charging stations.
Expected to welcome 15,000 students per year, this refit is part of IDP’s stated mission to remain close to the student journey throughout their experiences overseas.
The Sydney centre also houses a new IELTS testing facility and counsellors from a range of cultural backgrounds offer guidance including education advice, career workshops, job placement support as well as insurance, accommodation and migration services.
“As a pioneer of international education in Australia, we are committed to constantly improving the way we deliver our services,” Barkla said.
“We believe this new format is a leap forward for the in-centre experience.”
IDP, which recently acquired UK-based company Hotcourses to help engage with more students in the search phase of their journey, places thousands of students in education institutions each year and has 89 offices around the world.
Recently, another sizable education counselling agency, CI from Brazil, also nodded to the success of its onshore offices that have opened in Sydney and Dublin, enabling them to offer more onshore services to Brazilians while overseas.
International education in Asia Pacific has been a critical diplomacy tool for the region – one that is becoming all the more essential given the tempestuous global political landscape and a move towards isolationism in a number of countries, educators said this week at the Asia Pacific Association for International Education conference.
Speaking from Kaohsiung in Taiwan, stakeholders nonetheless observed that the region’s global competitiveness continues to increase, spurred by the growing momentum of inter-regional collaborations.
“A lot is happening on the global stage in terms of politics and geopolitics, the rise of populism, the decrying of serious education; the winds of change in the corridors of power, and how they impact on education… these are matters of concern,” Anne Pakir, APAIE’s vice-president and director of the National University of Singapore’s international office said at the event.
Delegates considered how global politics – including the UK’s decision to leave the EU and Donald Trump’s election in the US – might affect the region.
“Education is the new currency by which nations are becoming competitive and globally prosperous”
The “rise of protectionist, isolationist and at times purely nationalist rhetoric and sentiment” seen over the last year “means that our work, I believe, has never been more important”, reflected APAIE president Susan Elliott, deputy vice-chancellor (international) at the University of Melbourne.
Fostering a global outlook among students and facilitating people-to-people exchange is crucial in order to help curb this sentiment, particularly in a region where bilateral relations can be strained, educators agreed.
International education can achieve what politicians are unable to do, they noted, building positive relations between people and even countries where relations are poor.
“Government-to-government links between China and Taiwan are very tense and seem to be becoming increasingly tense under this particular Taiwanese president… [but] the academic links between Taiwanese and Chinese academics are very strong,” Elliott told The PIE News.
“They do a lot of collaboration that’s not recognised at a government-to-government level, so the people to people links are critically important in Asia.”
Meanwhile, governments within the region are harnessing education as a tool for soft power diplomacy, and many are helping to drive initiatives for intra-Asia education cooperation.
This includes Taiwan’s New Southbound Policy, which was launched last year with the aim of strengthening links with 18 countries in East and Southeast Asia and Australasia in a number of areas including education.
“Since China is showing very unfriendly relations with this new government – so the new government was thinking maybe we should [look to other countries],” observed Hsiao-Wei Chiang, associate vice president, office of global affairs at Taiwan’s National Tsing Hua University.
Opening the conference, Taiwan’s political deputy minister of education, Yao Leehtur, nodded to the New Southbound Policy and noted: “The centre of gravity in higher education is perceptibly shifting to Asia.”
“Education is the new currency by which nations are becoming competitive and globally prosperous,” he added.
“Education is one of the most critical investments we can make.”
“This is the area where we have seen the greatest activity in international education, and where partnerships can be so fruitful”
Internationalisation policies will also help alleviate the effects of shrinking populations in countries like Taiwan, Korea and Japan. Speaking with The PIE News, Pakir said governments will only be able to “ensure that the college education pipeline is kept open… with an influx of foreign students”.
“We have seen the rise of intra-Asia mobility as a very quickly emerging trend,” she observed.
Intra-Asia mobility has also been influenced by a growing recognition among Asian educators that not all collaborations are equal.
Speaking about partnerships between higher education institutions in East Asia and the West, Jonathan Lembright, IIE’s regional director for Southeast Asia, noted that there is sometimes a “tendency in some East-West partnerships to see the Western institution as the senior partner”.
However, institutions working to forge mutually beneficial partnerships for both counterparts in the West and within Asia, he said.
All these factors mean that education cooperation between institutions in the Asia Pacific region is gathering speed, and will likely continue to grow in the next few years.
“This is the area where we have seen the greatest activity in international education, and where partnerships can be so fruitful,” said Elliot.
“From student mobility to research partnerships to online learning and indeed global rankings, universities in the Asia Pacific are rising, innovating and leading the way.
The post APAIE: international education critical for Asia’s diplomacy, ambitions appeared first on The PIE News.
How do you measure the efficacy and success of professionals at the top of their game in international education? The Association of International Education Administrators is attempting to answer this question by releasing a first-of-its-kind standards of professional practice document for international education leaders and senior international officers.
The set of 22 standards aims to clarify the professional qualifications required for roles at the helm of an institution’s internationalisation strategy.
Cheryl Matherly, a member of the AIEA Task Force on Standards of Professional Practice, told The PIE News at the organisation’s recent conference in Washington DC, that the guidelines reflect a “professionalisation of the field”.
“It’s a statement on the part of AIEA of acknowledging that there are standards of practice for this work”
“It’s a statement on the part of AIEA of acknowledging that there are standards of practice for this work and that’s how the individuals who hold these particular roles, regardless of title, if they are in that senior leadership role, these are the standards by which they should be measured and evaluated.”
The guidelines cover using assessment data to strengthen internationalisation and refine processes; possessing international and language learning experience; being entrepreneurial to secure financial support and understanding how to advance global learning in the curriculum.
Six of the guidelines focus on advocacy including advocating for internationalisation within the local community as well as with governments, the private sector and non-profit organisations.
Their release is timely as promoting the benefits of a global education to university communities has become more urgent for US educators in the current political environment.
“When we were doing these we did not anticipate the current climate as to really bring this to the forefront but it is exactly this climate that is the reason that we identified advocacy as being one of the essential competencies in the field,” said Matherly.
“It was a recognition that part of the responsibility in that leadership function is to be forward-facing and public-facing and to be ready to speak and articulate the value of the exchange, to be clear on why universities have these kinds of international agendas.”
AIEA defines SIOs as “individuals within an institution of higher education who are charged with leading and facilitating its internationalisation efforts”.
Part of the responsibility in that leadership function is to be forward-facing and public-facing
In addition to recognising the responsibilities of SIOs, Matherly said the guidelines aim to develop future leaders and help universities who are building their own international departments.
“We hope this will guide institutions with the evaluation, creation and design of positions when they’re preparing to hire…and to help with those who are aspiring for this kind of role to be able to understand what is expected in terms of their own kind of professional development.”
Matherly noted the standards apply to a US context, including using the title SIO, but added that “some of these are standards that are reflective across the world at other institutions.”
AIEA also underlined that the standards are “a living document, subject to change” as the roles of SIOs evolve alongside internationalisation and higher education.
The post AIEA develops blueprint doc for leaders in int’l ed appeared first on The PIE News.
Spanish language schools in Spain have seen a rise in demand for group bookings resulting in more student weeks but shorter average stays and an increase in intensive programmes, according to the latest annual report from the Federación de Escuelas de Español como Lengua Extranjera.
The report also shows a notable increase in bookings for DELE exam preparation courses spurred by government policy requiring proof of language level for applicants applying for Spanish nationality status.
According to FEDELE’s survey of 88 member schools, 50,000 students studied Spanish with a group, accounting for 52% of all 2016’s 97,578 bookings. Total year on year bookings increased 4,700.
“It’s an indicator that Spanish is becoming more important for school-aged students around the world”
“We’ve always been a market of 25+ individuals,” Ana Cózar, directer of FEDELE told The PIE News. “But our sector is now more than 50% groups. It’s an indicator that Spanish is becoming more important for school-aged students around the world.”
Cózar added the shift in client profile is a good indicator for future return business. “When younger students come it’s likely they’ll return as individuals,” she said.
Italy continues to be a fruitful market for ELE providers, sending 14,900 students in 2016, up from 12,855 last year, and contributing to the growth in group bookings.
Germany, the US, France, the UK and the Netherlands make up the top five markets for FEDELE members, each marking gains on 2015 student numbers.
“Italian groups especially are coming and they’re coming for shorter times pushing down the average length of stay,” said Cózar.
Average student week numbers per school grew by about 150 weeks but the average length of stay per student dropped slightly from a consistent 2.9 over the past three years to 2.7 weeks in 2016.
Intensive courses of more than 15 hours of class time per week, which also serve school groups, made up 83% of bookings overall.
By type, general language courses accounted for the bulk of bookings (74%) but DELE preparation courses saw a bump thanks to new language proof requirements for those applying for Spanish citizenship.
“It seems that Spain’s growth is improving its reputation overseas and we haven’t had any negative international news stories recently”
Schools report DELE preparation accounted for 6% of course bookings compared to 3% last year. “I expected it to be more, but it’s growth all the same and where we haven’t seen growth before,” noted Cózar.
DELE preparation courses are available to the public for free which could be attracting students away from ELE centres, she reasoned. Administration of the CCSE nationality exam, however, remains a welcome source of revenue for schools, she added.
Spain’s ELE market continues to be driven by regional dominance, with Andalucia, Valencia and Madrid attracting the highest volume of students. The regions also have the highest number of FEDELE member schools.
And schools across the country say they have an improved market outlook as the impacts of the country’s economic crisis and political turmoil wane.
“It seems that Spain’s growth is improving its reputation overseas and we haven’t had any negative international news stories recently. At the same time, France and Germany are appearing less secure,” said Cózar.
Three French secondary school students were among those hurt by a terrorist incident in London, UK, yesterday – two of whom were injured badly when a car was driven into people on Westminster Bridge near the Houses of Parliament.
The students were in a group of over 90 students on a school trip to London, according to France’s Huffington Post site.
Five South Korean tourists were also affected at the scene, with one receiving a serious injury.
As the world woke up to the full extent of the terrorist incident today, the impact will inevitably be felt by Britain’s tourism sector. London is the most popular tourist destination in the UK and this was apparent just from the range of nationalities impacted, with two Romanians also injured.
But in the tourism and in the study travel sector, key stakeholders emphasised the fact this was an isolated incident, with swift reaction of security services.
Sarah Cooper, chief executive of English UK, said: “We are profoundly shocked by the act of one individual yesterday, and our thoughts are with the families of the visitors and Londoners who were caught up in this attack.
“But we have been encouraged by the quick and effective response of our police and security services. Londoners are back at work today, sad, but determined that our city will not be stopped by this one random attack.”
And the European Tourism Association urged, “This incident has to be viewed in context. Anywhere there are cars, fatalities occur. In terms of traffic safety, Britain happens to be a world leader. The intentional nature of this incident makes it newsworthy. It does not make the UK any less safe. It will still be one of the safest countries in the world to be a pedestrian. It will still be one of the safest countries on earth to be a visitor.”
Representing English language schools, Cooper reminded that “English UK member centres take their responsibility to protect students very seriously, and will be carefully monitoring the situation as it develops.”
“Our accredited centres have the strictest regulations in the world on caring for under-18s and keeping them safe, and of course they will regularly update any advice given to adult students if necessary.”
Opening two off-shore offices to better serve their clients’ ongoing study needs has been a good business move for one of Brazil’s largest student travel agencies, CI, according to owner Victor Hugo Baseggio.
Speaking exclusively with The PIE News, he explained that opening offices in Sydney in September and Dublin in October last year has enabled the company to help their clients with “re-enrolment” in an overseas country.
Observing that both Australia and Ireland offer post-study work options, Baseggio said this was a “great opportunity” for an agency to continue to service their current students and expand their client base in a new market.
“We are seeing a slow movement of staying more in a destination”
“In Ireland, [students] can work up to seven years, once they have engagement at higher education levels,” he said. “And in Australia, opportunities are also good.”
Jan Wrede, director of sales at the company, pointed out that the new offices enable CI to offer orientation services, walking tours and general help with settling into life in a new country, as well as job search support.
“In our Sydney office, we have a lounge area where we offer our clients (and non-clients) computers/internet, a chill-out area and a room where we train clients for the hospitality industry,” he explained.
He said that other Brazilian students, not originally CI clients, were using their services in both Australia and Ireland.
“It’s premature to assume it, but we are seeing a slow movement of staying more in a destination and exploring more, once [students] have guidance and inspiration provided by our local staff.”
Speaking about business in Brazil generally, Baseggio said that there was also a more optimistic mood about the business climate.
“The worst is definitely over, we feel,” he said. “We believe unemployment will go down and while the economic reality is still tough, there is a more positive outlook and there are reasons to be optimistic now.”
CI, which counsels thousands of students per year, has diversified its product range in Brazil. It now offers a sports tour product, Amaze Sports, which took nearly 400 clients to Gothenburg to participate in the Gothia Cup, world’s largest football competition for 10-18 year olds.
“This was a great success, and we also did a big deal with Barcelona for their football camps,” said Baseggio. “So we’re very optimistic about that.”
Graduation tours have also become a promising product for CI. Baseggio said nearly 2,000 CI clients descended on Florianopolis in Brazil for one week, for a “spring break” style tour with excursions and parties organised.
The agency is also building its reputation for full undergraduate placement overseas. “More and more [Brazilians] are willing to try for undergrad study overseas – from 3-5 years, so a long-term programme,” said Baseggio.
The post Brazil’s CI cites success with two offshore offices appeared first on The PIE News.
The UK’s parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Department for International Trade, Mark Garnier, opened Universities UK’s International Higher Education Forum this week claiming the government aims to “harness the power of the UK’s education sector” in future trade deals.
Garnier’s comments set the tone for the event that marked a shift in focus for the sector towards education exports beyond Europe as Brexit negotiations loom.
To help the higher education sector thrive, Garner told delegates DIT intends to build on the country’s success in exporting education and has recruited its own HE specialist to “support the sector’s global ambitions”.
“The Department for International Trade will support the sector’s global ambitions”
Without commenting on immigration policy post-Brexit, Garnier instead said the government would support transnational education activities pointing to China, Brazil and Malaysia as countries “where the GREAT campaign is pursuing thousands of export opportunities”.
“Ninety percent of global growth will take place outside of Europe and educators must be open to that,” he said, adding that “education is one of the truly global industries” and the government “won’t be turning its back on our trade partners in Europe”.
Eliciting successful examples of exporting education was Paul Wellings, vice chancellor at the University of Wollongong in Australia where education is the third largest export and there is a clear government mandate to increase offshore enrolments.
Wellings noted education’s prominence in Australia’s 2003 free trade agreement with Singapore. A 2014 bilateral agreement with China also extended the number of Australia’s private HE institutions on the Chinese government’s Jiaoyu Shewai Jianguan Xinxi Wang or “white list” of quasi-approved institutions.
Cooperative research and credit transfer agreements were among ways Wollongong forges agreements with overseas partners, Wellings said. However, he added the “sticky subjects of student and staff mobility” would be “deal breakers” in any collaboration with UK universities.
In response to how to ensure confidence in higher education’s international activities in communities who might be shunning globalisation, Wellings said Australia has implemented a “sophisticated community strategy that sits alongside the global strategies”.
Robin Grimes, professor at Imperial College London and chief scientific advisor to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, spoke about the role of science in building diplomatic relations. He cited the Fukushima nuclear disaster and Ebola and Zika outbreaks as events resulting in international collaboration through science. And he reminded delegates of government-backed research funds and the UK Science and Innovation Network which work to connect universities with international stakeholders.
“Sticky subjects of student and staff mobility will be deal breakers in any collaboration with UK universities”
Rolf Tarrach, president of the European University Association, also noted the role scientists and researchers have in supporting the value of internationalisation. “We have to fight against Trumpian twitter by having a much closer relationship with society, explaining how we do science…we should do better science and better publishing to defend our way of getting new knowledge.”
In response to how universities should react to the current “tumultuous times”, Allan Goodman, president of the Institute for International Education, offered a perspective from the US.
“We’ve seen this movie before,” he told delegates highlighting the historical resilience of universities during previous uprises of nationalism and said “universities create their own foreign policy”.
Discussions also shifted to existential questions about the future of international higher education in the UK. Vivienne Stern, director of UUKi, pondered how the event’s push for education as a trade commodity would be interpreted by foreign colleagues.
Providing one response, Ihron Rensberg, vice chancellor at the University of Johannesburg warned delegates of the nationalistic tone of the morning’s sessions. “I noted a hankering for a return to the great, hegemonic period of the UK,” Rensburg said. “This turning point provides an opportunity to rethink that idea and look beyond economics and market share.”
Meanwhile, Abdi-Aziz Suleiman, former president of Sheffield Students’ Union and international student from Somalia told educators to show the value of international education to the people who “feel left behind”.
The post UK considers education exports in response to ‘tumultuous times’ appeared first on The PIE News.
The PIE: What role do your organisations play in international education?
LM: I think we are the voice of the students. We know a lot of our practitioners are working at the grassroots level and they are interacting with students, so they get to know what students want, and we provide a forum to escalate that.
MAS: ISANA Australia and New Zealand memberships are basically staff who work at the coalface with students. Not only do they get to be the voice of the students, and that’s more so in New Zealand where they don’t have an organisation like the Council of International Students Australia, we deal with students day-in-day-out.
We are able to give feedback of critical information on the effect of any policy changes. With policy legislation changes, we can say ‘hang on a second, if you want to do this, these are the implications it will have’ because we are the ones who will actually be implementing it. So we’re the voice of the students but also the voice of the staff who work with the students.
“Our international student numbers have increased and once they are here we want to retain their skills and knowledge”
LM: Also, with a lot of international student support staff, there’s no formal training and so ISANA is there to provide professional development. Anyone can go into the role, but there’s all these transferable skills we’re looking for, and a lot of them are intuitive skills which are very warm and fuzzy, but that’s what you need in student support. A lot of those people do not have formal training so we provide professional development throughout the year.
The PIE: What is the relationship between ISANA Australia and ISANA New Zealand?
MAS: Sisters. The structure is very different because New Zealand doesn’t have states and territories, they have regions so they don’t have the branches that Australia has. But the constitutions are very similar. Australia has a much bigger national council than New Zealand as we have state branch representation.
In national planning days, ISANA Australia invites the New Zealand president to come over. It’s great to have New Zealand be part of our planning sessions; they’re like a voice from across the Tasman that says ‘why are you doing this?’ Then you almost have to justify it but when you do that, you do realise it’s a very good question. It’s not for any other reason than sharing information, getting a different perspective because there are similarities and there are differences.
LM: There are alignments and things we do separately. I believe there are alignments in government policies that are coming through.
The PIE: With those government policies, why do you think both New Zealand and Australia are now looking inward at how they can become sustainable in the future?
LM: I think with the [New Zealand government] policy to increase student numbers, our international student numbers have increased and once they are here we want to retain their skills and knowledge so they don’t go off to Australia, Canada, wherever, to work.
“We can’t just keep on bringing students here and not have anything to underpin their welfare now and in the future”
I think there’s this realisation that we’ve got these students and they’re going to be looking at what they want to do after university, so we really have to get together and think about how to support those students into work and everything else if they want them to remain.
I think there is a realisation that we can’t just keep on bringing students here and not have anything to underpin their welfare now and in the future. There has to be something in place.
MAS: The success of international education in both our countries is why it’s on the agenda. So why we’re talking about sustainability is because suddenly it matters, whereas before, there were other things that mattered. As the economies of China decide they are not going to use our steel or use our coal, suddenly we start to ask ‘where’s our money coming from?’ and then we start looking at the service sector.
The whole reason we have been discussing sustainability is because the international education sector financially matters. You can’t just ignore it and hope that it’s like a snowball rolling down a hill that’s just going to go and get bigger and bigger and bigger.
The PIE: Are you noticing a shift towards an “international education native” as an industry professional?
MAS: The interesting thing with some international students, once they start, they do the volunteer work, they represent staff, and they fall in love with the sector. Increasingly, one of the things I’ve noticed, people actually do want to work in the sector. Not necessarily marketing and recruitment, but student services, etc. There’s something about being in the sector that people really, really want to engage with.
If you look at the profile of staff, and I think if you look at the ISANA delegates, the length of time people work in the sector: people don’t leave the sector, they retire from it.
“In the early days, about 25 years ago, there was exploitation and there just wasn’t that support there”
LM: I’m quite the same, I came into it through hosting international students and you learn about them and I thought ‘why are organisations not supporting them better?’ Then I went into a student support role at a high school, and I progressed since, just wanting to help them.
In the early days, about 25 years ago, there was exploitation and there just wasn’t that support there. However, nowadays we have a code of practice for international students to ensure their pastoral care needs are met.
The PIE: Do you think that passion can push back against concerns of commoditisation of the sector?
LM: In the past, government policy was about bringing more students here and suddenly they’ve woken up to the fact that ‘we’ve got them all here, where’s the support for those students?’ If we are wanting them to progress to internships, working and everything else, then we have to have that support when they arrive as international students so they feel they’re included in the community. The Australian and New Zealand governments are waking up to that.
MAS: I think on one level it helps if you have very passionate people in the sector. We become the advocates, the liaisons, the go-betweens for the students. We’re up against challenges where mainstream communities, businesses, government policy people don’t have the experience that people who work in the sector do and are passionate about students as human beings.
Therefore, when you only look at data and you put a dollar sign next to those numbers and you don’t actually talk to people involved in international education, you may lose sight of that.
LM: Pastoral support is a key factor for marketing because parents overseas are not going to send their child to a country where there’s no support. If marketers have that pastoral support knowledge, they can tell it to the parents; it broadens that perspective from a marketing view.
Everybody is a marketer! But you get some academics saying: ‘Education is not a business. We are not a business’. In some respects they can’t get their heads around how they are marketing on a daily basis and anything they do in their interactions with students in the classroom says something [towards marketing].
The PIE: So ISANA harnesses that passion and skills-up the sector for its continued success over the next few years?
LM: And supports those students. From my point of view, I came from Scotland over 30 years ago and even though I was English speaking, I had culture shock for two years. Everyone spoke too quickly, they had their own sayings. Britain is much more formal, New Zealand is much more casual, so for me I take that with me into the role and I can understand what these kids are going through.
“I think on one level it helps if you have very passionate people in the sector”
MAS: It’s a feedback loop. We work with the students, so we know where the needs and challenges are for the students, we develop strategies and then with that information, you train and up-skill staff who come into the sector and work in the sector.
The PIE: Do you think the Australia/New Zealand region will strengthen in the coming years?
LM: I think so. I think also with our economic policies surrounding the specific area, we have that commonality. And then taking into account Brexit and Trump, I think we will have increased migration in both countries. We’re at a common stage.
The post Lesley McDonald and Mary Ann Seow, ISANA, NZ and Aus appeared first on The PIE News.
A decree has been drafted in Vietnam which will require foreign investors to have a higher amount of capital to set up universities in the country. It will also uncap the proportion of Vietnamese students able to enrol in foreign-invested institutions below higher education level, and raise the degree prerequisites of university lecturers.
The draft decree is expected to replace the existing decree 73 on foreign investment and cooperation, originally implemented in 2012.
“The draft decree is simply responding to current market conditions”
Foreign investors who wish to set up universities in Vietnam will be required to have a minimum investment capital of around US$45m, or one trillion dong, according to the draft decree. This is an increase from 300 billion dong under the current decree, and excludes the land value for construction of the university.
Projects in the pipeline, however, will remain under the current regulations.
This increased amount of money, according to Nguyen Dang Vang, director of the international cooperation department and the Ministry of Education and Training, is a reasonable raise in order to ensure the quality of the university training.
Brian O’Reilly, managing director of Vietnam-based SEA Management Consulting Company, which provides services to domestic and overseas tertiary educational institutions, said raising the bar of the capital needed is to ensure that “reputable investors and educational institutions enter the market”.
“There have been some issues with institutions in the past,” he told The PIE News. “It is not seen as being overly excessive by prospective investors.”
And Mark Ashwill, managing director of Capstone Vietnam, said increasing the minimum investment capital for establishing a university is “more in line with reality”.
“In that sense, the draft decree is simply responding to current market conditions,” he commented.
Tang Bui, faculty director of the Vietnam Executive MBA programme, at the University of Hawaii Shidler College, which offers courses in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City through partnerships with Vietnamese public universities, said he hopes to recruit more students to its programmes as a result of the new decree.
“Generally speaking, raising the minimum investment capital for setting up a foreign-owned university in Vietnam to VND one trillion would dramatically set higher barriers to entry for smaller private foreign education institutions,” he said.
“However, as there is a plethora of licensed private education institutions in Vietnam, the draft decree would allow international schools to partner with local institutions.”
“Raising the minimum investment capital … would dramatically set higher barriers to entry for smaller private foreign education institutions”
Another arm of the decree in place at the moment caps the number of Vietnamese students permitted to study at schools built through foreign investment, to 10% for those at primary level, and 20% at high school level.
Under the new draft decree however, each individual school will be able to decide on the proportions of international and domestic students by themselves.
This has the potential to increase enrolment, said O’Reilly.
“It will also provide an opportunity to establish institutions in smaller regional centres where the numbers of foreign students would not have been that great,” he added.
The decree will also permit foreign investors to hire local education facilities already in place in the country, rather than having to establish them from scratch before recruiting students, under decree 73.
And lecturers of foreign-invested universities will be required to hold at least a master’s degree, and around half should have a doctorate. This is up from around 35% who have been required to hold a doctorate.
This new framework has overall been welcomed by stakeholders in the country.
“I see it as a step in the right direction,” said Ashwill. “And a recognition that decree 73 was outdated and needed to be replaced with a framework more attuned to the realities of contemporary Vietnam.”
Bui said the focus of this decree seems to be encouraging only legitimate investors.
“There have been problems in the past with higher education institutions closing down under dubious circumstances,” he said.
“The new decree should help to ensure that this does not reoccur.”
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Hundreds of postgraduate law students from the eastern Africa region have won a major victory after a Kenyan court reversed a decision by the government to stop foreign students from taking legal training at the Kenya School of Law.
In a decision arrived at earlier this month, a Kenyan high court ruled that a 2015 Kenya government decision to stop admitting students from the region to enrol on the school’s Advocates Training Programme, a one-year diploma programme, was discriminatory and against Kenya’s constitution.
Through the Council of Legal Education, in 2015 the government stopped students from 10 regional countries – including Uganda, Zambia, Botswana and Rwanda – from enrolling at the law school on grounds that they failed to return home after studies, opting to practice law in the country. The decision was announced in 2016.
“A decision which violates the Constitution [of Kenya, 2010] is null and void”
This elicited protests from the legal fraternity in the region, with the Uganda Law Society president Francis Gimara noting that the directive went against the region’s spirit of a liberalised legal system.
“Kenya took the lead and autonomously amended its Advocate Act to recognise and permit advocates from the region to practice law in Kenya, an act that was progressive and demonstrated good faith,” noted the president.
Hundreds of students from Uganda, Tanzania, South Sudan, Rwanda and Burundi moved to court late 2016 to have the decision reversed, resulting in the latest victory.
“A decision which violates the Constitution [of Kenya, 2010] is null and void, it offends the petitioners’ constitutionally guaranteed rights,” stated the court in quashing the decision.
The ruling means that at least 300 foreigners enrolled at the school who were stopped from completing their studies in 2016, including 75 from Uganda, can now continue their training.
The Kenya School of Law offers diplomas in law studies under its Advocates Training Programme based on the commonwealth legal training model. It is the most popular law school in the region, preferred by students from more than 10 west African countries and trains over 1,000 students each year.
NCUK, an organisation which provides preparation courses for entry into a consortia of eleven UK universities, has announced British Study Centres as its newest UK partner.
Students completing the International Foundation Year Business Programme at BSC’s Hampstead campus will be guaranteed progression to one of NCUK’s universities which include the University of Manchester, University of Sheffield and Liverpool John Moores University.
“BSC have evidenced robust academic performance, experienced tutors, and modern facilities in London, one of the most attractive destinations for international students. We believe they will be a great addition to the NCUK network,” commented Georgina Jones, NCUK market development director.
“BSC have modern facilities in London, one of the most attractive destinations for international students”
Students will graduate with a NCUK foundation certificate level 5 and will be able to progress on to degrees in subjects including economics, finance and accounting. The programme will begin in October 2017 and will be available to up to 30 students.
According to NCUK, despite market concerns around Brexit and the UK’s visa and immigration policies, it has seen a growth in students enrolling on its preparation courses in the UK.
Steve Phillips, managing director of transnational education and pathways at BSC, also noted an increase in interest for academic foundation programmes at the group’s language schools. “We’ve taken steps to meet the needs of this growing segment. Whilst we consider our own programme development and other market providers, we felt the range of university progression of NCUK was second to none.”
BSC merged with Experience English last year after both were acquired by the Real Experience Group. The group operates seven locations across the UK but the IFY will only be offered at its Hampstead campus.
“BSC London Hampstead is ideal as it’s a great location for long term academic students,” Phillips told The PIE News. “It has a library, self-study centre, cafe, and outdoor terraces – like a small campus.”
In addition to BSC, the IFY is also offered in the UK at Malvern House, Chelsea Independent College and INTO Manchester. The course is also available at centres in 13 countries outside of the UK including China, Malta, Nigeria and India.
International students directly supported over 2,300 jobs and generated NZ$270.6m for New Zealand’s regions, outside of Auckland, according to reports released by Education New Zealand.
The reports detail the 2015/16 economic impact of the international education industry on eight of New Zealand’s regions outside of Auckland, which attracts 60% of the country’s international students.
They found the international education industry directly supports or creates one job for every eight international students in the regions of Northland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Manawatu-Wanganui, Hawke’s Bay, Nelson-Marlborough-Tasman, Otago and Southland regions, accounting for a combined 16% of the industry’s total economic impact in New Zealand.
Employment figures and economic contribution further improve to almost 3,800 jobs and $406.7m when incorporating indirect goods and services consumed by students, such as food and drink, textbooks and communications services.
“These new reports show the wider economic benefits of international education in regional communities”
“Job creation is vital for the economic and social success of our regions, and these new reports show the wider economic benefits of international education in regional communities,” Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment Minister Paul Goldsmith told The PIE News.
“International education is now worth $4.28bn to the New Zealand economy and is our fourth largest export industry, so it’s important that our regions are a part of that growth story.”
John Goulter, ENZ general manager stakeholder and communications, said the reports “demonstrate that the benefits of enrolling one student are shared widely within regional communities, not just within education providers”.
Goulter said ENZ, which established the Regional Partnership Programme last year to help grow student numbers in 15 regional areas around New Zealand, is committed to sustainable growth and that the industry is “uniquely placed to add real value in the regions”.
“We can see that international education is having an increasingly positive impact on business sustainability, employment and other outcomes such as social and cultural diversity,” he said.
As well as highlighting the economic impact of international education, Goulter told The PIE News the reports will help to measure the success of the RPP and inform future government investment.
Despite Auckland’s current dominance in attracting international students, Goulter said regional growth would play a significant role in sustainably growing the industry and the reports provided a grounding to better understand what could be achieved beyond the city.
Of the eight regions, Otago provided the lion’s share of economic impact and the largest employment numbers, with $142m and 1,307 jobs when including both direct and indirect factors. The next largest region was the Bay of Plenty, with $86m and 816 jobs.
Comparatively, however, the figures are significantly smaller than Auckland, which netted $2.17bn and 16,000 jobs – half of international education’s economic and jobs contribution for the entirety of New Zealand – during the same period.
International education’s contribution to the GDP of each region also lagged significantly behind the national contribution of 1.7%, with all regions except Otago seeing contributions under 1%.
Only Otago’s Dunedin city managed to surpass the national average, seeing international education contribute 2% to its GDP.
Goulter said the differences in economic impact, jobs numbers and GDP contributions exemplify the potential for growth beyond Auckland: “New Zealand’s regions have great capacity to grow both enrolment numbers and value from international education.”
ENZ has dedicated significant resources on building the education exports from the county’s regions lately, including an online portal promoting the regions, the RPP and a new international education strategy with increased focus on regional areas.
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Australia’s Study Gold Coast, on a trade mission to the UK, used a dinner event at Claridge’s in central London to promote its unique assets as an education destination with high-ranking institutions and beach lifestyle appeal too to education and industry stakeholders.
Shannon Willoughby, CEO at Study Gold Coast, explained to guests that she was keen to push the “smart” that was as important as “sun, surf and sand”.
She nodded to recent rankings that featured Gold Coast institutions in prominent positions, such as THE’s Best Small Universities in the World (Bond University, 20th) and the individual rankings for QS’s hospitality and leisure management courses, which profiled Griffith Business School as number nine in the world and top in Australia.
“Australia’s sixth largest city offers a range of innovative courses and globally recognised qualifications”
“Home to more than 200 international and domestic education providers, including three world-class universities and specialist institutions, Australia’s sixth largest city offers a range of innovative courses and globally recognised qualifications,” explained Willoughby.
Study Gold Coast has launched a promotional video using the strapline ‘Australia’s Favourite Classroom’ and was using the trade mission – alongside Trade Investment Queensland, Gold Coast City Council and other education stakeholders – to push its rankings credentials during the Queen’s Baton Relay in the lead up to the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games.
“It’s a win-win for everybody as we count down to the Commonwealth Games as more jobs become available and innovators seek new-world nous, learned right here on the Gold Coast. We train them here, let’s keep them here,” added city of Gold Coast mayor, Tom Tate.
More than 6,600 athletes and officials from 70 Commonwealth nations and territories will take part in 11 days of competition from April 4-15, 2018. An abundance of opportunities for student interns, jobs and volunteer experience will be on offer, while the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games Corporation will need to find around 1,400 staff and 15,000 volunteers to run the event.
During the event, the governor of Queensland, the Honourable Paul de Jersey, also pointed out that Gold Coast had “hospitality in its DNA” nodding to major investments in the area transforming Gold Coast into a welcoming innovation hub.
Di Dixon, project director at Gold Coast Health & Knowledge precinct, an emerging industry hub for research and development, told guests she is encouraging companies to take up space in the zone, which will bring companies and universities side by side to explore the potential of 3D printing in surgery and other similar initiatives.
Four in 10 educational institutions in the US have reported a decrease in the number of international applicants for the fall 2017 intake, according to responses from an inter-associational survey.
Application unease is high in the US’s top student markets – China and India – but universities report concerns are highest among students in the Middle East. Seemingly negative perceptions of the US as a study destination are also mirrored in a separate survey of international education agencies.
Released by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, the survey on US education institutions was conducted in partnership with IIE, International ACAC, NACAC, NAFSA, and the College Board.
“International educators expressed concern that the political discourse … could be damaging to international student recruitment efforts”
The preliminary findings of the survey, which consists of responses from 250 institutions, aimed to gauge international applicants’ perceptions of the US.
China sent 328,547 students to the US in 2015/16, accounting for almost 32% of all international students, according to Open Doors data. However, a quarter of institutions who responded to the survey found a decline in undergraduate applications from China, and 32% cited a decline in graduate applications.
India tells a similar story, with 26% of institutions reporting a drop in undergraduate applications, and 15% reporting a drop in applications for graduate study.
As a result of these concerns, over three quarters of institutions (77%) expressed apprehension over application yield.
Corresponding with the top-line results, 39% of responding institutions reported a decline in undergraduate applicants from Middle Eastern students while 31% reported a comparable decline for graduate applicants.
The Middle East was also the region where student concerns around studying in the US were especially high, according to 79% of institutions.
Meanwhile, 36% said students in Asia expressed a lot of concern and 34% reported Latin American students.
Perceptions that the climate in the US is less welcoming are high. Students are reportedly concerned that benefits and restrictions around visas could change, including the ability to travel, re-enter after travel, and work.
Not surprisingly, students are also worried the Executive Order travel ban might expand to include additional countries.
There is also a perceived rise in student visa denials at US embassies and consulates in China, India and Nepal, the report found.
Still, 35% of institutions reported a rise in international applications, while just over a quarter (26%) of total respondents stated no change in application numbers.
“Over the past year, international educators expressed concern that the political discourse surrounding foreign nationals in the US leading up to the November 2016 US presidential election could be damaging to international student recruitment efforts,” the report states.
“This survey was intended to be a snapshot of student/family perceptions and institutional activities as opposed to a deep-dive into applicant numbers.” According to AACRAO, a complete and final report will be available by March 30, after a full review of the data.
Still, 35% of institutions reported a rise in international applications
Education agencies also report a deterioration in the perception of the US among students. A recent survey by the American International Recruitment Council of its members found many students are changing their study plans as a result of US governance and policy.
For the 2017/18 intake, 75% of the responding agents said they have seen students change their plans. Close to a third (32%) reported that this is the case for more than 50 student clients – a 15% increase compared to the current academic year 2016/17, according to AIRC.
However, almost a quarter of responding agents (24%) reported no changes in application and enrolment patterns.
Survey results are based on responses from 33 agencies around the world.
Agencies reported that US visa issuance was the top worry among students. But, concerns about the welcoming atmosphere in the US and the potential limitation of work options post-graduation followed closely behind.
Agencies were also asked about alternative study locations other than the US. Fifty-eight percent (58%) said institutions in Canada could meet their student clients’ plan of study; many more than reported for the UK or Australia, AIRC said.
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An initiative to increase international student work and internship opportunities and a redesigned interactive website to promote Victorian education are among the latest services launched by the Victorian government to support the state’s international education industry.
The services, which focus on improving the safety and wellbeing of international students studying in Victorian institutions, were announced this week at the Study Melbourne Student Centre.
“It is vital that we continue enhancing the experience of our international students”
“It is vital that we continue enhancing the experience of our international students so Victoria’s education sector keeps its competitive edge and continues to create jobs for our state,” Small Business, Innovation and Trade Minister Philip Dalidakis said in a statement.
“Victoria leads the country in international education and these programmes are an important part of the government’s support for the wellbeing and safety of our international student community.”
The LIVE programme, which stands for Lead, Intern, Volunteer, Experience, will encourage international students to take up work and internship opportunities within Victorian businesses and organisations. It is expected to both benefit local businesses and prepare students for working life.
“LIVE is definitely a great hub for international students to start their career, in terms of internships and graduate opportunities,” doctorate student and former Victorian International Student of the Year Balaji Trichy Narayaswamy told The PIE News.
“Most international students don’t have the necessary Australian work experience; it can be hard for them to find an employment. So, I feel that the LIVE programme would bridge the existing gap between the potential employers and international students,” he added.
The rollout of a revised set of guidelines to improve the application process for the International Student Welfare programme was also announced, following a pilot year.
The programme, which provides A$4m over four years for activities to improve welfare and the student experience, will now offer two funding models instead of one, with options of up to $5,000 for International Student Group activities or grants up to $75,000 for Wellbeing Partnership Activities.
A website, study.melbourne, was also launched in English and Chinese to promote study in Victoria and provide prospective and current students with information.
Education is Victoria’s leading export industry. It attracts 175,000 international students, Australia’s second largest student population after New South Wales.
See more photos from the launch here.
Around 80% of Chinese students who left to study overseas returned to China in 2016, according to new statistics from the Ministry of Education.
Also referred to as ‘sea turtles’, the number of Chinese returnees reached 432,500 in 2016, an increase from 409,100 in 2015.
The appeal of the opportunities available on these students’ return is one reason why they decide to return home, according to Shiny Wang, director of college counseling at Tsinghua University High School in Beijing.
“There are more and more career opportunities and formalities for international Chinese to take important roles back home”
“Students believe there are more opportunities for them to find jobs and develop if they come back than staying overseas to do so, which seems more and more difficult,” he told The PIE News.
The competition for job offers and the difficulty obtaining visas also “push them back naturally”, he added.
Jill Tang, founder of talent recruitment company for graduates with foreign degrees, Career X Factor, agreed the attractiveness of bringing their overseas education back home is a pull for many Chinese students.
“There are more and more career opportunities and formalities for international Chinese to take important roles back home and make an impact in their home country by leveraging their overseas education and experience,” she said.
China is the number one country globally in terms of volume of outbound students – 544,500 went abroad for their education last year, an increase from 523,700 the year before.
According the ministry’s figures, around 36% of the students who went abroad in 2016 studied a postgraduate degree, while 31% went for an undergraduate degree.
The vast majority (91%) of Chinese students were self-funded, while around 30,000 went abroad on a government scholarship.
Of those that have been abroad on a government-sponsored scholarship, 98% have returned to China.
Wang added that a lot of students also still struggle with understanding and adapting to the cultural differences they encounter overseas, which may encourage them to come home.
Meanwhile, family “has always been one of the key reasons why they return home”, added Tang.
“I think the proportion coming back home after studying overseas will definitely increase in the near future,” she said. “The economic environment has a high talent on demand for those entrepreneurial, innovative and globally minded Chinese [students].”
After years of financial turmoil for Canada-based education provider, KGIC, CIBT Education Group has announced it has acquired the company’s remaining operating assets.
The British Columbia supreme court approved the transaction yesterday for CIBT to acquire KGIC’s operating educational institutions, two months after it had acquired just over CAN$12m of the company’s debt.
The acquisition will see the company’s language schools and business colleges integrated into CIBT’s existing operations.
“KGIC management and school personnel have endured an extended period of financial hardship”
KGIC’s assets, as of January this year, comprised of 18 campuses in British Columbia and Ontario, under 10 different brands, including language schools, business colleges and career training programmes.
Due to the company’s rapid expansion, “KGIC had outpaced its ability to maintain a competitive position in the market and was no longer able to meet its financial obligations”, according to a statement from CIBT Education Group.
At the end of January, CIBT Finance, a subsidiary of CIBT Education Group, announced it had bought $12.3m of KGIC’s total debt, for $3.1m.
The entirety of the debt exceeded $42m, and CIBT did not acquire any of the outstanding debts following this transaction.
Toby Chu, president, CEO and chairman of CIBT Education Group, told The PIE News there was a need to consolidate KGIC’s various brands to “create camaraderie, synergy and bonding between the various schools and their staffs”.
“When former KGIC schools were marketed as 10 different brands, the cost was high, and they competed against each other.”
The language schools under the brands of KGIC, PGIC and SEC will be consolidated with CIBT’s existing language school, VIC Vancouver International College, and will operate under the name Sprott Shaw Language College.
The new additions will work with Sprott Shaw College, CIBT’s vocational arm, and other CIBT partner schools to develop college pathway programmes.
KGIC’s career and technological training programmes from MTI College in British Columbia will also be combined into Sprott Shaw College.
Meanwhile, its business colleges including KGIBC, UCCBT and VIA will join Sprott Shaw College’s international division – SSCi. This international arm has seen international student enrolment increase by 1,000% since 2008.
CIBT has already been involved in the restructuring of KGIC’s assets as one of its subsidiaries, Sprott Shaw Degree College Corp, was selected by the court-appointed receiver, BDO, to oversee KGIC’s assets during its period of receivership.
This month, three of KGIC’s schools in Toronto closed, as part of the restructuring that took place during the receivership process.
One of which, Cornerstone Academic College’s assets however, were not acquired.
Chu said the company looked at the lease expiry terms, number of students at each school, and “determined the most efficient way to reduce redundancies, and minimise the impact to the least number of students.”
“For Cornerstone, we organised the transfer of students to other schools with supervision and guidance by regulators. No abandonment or midnight closure,” he said.
The integration with CIBT will take place over three months. Human resources, technology, administrative support and executive management will all be consolidated and integrated with CIBT’s schools.
“The swift and precise execution of key measures helped us to ensure the welfare of students, employees, partners and other stakeholders”
“During the past two years, KGIC management and school personnel have endured an extended period of financial hardship creating tension in dealings with suppliers, creditors, students and their parents,” said Chu in the statement. “Upon closing of the asset purchase, we will work to rebuild the confidence of those parties in the coming months.”
The move will grow CIBT’s assets in Canada to total 16 domestic business colleges, six language schools, three international business colleges and one high school.
Overall, CIBT owns and operates 32 schools in Canada and abroad, and seven student housing properties.
With the addition of KGIC enrolments, CIBT’s total student numbers now exceed 15,000, of which around 65% are international students, and 35% are domestic.
“Our schools offer in excess of 150 programmes,” said Chu. “And we project that annual enrolment [prior to the acquisition] will grow from 8,000 to 20,000 students in the next 24 months.”
The acquisition of KGIC also triples the size of its student pipeline to the company’s student housing properties, according to the statement.
The company said it plans to acquire another student accommodation property in Vancouver this summer which will house 330 students.
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The anti-immigrant rhetoric expressed by US president Donald Trump is taking effect in the UK, Malia Bouattia, president of the UK’s National Union of Students, has charged.
“This doesn’t start and stop with this one man,” Bouattia said at an NUS summit on Brexit and Trump in London March 12, underlining the negative impact it could have for international students studying on UK campuses.
Speaking with The PIE News, Bouattia described a previous split in perception of good and bad migrants across the UK. “A good migrant was the international student, a bad migrant was the cleaner, was the asylum seeker, was the refugee. And now they’re all bad migrants. They’ve all essentially been put into one big pile and you start to see the trends between the US rhetoric and our very own practices.”
“All migrants have essentially been put into one big pile and you start to see the trends between the US rhetoric and our very own practices”
Referring to Trump’s travel ban of six majority Muslim countries, Bouattia argued similar restrictions are also enforced in the UK. “Theresa May is championing an agenda ensuring that Muslims are silenced, they become suspects, they’re interrogated, and at times even deported. She’s attempting to ban them from all aspects of society and demonise them to non-existence.”
Both EU and non-EU international students could be met with the same hardline treatment refugee and asylum seekers are facing in the UK, she argued. “While we recognise and must understand the intersections and complexities of a Syrian refugee in comparison to an EU student, and the privileges that come with that as well at times, we need to see the fight as collective.
“You might have it slightly better than others within the migrant collective now, but what’s to come is going to be worse because if any section of our migrant communities faces the brunt of something it will follow and will seep down to the rest.”
“The task now is to intensify on our campuses anti-deportation campaigns and international student support”
In his address, Mostafa Rajaai, the NUS’s international students officer, agreed that international students are privileged among migrants. “But that doesn’t mean our rights haven’t been taken away,” he argued, citing the abolishment of post-study work rights, the accusations of fraud of almost 50,000 international students in the TOEIC scandal, no work rights for internationals studying at FE colleges and strict attendance monitoring.
“The treatment is far from welcoming,” he said. “We need to educate people on our campuses so they learn what international students struggle with.”
He suggested three ways institutions could make it easier for their international students: become a guarantor if students are renting in the local area; make sure mental health services are nuanced and accessible and end attendance monitoring systems that “treat students as if they’ve committed a crime”.
The NUS is rallying support for international students as the country prepares for its exit from the EU. “The task now is to intensify on our campuses anti-deportation campaigns and international student support,” Bouattia told student members.
These campaigns are raising awareness of what’s at risk if EU migrants are forced to leave, she said. “People are slowly recognising that when we’re talking about migrants we’re talking about a huge section of our society and our society cannot exist and cannot function or run without them.”
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The number of ultra-high net worth individuals worldwide has jumped by 42% in the last decade to 193,000, and these super-rich are looking overseas to educate their children, according to Knight Frank’s 2017 Wealth Report.
In a survey of nearly 900 private bankers and wealth advisers, almost half with clients in Africa said the super-rich individuals they work with – earning $30m or over – are more likely to look overseas for a good school for their children than to educate them in their own country.
For those with clients in Latin America, the figure was 45%; the Middle East, 40%; and Asia, 38%.
“Having your children make friends with people from lots of different nationalities is considered very attractive”
And the survey revealed that the UK is becoming especially attractive to the ultra-wealthy, now that the fallen value of the pound has made it cheaper to send their children to UK private schools.
Currency, quality of life and access to the best universities are the key trends boosting demand for a British education, according to Ed Richardson, director of education at Keystone Tutors.
“Ambitious families in Singapore have traditionally sent their children to schools in the US, not necessarily because they think they are better, but because of the cost. Now, they are telling me that the fall in the value of the pound is making the UK look much better value.
“That sentiment will be echoed in many other places,” he added.
Independent Schools Council data shows that international demand for UK independent schools has risen significantly over the last ten years. This phenomenon is especially notable among students from China, Russia, Africa and the Middle East.
“While growth in the Russian market has slowed right down over the past few years, I am seeing a sharp rise in the urgency of enquiries from Turkish families,” observed Petty.
“In September last year people were expressing interest, but by December it was: ‘Can we come right now?’ Some people are looking for boarding schools, but others are looking at London day schools with the whole family coming over.”
Private boarding schools in the UK are still seen as the “gold standard” internationally, according to the report.
And although a number of schools have opened franchises overseas, especially in Asia and the Middle East, “the genuine article [in the UK] is still the preferred choice for those who can afford it”, it adds.
“It’s not just about the teaching, it’s about quality of life and the extent of extra-curricular activities available,” commented Richardson.
“Certainly in China there is a feeling that if you’re going to spend money on Western luxuries it is better to buy them in the West,” he said. “More credit will be given to Harrow itself than Harrow Beijing.”
Forging international friendships is another perk ultra-high net worth individuals value about sending their children for overseas study. “In a world where business is becoming increasingly global, having your children make friends with people from lots of different nationalities is considered very attractive,” commented William Petty, of advisor Bonas MacFarlane.
The PIE: Compared to other African countries, Ghana is quite advanced when it comes to internationalisation and partnerships with universities around the world. So what’s the next step?
AGA: We started out life as a college of the University of London, so we’ve always had internationalisation at the heart of what we do. My office is the International Programmes Office, it’s 20 years old next year. That’s 20 years of essentially forward-thinking activities around making UG internationally credible, internationally situated, and so on. We’ve always had interest from American universities to send students for study abroad programmes, a year on campus, that sort of thing. We always have had research partners, including the Universities of London, Cambridge, Yale, and Princeton.
“The general wisdom is you have a few strategic partnerships that are productive and sustainable – that’s what we’re aiming for”
UG is now number seven in the African university rankings and two of the indicators that pushed us into the top 10 were internationalisation and visibility in the international world, as well as research. These are two benchmarks key to our strategic plan, which is running from 2014-2024.
My task is to recruit more foreign students, and that’s a major challenge. Every university is doing that now. We’ve talked to Japanese universities who are interested in doubling their numbers of internationals; everyone is scrambling around for foreign students.
We also want to strengthen our research partnerships. We have MOUs with lots of universities, many of which are dormant. The general wisdom is you have a few strategic partnerships that are productive and sustainable over the long-term – and that’s what we’re trying to aim for. We’re looking at our portfolios, seeing which MOUs have been sustainable, strengthening those and layering on some of the more interesting activities like faculty and student exchange. So we’re trying to go deeper rather than expanding.
We also want to internationalise our campus, make internationalisation an entity that people imbibe rather than a theory. We want everybody including cleaners and porters to understand that ‘OK it’s a new multicultural era so you have to understand how you relate to foreign students’. It’s basically trying to be prepared.
The PIE: And where are you hoping to recruit the foreign students from to come to your campus?
AGA: From the subcontinent, Nigeria sends us the most students and has for a number of years. The medical school, for instance, is populated with Nigerian students. We’re getting students from Gabon, a few from Cameroon. At last count, we had students from 58 countries.
“Do African universities engage in the global ranking system or do we want to set up our own continent specific approaches?”
There have been interesting multi-country research projects that have also shaped student mobility into Ghana. Projects from the College of Basic Applied Sciences around climate change, agriculture and food security have attracted students from Côte d’Ivoire and Togo, but these are graduate students. So we want to strengthen the pull from Nigeria – UG is competing with other universities in Ghana for Nigerian students – and we have to strengthen our recruitment strategies for other African countries.
The PIE: At what level of study are you hoping to get more international students?
AGA: For our 38,000 student population, the majority are undergraduates. Just under 5,000 are graduate students but we’re transitioning into becoming a research intensive university, so graduate study is becoming the priority. There are dwindling numbers of Ghanaian students enrolling on graduate programmes, which means we’ve got space to accommodate foreign graduate students and that’s what we need to start working on.
The PIE: And how focused are you on rankings?
AGA: Very much so.
The PIE: Why?
AGA: They are the language of global higher education, even though the benchmarks have problematic elements. Issues such as: how do you measure international profile? How do you measure students’ satisfaction? How do you measure the impact of research? Journal impact factors, for example, are very tricky to pin down. But if you’re number one or number five it sticks in everybody’s head, right? And the average person who doesn’t know the politics and policies around university management is just looking at the optics. Number one in West Africa, number seven in Africa – what’s not to like?
“We want everybody, including cleaners and porters, to understand how to relate to foreign students”
The debate in Africa is: do African universities engage in the global ranking system? Let’s take the Times Higher Education rankings – do we really want to subject ourselves to that or do we want to set up our own continent specific approaches, given the particular problems that we face? At the moment, South African universities are always at the top, and we all agree that they should be at the top of certain benchmarks; but it’s when you start looking at say Nigeria, Kenya, Ghana that you begin throwing in all the noise. ‘We don’t have electricity, we don’t have capacity in terms of teachers teaching, we don’t have access to journals’ – these are some of the reasons why African universities aren’t performing as they should, according to regional critics of the rankings system.
But you do need to know what a university is good at. So, I’m pragmatic about rankings, but I’m not ideologically impassioned about it. I just think if you want students you’ve got to prove that you’re good, that you produce what you claim you want to produce.
The PIE: What about sending Ghanaian students overseas?
AGA: Ghanaian students typically travel abroad as part of a degree requirement for a year to brush up on a language or because they have the money to go abroad. We have a range of funded exchange programmes, such as the Erasmus mobility schemes, but these do not accommodate large numbers of UG students.
We also have students going out as part of research partnerships. UG research institutes like the Noguchi Memorial Institute for Medical Research and the Regional Institute for Population Studies tend to have very strong partnerships with African, European and American universities. Through those, they are able to send graduate students out for a year abroad and to work with colleagues in partner institutions. Ghanaian students can’t afford to pay exorbitant fees to study in the US, the UK or other European universities. Moving forward, those are the kinds of arrangements that we would like to have because they are equitable.
The PIE: How is UG confronting the huge demand for higher education in Africa?
“Ghanaian students can’t afford to pay exorbitant fees to study in the US the UK”
AGA: Well across the continent, there is an explosion of private universities because there is this growing demand from young people to get a university education, but not all are equipped and have the capacity to deliver credible degree programmes. So it’s a problem that I think politicians and educators have to grapple with. They have to figure out how to manage a very complex situation that can undermine higher education in Africa.
In Ghana, we have seven public universities and seven times as many private universities. One wonders where private universities get their lecturers from. Ghana is an attractive destination for other African students, particularly from Nigeria and other West African countries. All universities are competing for these students because they bring revenue. It’s one thing to attract students, but quite another to ensure the quality and credibility of education students get.
The PIE: What are your thoughts on the proposed pan-African passport that will allow free movement of Africans from one country to another across the continent?
AGA: It’s a good idea. I remember going to Morocco a few weeks ago for a conference; my Ghanaian colleagues needed a visa and a Nigerian colleague was actually turned back because he didn’t have a visa. I found it absurd that that would happen. If you can travel freely, it eases relationships. So if something can happen continent-wide that would be brilliant. We already have a problem with travel being quite stressful. You’ve got to go through two countries to get to a country in your sub-region. We have to figure out how we forge stronger relationships with fewer obstacles.
The PIE: Of all the objectives you’ve mentioned – student mobility, research, internationalisation on the campus – what would you say are your biggest challenges to achieving those goals?
“If you’re trying to create an enabling environment for internationalisation, you do need funding.”
AGA: I guess the first thing would be funding, because if you’re trying to create an enabling environment for internationalisation, you do need funding. It’s simple things like, for instance, the language of instruction or making sure there’s enough accommodation for the increasing numbers of students. If we’re going to expand, say, our study abroad programmes we need to create more cultural activities. And that requires money.
I think the second thing is building capacity at faculty level. There’s this rhetoric around getting foreign students, but then you have departments that are quite fixed in the way they interpret our public status. So, they say ‘Well hey – University of Ghana is a public university and you serve Ghanaian students first.’ So, we have to make a strong case for securing spaces for foreign students for high demand courses like medicine and law.
The thing really is to merge the theory and the practice. If we want more foreign students, how do we get deans to open up space for more foreign students in our classrooms? This is a micro political problem – you’ve got to talk to people and strategise.