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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
Updated: 2 hours 17 min ago

Edtech: SAM Labs raises $8.9m for int’l expansion

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 06:22

Coding and STEAM learning company SAM Labs has raised US$8.9 million this year in a Series A2 equity funding round to expand its global reach.

Originally launched with approximately $160,000 raised on Kickstarter, SAM Labs has secured a total of $19.8m in investments including this latest round of $8.9m.

“This latest investment will enable us to innovate further”

With technology education products in more than 4,000 schools already, the new funding will be used to scale operations and sales in the US, to supplement the company’s international presence, and to bring new education products to markets in the US and UK.

SAM Labs enables non-technical elementary and middle school teachers to deliver effective STEAM, coding, and problem-solving experiences to their classrooms through ready-to-use teaching kits.

Students learn while designing, writing, building and debugging programs, applying sequencing, selection, and iteration.

“This latest investment will allow us to bring our STEAM and coding experiences to even more schools and teachers and students in the US, which is our largest market, as well as across the globe,” said SAM Labs CEO and founder Joachim Horn.

“We measure ourselves on the following three metrics: increasing student engagement, increasing teacher confidence, and decreasing teacher workload – and this latest investment will enable us to innovate further to meet those important goals.”

This new fundraising round includes social impact and education specialist investors including Partners in Equity and Inventures Investment Partners.

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Indian ministry seeks work rights for int’l students

Mon, 07/22/2019 - 04:15

In a move further strengthening India’s bid to become an international student hub, the country’s Human Resource Development Ministry has put together a proposal that, if passed into law, will allow international students to work in certain fields while studying.

According to reports, the ministry has prepared a proposal for granting “limited work permit” to international students “in selected areas/segments” to increase their enrollment in higher education institutions in India.

“This has been one of the disincentives for international students”

The proposal follows a series of recent measures to revamp international education in the country, including a new online application portal for overseas students and an increase in universities offering courses on Indian languages and culture.

Fee waivers are also being offered to prospective students from 30 countries across Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe.

However, the Indian visa system currently does not allow work permits for international students.

“This issue will be relooked to allow limited work permit in selected areas/segments where there is an imbalance in demand and supply and shortage of trained or highly skilled human resources in India,” a ministry official said.

According to the Deccan Herald, the HRD ministry also wants change in the visa regime to allow paid internship for foreign students.

“This has been one of the disincentives for international students,” the official added.

It is expected that the HRD ministry will soon approach the Union Home Ministry with the proposal.

“International students come on student visas so they cannot work off-campus,” a public relations officer at the Indian Institute of Technology Bombay told The PIE News.

“We are yet to get any such directives from the ministry but we will comply with whatever the ministry [asks].”

India has the world’s third-largest higher education system, including over 800 universities and a capacity for 20 million students.

Earlier in July, India’s finance minister proposed to allocate Rs 400 crore (£46.6 million) to create “world-class institutions” to attract a greater number of international students.

However, concerns have been raised over whether India is ready for such an ambitious campaign.

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Australian ELICOS holds steady as visitors boost numbers

Sun, 07/21/2019 - 17:19

Australia’s ELICOS sector closed out 2018 in more or less the same overall position as the previous year but a changing student cohort signals underlying rebalances, according to full-year market figures from English Australia.

In 2018, ELICOS student numbers increased 1% to 179,300 and student weeks saw a small decline of one-tenth of a per cent, due to changing source markets and visa types used to study in Australia.

“We saw a larger increase in the volume of visitor visas”

“The average weeks are down, and we saw for the Asia Pacific relatively flatter student [numbers]… particularly from China,” explained EA chief executive Brett Blacker.

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“We saw a change in the demographics of the Americas, too; more Colombians, less Brazilians. The Brazilians tended to study a longer duration as well, and so there’s a bit of impact out of the change.”

While the combined decrease of total weeks and increase of student numbers saw the average length of stay shorten slightly to 13 weeks, economic impact continued to build, reaching $2.35 billion.

Based on responses from CRICOS-registered ELICOS providers, the figures add to those previously released by the Department of Education and Training in March, which showed ELICOS enrolments just surpassed record levels to 156,400.

English Australia figures include students on additional visa types from study, and Blacker said growth was pushed by visitor numbers, which increased 8% compared to a decrease in student visa numbers of just over half a per cent.

Overall, visitor visa holders increased to 23% of all ELICOS students, taking market share from both the study and working holiday visa categories, which Blacker said also contributed to the small decline in student weeks.

“We saw a larger increase in the volume of visitor visas and on average students study much less in terms of the period of study,” he said.

By source regions, all but Europe increased, with the Middle East and Africa leading growth at 9%, albeit of far smaller base. The Asia Pacific, meanwhile, saw a mild 1% increase and Europe experienced its second consecutive double-digit percentage decrease, down 11%.

Blacker told The PIE News external factors were having the most significant impact on European numbers considering Australia as a study destination.

“There was a period where we had growth [from Europe], and that was when most of the Brexit factors were in place. If anything, we were just taking some of the market share at that time from the UK,” he said.

“We’ve seen that trend some time, and it will continue; it’s the economics of it”

“At some point, there was going to be an equilibrium.”

Blacker added more students were choosing to undertake ELICOS studies at home before going overseas for tertiary education, in a bid to reduce overall costs.

Kadi Taylor, head of strategic engagement and government relations at Navitas, agreed with Blacker’s observations, adding that while students were choosing to remain within their home country for English language studies, Australian providers were still benefiting.

“More often than not, students are studying with top quality Australian providers delivering in China, Vietnam, and other key markets,” she said.

“We’ve seen that trend some time, and it will continue; it’s the economics of it. The student can stay at home a bit long but still get that preparatory English language base and then come onshore.”

Changing market demands have also resulted in providers looking to new revenue streams, Taylor said, and the English language study groups market was seeing substantial growth both for ELICOS and as a taster for other levels of study overseas.

Year to April figures from DET indicate onshore ELICOS student numbers will continue modest growth for 2019, up 1% from the previous year.

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Plans for East African-German University stalled

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 06:01

Plans to establish a much-awaited binational university of applied sciences in Kenya fronted by the government of Germany have been put on hold, following a decision to draft a new concept document for the institution first mooted four years ago.

The concept document for the Eastern African-German University of Applied Sciences, drafted by the Ministry of Education in Kenya will be shared with German implementing agencies including the country’s embassy in Nairobi, the German Academic Exchange Programme (DAAD) and proposed partner universities.

“The future German partner universities await the new proposal”

The bodies must wait for the completion of the document, which required input from various government agencies according to Ursula Koos, head of Cultural Affairs section at the German Embassy Nairobi.

“A new project concept note had been written, but the coordination process within the Ministry of Education is still on-going,” she said.

“The German Embassy, DAAD and the future German partner universities await the new proposal,” the official told The PIE News, without disclosing further details.

Once the document is out it will inform the next course of action in efforts to fast-track setting up of the model institution, Koos noted.

The university touted as the first of its kind in the world was conceived as part bilateral of relations between Kenya and Germany to bring to Africa the German model of applied sciences in university education.

It was expected to take students from across the Eastern Africa region, hosted and financed by Kenya with a German partner university facilitating knowledge transfer, and for purposes of benchmarking.

DAAD and the Federal Ministry of Foreign Affairs have expressed concerns over its delay, and frustration that progress was painfully slow.

The agency lamented that plans for the university had stalled since 2017 with no progress despite the German side being ready to sign the intergovernmental agreement to set up the institution.

While lack of progress in 2017 was blamed on general elections in Kenya, the total lack of progress could not be explained according to Helmut Blumbach, then director of the DAAD Africa office in Nairobi.

While the Kenya project has stalled, plans for a similar project in north Africa between Germany and Egypt are underway.

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US: OPT program challenged in court

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 02:42

The future of Optional Practical Training in the US has been called into question once again after a union representing STEM labour market workers, the Washington Alliance of Technology, renewed its efforts to end the program.

WashTech has been in a long dispute with the Department of Homeland Security over the OPT program, but in July the US District Court for the District of Columbia ruled that the DHS’s 2016 STEM OPT decision would reopen a previous case from 1992.

“Millions of American citizens are ready, willing and able to take those jobs”

The latest suit is seeking to sue the US government for its 1992 regulation creating the 12-month OPT program for international students, and the 2016 regulation permitting eligible STEM graduates to apply for an extension of their OPT program by 24 months.

An extension of an international student’s visa, OPT allows graduates to work in an area related to their study for a total of 12 months, or longer if they have a STEM degree.

But earlier in 2019, Republican member of the House of Representatives for Arizona Paul Gosar introduced a bill to eliminate the OPT program.

In a recent letter, Gosar asked president Trump to end the OPT program by executive order.

“OPT hurts American citizens: debt-laden college grads are being denied employment opportunities, US white-collar professionals are being replaced by foreign labour and US women and minority STEM candidates are being shut out of US jobs,” Gosar wrote.

Millions of taxpaying, hardworking people from across the US “profoundly disagree” that the OPT is good for America and needed for US competitiveness, he claimed.

“The truth is, millions of American citizens are ready, willing and able to take those jobs, they just need a chance of employment,” he argued.

“OPT removes that chance for millions of Americans.”

OPT demand grew by 400% in the eight years between 2004 and 2016, and it was the primary driver behind the 1.5% increase in international student numbers in 2018 according to an Open Doors report.

However, a National Foundation for American Policy study has found that evidence shows that the OPT program does not take jobs away from US workers.

The organisation said that the current administration’s policies of preventing graduates to work in the US “would be harmful to the American economy”.

University at Albany dean for international education and vice provost for global strategy Harvey Charles noted that many prospective international students choose the US on the basis that they can find employment in their areas after graduating.

“This program is very important to prospective and current international students,” he told The PIE News.

“While not all international students pursue practical training in the US, many of them do and in a way, it is an extension of the training they receive in the classroom, hence their interest in it.”

All leading industrial nations have policies that seek to attract and retain the highly educated professionals who are not native-born, Charles added, while the OPT program offers US employers a “wider pool of prospective employees”.

“The biggest beneficiaries of OPT are US employers because they are able to leverage the skills and knowledge of the best of international student graduates to create better products, and in the end, to become more profitable,” he added.

“We need to continue to persuade international students to bring their talent to our classroom”

Heather Stewart, NAFSA’s counsel and director of immigration policy, told The PIE that the WashTech lawsuit has a complicated procedural history dating back to 2008 and that NAFSA is monitoring the case as it evolves.

“OPT serves as an important recruitment tool as it helps to ensure that the country remains the premier destination for higher education,” said Steward.

“We need to continue to persuade international students to bring their talent to our classrooms, communities and country, [and] NAFSA will continue to advocate for access to experiential learning opportunities for international students.”

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Kaplan International acquires European agency giant ESL

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 11:45

In major consolidation news for the study travel sector, Kaplan International English, the ELT education division of Kaplan, has acquired Europe’s largest student placement agency, ESL Education.

The just-announced deal will also see Kaplan move into French and German language training because ESL – a well known operator in the agency space – also has an education division, Alpadia, which operates 16 adult language schools and summer camps.

The deal between Heverald, parent company ESL Education and Alpadia, and Kaplan International English, was signed on July 11 in Geneva.

This partnership will now be expanded to include all of Kaplan’s 37 English language schools

David Fougere, COO at Kaplan International English, commented, “Joining forces with ESL Education and Alpadia will strengthen Kaplan’s position in the language travel sector.

“Kaplan will expand its relationship with the largest language agency in Europe allowing us to reach more students with our premium language courses.”

ESL places over 25,000 students each year on language courses, operating a network of 46 offices in Europe (and Panama), and is headquartered out of Switzerland.

The move takes Kaplan closer to one of the behemoths of the study travel sector, EF, which – unlike most of the rest of the industry – operates its own network of offices and is not as reliant on education agencies for its student pipeline.

ESL Education had offered a selection of Kaplan English schools as part of its portfolio for years, the company pointed out, and this partnership will now be expanded to include all of Kaplan’s 37 English language schools.

But ESL Education will maintain its independence and broad school portfolio as part of the deal, Kaplan commented.

Anke Menkhorst, ESL CEO, noted, “Kaplan understands the importance of maintaining our reputation for independent high-quality counselling services and for the breadth of our course offerings.”

“Kaplan understands the importance of our reputation for independent high-quality counselling”

And a spokesperson for Kaplan clarified that to date, ESL had not been a big supplier of students to Kaplan International. “ESL has included a small subset of Kaplan schools in its portfolio for many years. However, due to the small number of schools offered, the ESL volumes have been modest.”

Kaplan, which also directly recruits students for its own schools as well as working with study travel agencies around the globe, will now add the Alpadia network to its language school portfolio.

“By including Alpadia’s French and German language schools in our sales portfolio, we will expand our product offering to the worldwide market,” said Fougere.

Patrick Siegenthaler and Alain Vadi, co-owners of Heverald, will remain non-executive board members of the company for two years.

They commented: “We are delighted to see ESL Education and Alpadia become part of Kaplan. We have been impressed by how well our approach to what it takes to be successful in the language travel sector is aligned with Kaplan’s.

“It was very important for us to see that the company we created and developed ourselves will continue to grow and thrive.”

Kaplan has ventured into the area of acquiring an agency some years ago when it acquired Swiss company Pro Linguis in 2008 – before selling it on in 2016 to another Swiss operator. It also has an agency interest in Asia: BEO.

The company – part of Kaplan Inc. – operates 37 English language schools in the UK, US, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and Ireland, teaching almost 40,000 students from over 150 countries.

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Aus: Chinese proficiency “concerning”

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 09:04

Chinese language proficiency is hard to find in Australians with no Chinese background, an Australian MP has said, despite China currently being Australia’s largest trading partner and accounting for almost 30% of all Australia’s exports.

During a recent speech, Labor MP Chris Bowen claimed that “out of the 25 million Australians who populate this great country… 130 people can speak Mandarin at a level good enough to do business, who aren’t of Chinese background”.

“Every child in Australia should be learning Mandarin”

The RMIT ABC Fact Check Unit investigated the claim and defined it an “educated guess,” explaining that the experts they consulted agreed it was likely to be “in the ballpark,” although there is no way to precisely calculate it.

However, founder of Chinese language school Mandarin Stars, Dawna Leung, said she wasn’t surprised by the figure.

“Every child in Australia should be learning Mandarin,” she told The PIE News.

“We need to inspire children earlier on. Right now, businesses like mine fill the gap, but we get no funding so Mandarin classes are only available to people who can afford it.”

Mandarin is most widely taught in the state of Victoria and is the fourth most popular foreign language nationally after Japanese, French and German.

“The Australian government is committed to supporting the teaching of languages other than English in Australian schools and to achieving a significant increase in student uptake in their senior secondary schooling within the next decade,” a spokesperson for Australia’s Department of Education told The PIE.

According to the department, the number of non-Chinese born students enrolled in Chinese language courses (including both Mandarin and Cantonese) at Australian universities totalled just 381 in 2017, down from 447 in 2011 but slightly higher than 2016’s 343.

The lack of people taking Mandarin at university may also be down to a perception of a lack of opportunities for non-native speakers in fields requiring Mandarin proficiency.

“For people of Chinese descent who were born in Australia or emigrated at a young age, English is their first language,” said Ping Chen, chair professor in Chinese studies at the University of Queensland, in his 2017 paper Chinese Language Teaching in Australia.

However, Chen added, due to the influence of their family environment, many of them also have relatively strong competence in Chinese, with true bilingual, bicultural talent.

“In applying for the limited number of positions requiring proficiency in Chinese, applicants with Chinese backgrounds had a higher probability of success.

“As this kind of information trickles back to school campuses, it is obviously unhelpful in strengthening non-Chinese students’ enthusiasm and determination to learn Chinese,” he added.

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TOEIC scandal: evidence used by Home Office “could not be relied upon”

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 08:19

The evidence used to accuse thousands of international students of cheating on the TOEIC test has been defined “confused, misleading, incomplete and unsafe” in the report summarising the inquiry of the All Party Parliamentary Group created to investigate the case.

The new report, which was launched in Westminster at the presence of APPG members, Migrant Voice and representatives from the students’ group, urged the government to rectify the situation and set out a number of recommendations.

“Tens of thousands of people have spent five years living a nightmare”

“One thing that struck me throughout our hearings was that evidence from ETS – the basis for denying visas to thousands of overseas students, often with catastrophic effects – quite simply could not be relied upon,” Stephen Timms MP, chair of the APPG, said in the foreword of the report.

“The inquiry concluded that the evidence used against the students was confused, misleading, incomplete and unsafe.”

The APPG conducted four evidence sessions with students, lawyers, technical experts and third sectors, representatives. The Home Office and ETS were also invited to attend sessions but the former didn’t respond according to the report and the latter declined to attend.

“This report reveals shocking new evidence that the Home Office ignored expert advice, relied on dodgy evidence and took action against students they claimed were treated fairly,” Migrant Voice director Nazek Ramadan said.

“The result was that tens of thousands of people have spent five years living a nightmare.”

The inquiry reported “huge numbers” of anomalies, such as the lack of proof that links each recording to the person that sat the test and errors on spreadsheets created by ETS.

Professor Peter Sommer, who was instructed by Bindmans LLP in 2016 to assess the overall reliability of the evidence, explained to the APPG that: “It was unsafe for anyone to rely upon computer files created by ETS and used by the Home Office as a sole means of making a decision.”

Evidence also emerged that students on the “questionable list”, who the Home Office maintained had been given a chance to sit a new test, were reportedly sometimes included in the same list as those with “invalid” results, meaning they didn’t get a chance to clear their name.

The APPG also heard from three students affected, who highlighted the impact the allegations have had on their lives.

In addition to being unable to work in the UK or find employment back home, some students said they felt distanced from their families who don’t believe them, while others have been fighting costly legal battles and experiencing mental health issues.

“My Dad said…you cannot come back and tell me you have a fraud allegation…go and prove yourself in the courts,” one student, Raja Noman Hussain, told the APPG.

Legal representatives lamented the lack of opportunities students were given to challenge the allegations, while others pointed out that students who had had their name cleared in court still have difficulty accessing higher education.

Among the APPG’s recommendations, the report said that those who lost their visas should be allowed to sit a new English language test and, if they pass, their visa should be restored without charge with a validity of 12 months.

Support for students returning to study should be established, including the creation of a working group with representatives from Home Office, UKVI and the Department of Education among others.

The key recommendations from the report.

A Home Office spokesperson told The PIE: “the report does not reflect the findings of the courts, who have consistently found that the evidence of fraud was enough for us to take action.

“As the National Audit Office recently highlighted, the Tier 4 system was subject to widespread abuse in 2014 and almost all those involved in the cheating were linked to private colleges which the Home Office already had significant concerns about.

The spokesperson added that the NAO was clear on the scale and organised nature of the abuse, “demonstrated by the fact that 25 people who facilitated this fraud have received criminal convictions”.

But Timms at the APPG told The PIE that “there is no way the evidence can stand up in court.”

“There is nothing at all to link a particular student with the voice files that ETS says were that students’… there’s no metadata on the clips,” he said. A 2016 ruling defined the evidence used by the Home Office as “hearsay.”

The Home Secretary said this week that he will make a statement on the matter before the summer recess. Timms and Jim Fitzpatrick MP discussed the possibility of asking an Urgent Question in case the statement doesn’t come.

“If there isn’t a statement there is always the option for us of applying to the Speaker for an Urgent Question – but I am hoping he is going to do what he has promised,” Timms said.

“The uncertainty is shocking – it’s devastating”

Students and campaigners have been waiting for a statement from the Home Secretary to bring much-needed clarity to those left in limbo by the situation.

The urgency was made clear by Ramadan’s announcement that Migrant Voice will run a workshop next week to advise students on what to do in case they get detained.

“Instead of telling them we have a workshop on how to get back into education or work, we find ourselves, because of the lack of response and repeated delay of that statement, inviting them to a workshop like this,” Ramadan told The PIE.

“They are at risk of being detained anytime. This is a big fear in their life. The uncertainty is shocking – it’s devastating.”

ETS has been contacted for comment.

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SDGs out of reach without HE, say uni associations

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 06:51

All of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals cannot be achieved without the contribution of higher education and research, three prestigious international university associations, representing more than 2,000 universities, have said in a joint statement.

Additionally, the Association of Commonwealth Universities has launched a network to boost the contribution of universities to the Goals.

During a Higher Education Sustainability Initiative event in New York City, the ACU, the Agence Universitaire de la Francophonie, and the International Association of Universities agreed that universities play a “unique role” in producing new knowledge and innovation to address the global challenges outlined in the UN’s 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

“This new network will enable [institutions] to share good practice and expertise”

Through research, teaching, and community engagement, higher education has a “direct impact on the development of every country”, the organisations said.

In addition, the role of higher education extends beyond the SDGs’ fourth goal to “ensure inclusive and equitable quality education and promote lifelong learning opportunities for all”.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development will not be achieved without partnerships that include universities,” they said.

In the statement, the networks call on the higher education sector to raise levels of attainment and access, adopt policies and practices which maximise their contribution to the 2030 Agenda and incorporate education for sustainable development into undergraduate curricula.

The SDGs’ fourth goal can only be achieved if the UN and its agencies respond to the need for “strong higher education systems globally”, they added.

The UN must recognise the contribution of higher education the agenda, and provide platforms to engage the sector as partners for development, building on the Higher Education Sustainability Initiative and UN Academic Impact Initiative.

Along with partnering with universities, national governments need to deliver well-planned long-term financial investment and “adopt a whole sector approach to the development of strong, equitable, quality education systems”.

ACU’s new network will seek to support universities in their efforts to engage with the SDG agenda, for example through integrating sustainable development into operations, sharing SDG learning content, and developing SDG-focused research strategies.

In a statement, ACU secretary-general Joanna Newman said the Commonwealth was a “living laboratory” for change.

“Our common language and institutional structures are a solid foundation for partnerships between universities,” she said.

“The new network will support collaboration between our members and act as a powerful advocacy platform to demonstrate the contribution of the higher education sector to a wider audience.”

Universities have always had a strong civic role, Budd Hall and Rajesh Tandon, Joint UNESCO Chairs in Community-Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education noted.

“Many [institutions] are already engaging directly with the SDG agenda. This new network will help showcase the great work they are already doing, and enable them to share good practice and expertise.”

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NZ: spike in fraudulent visa applications

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 04:01

Confirmed instances of fraudulent information for offshore New Zealand student visa applications almost doubled in 2018, but the majority of false applications continued to be refused without the need for further investigation.

According to Immigration New Zealand, the number of visa applications confirmed to have misleading information, such as fraudulent bank accounts, funds with no clear origin, or fraudulent qualifications and work experience spiked by 88% in 2018.

“INZ does not dedicate time to confirming fraud where there is no benefit to INZ”

“INZ is focused on ensuring student visa outcomes are of high quality,” said assistant general manager Jeannie Melville.

“As a regulator, INZ needs to balance facilitation and risk which, is why it is critical that the right level of scrutiny is applied to ensure the right decisions are made for New Zealand.”

Speaking to The PIE News, Melville said the figures only applied to applications in which fraudulent activity had been confirmed, noting the majority of misleading applications were rejected without further investigation.

“INZ does not dedicate time to confirming fraud where there is no benefit to INZ,” she said.

“If we are not satisfied with the likely authenticity of the information presented and therefore that an applicant does not meet the relevant instructions, an application may be declined.”

In June, Education New Zealand announced it was working with INZ to investigate ongoing visa processing delays, and Melville said the department was working with other stakeholders to smooth out the process.

“We are also committed to processing visas as fast as practicable and generally do a good job of this when the applications are complete and low risk,” she said.

“However, processing times will always depend on the complexity of an application.”

Melville added INZ would be providing further advice to providers, including guidance on the correct level of information needed for an application, and early submission prior to course commencement.

In 2018, INZ announced the launch of the New Zealand Electronic Travel Authority, which will come into effect on 1 October and impact some short course students.

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Irene Sabio Gallego, Erasmus+ policy officer, EU Commission, Belgium

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 09:48
With a background in law and political science and some study abroad experiences, working for the EU Commission and Erasmus+ was an “Erasmus dream come true” for Irene Sabio Gallego. Here she tells The PIE about the relatively new international mobility arm of Erasmus+, building links between Europe and the rest of the world.

 

The PIE: Tell us more about yourself – how did you choose your career path?

ISG: I come from Madrid, and I am part of the Erasmus generation. When I enrolled at university in Madrid, I had the opportunity to study abroad.

I was very hesitant between Berlin because I loved German, and Brussels because I loved the EU. I chose Brussels and…well, more than 10 years later, I am still working for the EU. It was kind of my Erasmus dream come true.

“The Erasmus program… is something everybody likes”

I studied law and political sciences and then I had the opportunity to do a program on EU Studies in the College of Europe and there I had the opportunity to go into policy specifically of higher education. I have to say it’s not by chance that I am in Brussels. I really wanted to work for higher education and Europe.

The PIE: What does your position entail?

ISG: I have a wonderful job, because I have the opportunity to work for the biggest brand name of the EU, the Erasmus program, which is something everybody likes, and everybody knows somebody that had a good experience with it.

My job is sometimes very technical because I am in the team that is responsible for the international mobility part of Erasmus+, launched five years ago to support academic mobility between Europe and the rest of the world. In my job, I get to liaise with many universities and students and I am working specifically with the US and Canada, so it’s a very varied job.

With the international dimension of the Erasmus program, we work on student exchanges and – what is less known – also staff exchanges.

That’s important because you need to have faculty and administration on your side if you want to really change things in universities and make them more international. Altogether, we are doing around 40,000 of those academic exchanges per year across the whole world.

“You need to have faculty and administration on your side if you want to change things”

The PIE: What is the top destination for these programs?

ISG: Our budget is finite, with dedicated budgets for different geographical regions linked to the wider priorities of the EU. For example, we have a rather generous budget to work with countries neighbouring the EU to the East and South, and in these regions, we have many exchanges.

But that doesn’t mean that other countries with which we have fewer exchanges are not popular, because I can tell you for example that Latin America is 10 times oversubscribed.

This is one of the beautiful things of this program: when we started in 2014, we weren’t sure how the universities would get along, because we had geographical budgets and we knew that some countries had a preference to work with certain partners with whom they had a long-standing tradition of cooperation.

In the beginning, we had some universities complaining: “I would like to have more budget to work with Serbia and I am not that interested in working with Morocco, so why can’t I just switch?”

We explained patiently that our idea was precisely to encourage universities to enter into new partnerships as well as consolidating those that existed already.  And now, five years later, that’s what we are seeing: many universities have started something new thanks to the Erasmus+ program, and they are using the budgets available throughout the world, so it’s very rewarding.

“Latin America is 10 times oversubscribed”

The PIE: What do you think the role of these programs is in building soft power?

ISG: For anybody working in the education sector, it’s clear that the benefits go well beyond the strictly educational components of the programs. We have just released the latest Erasmus impact study and we were looking at the impact that this academic mobility has on the participants.

Over 90% of the participants said they are better suited to understand cultural differences and be more open-minded to different opinions, also linked to different cultural backgrounds, and I think this is of huge value.

It shows you to what extent all these international exchanges create personal links that go beyond the experience of the student for the period of the exchange – it’s something that stays for life.

In the long run, these people-to-people contacts are as important as all the other benefits that participants are getting, because we are building a world where people can understand each other better.

The PIE: Any comment on the Brexit situation?

ISG: We are waiting to see what happens. What I can say, working for the EU Commission and Erasmus, I hope that in one way or the other the UK will still be there, because it’s an important partner for all European universities and it’s very long-standing cooperation which has to continue.

“The UK… it’s an important partner for all European universities”

But we need to wait to see what kind of decision is taken.

The PIE: What do you think is Europe’s biggest draw for international students?

ISG: I think the quality of European universities is something that’s already clear – it’s the primary reason. Our system is very open: when we look at student debt and access to education, in the EU there are many different systems and tuition levels, so that’s another reason for which it can be very appealing.

And I think it’s very good that we have this high turnout of European universities and agencies in NAFSA, because it’s important that people see all the different options they have in Europe; it’s a very diverse offer and they can go to many different countries, different universities that are at the top of different fields, and every student has a good university that they can find specifically suited for them.

This is also a value of what we are doing with Study in Europe, that we try to bring forward all the positive points of our education systems and the variety of our universities.

The PIE: What will be the biggest legacy of the Erasmus program, in 20 years’ time?

ISG: I hope it will continue to exist, first of all, so it will be an ongoing legacy that continues to build. But we can already see it in this Erasmus generation.

For example, I find it impressive to see that we have the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini, was herself an Erasmus student. We also have prime ministers who have been Erasmus students.

“I think this shows that people understand the power that these programs have to build cohesive societies”

This helps them understand that this is something very important that they have to support, which is probably why for the next generation of programs after 2020 the proposal is to double the budget for Erasmus+ to €30 billion over seven years.

I think this shows that people understand the power that these programs have to build cohesive societies, to have citizens that are happier not only with their professional lives but also their personal lives because these experiences are very transformative.

So, 20 years from now, I hope we’ll have a broader community. Now we can support around 4% of students, but we want to go much further than that and get many more students to participate in our programs.

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Graduate outcomes survey reveals long-term ties to Britain

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 04:44

UK international graduates report a “lifetime advantage” from their British education and want to maintain their UK connection by conducting further business or research in the country, a new survey commissioned by UUKi shows.

International graduates feel their education has given them an edge in the job market – 87% felt more likely to do business internationally as a result, according to the report, presented at a launch event at the UK House of Commons.

And a high majority – 85% of non-EU and 84% of EU students – crucially felt they are happier than peers who studied in their home country.

“The UK enjoys significant returns on the investment we make in our international students”

“Responses to the International Graduate Outcomes survey clearly demonstrate that our international graduates benefit enormously from their UK degrees in terms of career progression, salary, skills and general wellbeing,” said UUKi director Vivienne Stern.

She was speaking at the launch ceremony, hosted by Jo Johnson MP, with ministers Graham Stuart and Chris Skidmore also in attendance.

“They also show, though, that the UK enjoys significant returns on the investment we make in our international students,” Stern added.

“Our international graduates act as global ambassadors for the UK, developing an international network of business links, promoting UK higher education and returning to the country as tourists.”

Stern explained that the results show that not only do UK universities do a great job giving their graduates a “lifetime advantage,” but that international alumni wishing to maintain their contact with the UK are a crucial asset for the country.

“Creating a climate that can attract and retain international students in not just in the interest of universities but the whole of the UK,” she said.

Commissioned to i-graduate by UUKi with support from BUILA, the survey polled 16,199 international graduates from 58 UK institutions and 189 countries worldwide with a view to filling a gap in the available evidence on medium-term outcomes of international graduates (most graduated between two and five years ago).

It also aims to serve as an evidence base for government and universities to maximise the mutual benefits of international students and graduates.

About two in three respondents said their career had progressed more quickly than peers educated elsewhere, while 82% reported their degree was worth the investment and 83% said it helped them get their job.

An extract from the report

Almost one in four said that having a UK qualification was the most important factor for their employer, and for international graduates working in their home countries the economic advantage was significant, as they reported earning more than the local average graduate salary.

Benefits are not only professional or economic, as graduates reported they felt better equipped to actively contribute to global challenges: over 60% said they were better equipped to address issues of sustainable economy, human rights, governance and societal justice and sustainable development.

As for their plans for the future, respondents seemed keen to maintain their UK connections –  81% said they intended to develop professional links with UK organisations and 77% said they were more likely to do business with the UK after their studies, and 77% of postgraduate research graduates said they planned to collaborate with the UK for research purposes.

During the launch ceremony, speakers reiterated their support to the international education strategy goals to grow international student numbers by 30% by 2030 and highlighted the need for greater appreciation of international students’ contribution.

“We need to see international students as the national asset that they are”

“We need to see [international students] as the national asset that they are,” Johnson said, adding that while he welcomed the international education strategy, its big ambitions must be matched by adequate policy, such as a more liberal post-study work regime.

Johnson and Paul Blomfield MP tabled an amendment earlier this year which would restore the two-year post-study work permit that international graduates used to enjoy until 2012.

“There is now complete agreement across both sides… about the need to move forward on international students, to celebrate their contribution and reverse some of the challenges we have had in recent years,” Blomfield commented.

Additional reporting by Callan Quinn

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Minerva Project raises $57m in Series C funding

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 02:59

San Francisco-based edtech firm Minerva Project has announced the close of its Series C round, raising US$57 million in new financing and bringing its total capital raised to date in excess of US$128m.

According to a statement, ByteDance, the Chinese technology giant behind video-sharing app TikTok, led the funding round with participation from existing global investors TAL Education Group, a K-12 after school tutoring education services provider, and Yongjin Group, a holding company and private equity investor.

“Our Series C funding will allow us to see improved educational outcomes”

Additional investors include Pinpoint Ventures, Kakao Ventures, Tan Tan Ventures, Lighthouse Combined from Korea as well as other new and existing investors.

Minerva will use the capital to accelerate access to its learning experiences through partnerships with universities and corporations.

“Minerva’s model for higher education is attracting interest from leading institutions and organisations who want to use the intellectual property we have developed,” said Ben Nelson, founder, chairman and CEO of Minerva Project.

“Our Series C funding will allow us to see improved educational outcomes for students beyond those at Minerva Schools, as we fuel the growth of these partnerships to fulfil Minerva’s mission of nurturing critical wisdom.”

Along with the announcement of the Series C funding, Minerva welcomed two new board members, founder and CEO of Bytedance Zhang Yiming and Wendy Kopp,  founder and CEO of Teach for All and founder of Teach For America.

“We are excited and impressed by Minerva’s innovative approach to educating the next generation of talent,” said Yiming.

Founded in 2012, Minerva aims to bridge the traditions of a research-based university education with the innovations possible through technology.

The company’s software, Forum, is designed to facilitate interaction via live video and ensure that professors keep students engaged and on track to reach learning outcomes.

In a conversation with EdSurge, Minerva’s CEO said the platform currently has more traction at international universities than in the US, and that strong investor interest in Asia is not a coincidence.

“There is a recognition in China that artificial intelligence and education are inextricably linked,” Nelson added.

“There’s going to be a lot of collaboration between us in the coming years.”

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Scotland: Student Roost sees “record bookings”

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 08:42

Accommodation provider Student Roost has announced its new offering in the Scottish city of Aberdeen, which seeks to create a “united community” for international and domestic residents.

The accommodation has received “recording bookings” ahead of the 2019/20 academic year, according to the company.

Pittodrie Street, the latest property from the UK-based provider, has seen 90% of its rooms already sold out, with 47 nationalities set to move in for the next semester.

“We believe it’s important to nurture a diverse mix of students”

The accommodation opened in September 2018, while its second phase of new development with an additional 485 beds will open later in 2019.

“Demand has been sensational for the new property from Student Roost, not surprising given the incredible feedback we’ve received from the first phase in the past year,” said senior operations manager at Pittodrie Street, Kirsten Mackenzie.

Student Roost has another location in the ‘Granite City’, the Mealmarket Exchange, which is also located near the city’s two universities – the University of Aberdeen and Robert Gordon University.

It is the company’s 10th development in Scotland, with other offerings in Glasgow and Edinburgh.

The new property in Aberdeen offers six different room types and caters to a total of 618 students, more than half of whom are international students.

“We believe it’s important to nurture a diverse mix of students,” said Nathan Goddard, CEO at Student Roost. The wide mix of nationalities create a “united community” within the properties, he stated.

“Experiencing different cultures and customs enriches the living experiences of our residents and is something we pride ourselves on,” he told The PIE News.

From September 55% of residence will be made up of international students, including 45% from China, he added.

Regular events for residents, celebrating, for example, St Andrew’s Day or Chinese New Year, allow international students to experience local traditions, but also introduce domestic students to other cultures, Goddard said.

International students are attracted to Student Roost’s “hassle-free” aspects, such as all-inclusive bills, 24-hour maintenance support and simplified booking process through international agents, Goddard explained.

“We also provide flexible tenancy lengths to international students,” Goddard noted.

“We allow for an earlier arrival date or extension to their tenancy and include a flexible cancellation policy for those students whose studies are dependent on a successful visa application or academic results – something no other PBSA operator offers.”

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Nine African unis sign agreements in China

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 07:33

Nine African universities have signed cooperation agreements various Chinese universities and think-tanks, aimed at establishing academic collaborations in the fields of humanities and social sciences.

Various representatives of the universities signed the agreements during a two weeks tour of China in June, sponsored by the newly established China-Africa Institute – an initiative of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences.

“The universities will sign MoUs later, but Chinese and African universities can start collaborating”

The bilateral pacts will be followed by the inking of Memorandums of Understandings on a late date, according to Jairos Kangira, dean of Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Namibia who was part of the delegation.

Agreements, he said, were made with at least seven Chinese institutions including the China-Africa Institute, China University of International Studies, North-West University of Politics and Law, Communication University of China, University of Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, and the International Poverty Reduction Centre.

African universities that signed deals included the University of Namibia, University of Zimbabwe, University of Zambia, University of Botswana, University of Lagos-Nigeria, Makerere University of Uganda, the University of South Africa, the University of Makeni in Sierra Leone and the Open University of Tanzania.

“The universities will sign MoUs later, but Chinese and African universities can start collaborating, [and] there are many other African universities that have MoUs with their Chinese counterparts already,” Kangira told The PIE News.

The collaborations, he said, will centre on joint research initiatives and academic exchange programs, with the whole initiative being based on China’s blueprint for international economic development targeting Africa and Asia, dubbed the Belt and Road Initiative.

“Since the China-Africa Institute is a creation of the CASS it made sense to start academic collaborations in humanities and social sciences,” Kangira noted.

“But it does not exclude other areas like ICT, Technology and Science since they also affect human beings.”

Activities including joint research collaborations to be funded by the institute in various fields such as agriculture, environment and poverty reduction will be initiated by the institutions.

The tour was organised by the China-Africa Institute, which was launched in April of this year.

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Unibuddy secures $5m Series A funding

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 05:36

Digital peer to peer platform Unibuddy has secured $5 million in Series A funding, which its says will aid its expansion into the US and help to create “more impactful” products.

“Our platform goes through the firewall of China”

The company will grow its team in New York with 15 new recruits, as it appeals to a range of US institutions, according to CEO and co-founder Diego Fanara.

“Since launching Unibuddy, we’ve always tried to prove that any institution of any kind, size, private, public and community college, could adopt our platform,” he told The PIE News.

“When we approach new markets we don’t target specific types of institutions,” he said. “We want to remove every barrier for any background to get the right information.”

US growth is rapid, with prominent institutions such as the University of Southern California and Cornell Tech, launching the platform, he added.

“Without even being live in the US for a year, [top US institutions] are interested in our products.”

The Series A funding round was led by Fred Destin of Stride VC, and other investors include Bart Swanson (seed investor and board member of Zoom), Daniel Borel (founder and chairman of Logitech) and Shakil Khan (early investor and advisor of Spotify).

Earlier in 2019, Unibuddy launched a partnership with the UK’s UCAS to see a group of institutions integrate the peer-to-peer technology on the UCAS platform. The company said it wants to work on similar “more impactful” products.

It currently works with one-third of UK universities, and more than 150 institutions worldwide.

UK and India represent the first and second most nationalities on the platform, respectively, while China is third.

“There is much demand from Chinese students,” Ranara added.

“Our platform goes through the firewall of China, we can embed it on the university websites that work with Chinese students. It is a real plus for universities targeting this area.”

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Political rhetoric is “substantial barrier” to int’l grad employment – report

Tue, 07/16/2019 - 04:08

Despite similarities between countries’ understanding of the need for post-study work rights, political rhetoric and employer awareness remain common barriers for international graduates seeking employment, according to a new report.

The Global Perspectives on International Student Employability report, which compares post-study work around the world, found most policymakers had a deep understanding of the importance of graduate employment.

“There is a coordination problem and we as a sector should own it more”

“What really struck me was to see that all of the policymakers… do understand the whole importance of this on attraction,” explained lead author Brett Berquist.

“They also understand the potential benefits to their employment markets in really sophisticated ways.

“I found a lot more similarities in the approach among the different countries than I had anticipated.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Berquist, who is also the University of Auckland’s director international, added there were similar levels of public support for post-study work rights, but political rhetoric remained a substantial barrier.

“It’s not so much the variation among the policy wonks, but the way the elected officials are playing [the benefits or perceived downside of graduate employment] for their gain in terms of the polling,” he said.

The report, released by the International Education Association of Australia in early July, also included preliminary findings of a survey looking into the post-study work stream of Australia’s 485 visa.

Taking in responses from over 800 participants, the survey found 37% of graduates who remained in their study country to work obtained fulltime employment within their field of study.

A further 13% had found part-time or casual work in their field of study, while 16% were still looking for a job. The remainder found some level of work outside their study area.

While overall employment levels were high, only 47% of respondents said they were satisfied with the 485 visa, and survey co-author Ly Tran said many students saw a disconnect between their studies and their work after studies.

“There is a high risk of education and job mismatch for those who remained in Australia compared to those who returned to their home country,” she said.

“They struggle to find jobs while being on the 485 visa.”

Tran, whose main role is an associate professor at Deakin University, added the conditions of the post-study work visa, which allows for up to two years work for bachelor’s studies and four years of PhD studies, also had an impact on graduates finding jobs.

Students who were still looking for work a few months after graduation were particularly impacted, as the time remaining to work was less than the minimum two years many employers were seeking, and some graduates were returning to study to extend their stay.

“There is a high risk of education and job mismatch for those who remained in Australia”

The survey also found employers had limited understanding or awareness of international graduates’ work entitlements, echoing similar findings from an Education New Zealand report on employers’ perceptions also released in July.

“Employer perception and understanding of the 485 visa, they have full legal rights to work in Australia… but most employers don’t know what the visa is,” Tran said.

“They have little or no awareness.”

Berquist said while the study focussed on Australia, the results were applicable to other countries, and that education providers needed to increase their focus on improving outcomes.

“There is a coordination problem and we as a sector should own it more,” he said.

“We shouldn’t simply say well that’s on government. We’ve got policy we’ve wanted, now we’re getting the students, what happens after they graduate?

“We need to work more with the government, work with local businesses and try to have that conversation,” Berquist added.

The full results of the survey into the perceptions of 485 visa holders will be released in early August.

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UWC opens second school in Africa

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 06:18

United World Colleges, a network of institutions specialised in the education of students aged 16 to 19, has announced the launch of its second school in Africa, which will join its family of now 18 schools around the globe.

UWC East Africa is due to open in August at the International School Moshi, which consists of two campuses in Tanzania and was originally set up in 1969.

“Our rapidly changing world needs a new kind of leadership that is globally-minded”

The new school will be the provider’s second school on the continent – its other being in Eswatini, in southern Africa.

The move will see a “substantial change” in the student body, with the aim to create a more diverse range of international students.

More than 50% of the students will attend on scholarships, according to UWC.

“We’re very excited about adding to our already diverse community and broadening our reach in East Africa and beyond,” Anna Marsden, director of UWC East Africa, said in a statement.

“Tanzania’s natural resources and mountainous landscape will give UWC East Africa’s students something they can’t get elsewhere, with plenty of opportunities to experience the mountains and the Indian Ocean coastline.”

UWC East Africa will welcome 80 students on its International Baccalaureate Diploma Program in August, while the school’s Outdoor Pursuits Program will include expeditions to local mountain ranges.

“Our rapidly changing world needs a new kind of leadership that is globally-minded, compassionate and courageous and that thrives on diversity,” Jens Waltermann, executive director, UWC International said.

“We are thrilled to bring UWC’s unique experiential education to Tanzania and to offer scholarships for students from East Africa and across the globe to access our IB Diploma Program irrespective of their ability to pay.”

Students will learn to become “leaders in their communities and bridge builders in a world that will only solve its problems through cooperation”, Waltermann added.

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Bayswater Crowdfunds for refugee program

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 03:06

Bayswater Foundation, the charity arm of Bayswater College, has announced the launch of a Crowdfunder campaign to raise funds to finance its two-week summer program for refugees.

The foundation already received £20,000 in donation but is seeking a further £30,000 to cover the costs for another 100 places on its program.

“Attending university is a primary aim of displaced students”

Due to run at the University of Nottingham, the program aims at strengthening English language, academic and employability skills to enable teenager and adult refugees to access higher education.

Reports from the Refugee Council and Refugee Support Network highlight how refugees find it very hard to access support with their English language skills, Bayswater Foundation co-founder Jamer Herbertson said.

“Attending university is a primary aim of displaced students but globally only 1% of refugees get into high education. This program will be a gateway to a brighter future for those who participate,” he explained.

The program will guide participants through the UK education system, and give them advice on job and university application processes.

It will include accommodation at Cripps Hall on the university campus, with a non-residential option for those residing in Nottingham, meals, social and cultural activities, and the support of a dedicated welfare team.

The program is scheduled to take place between July 29 and August 12 and it is the second project undertaken by Bayswater Foundation, after the launch of the collaboration with NGO Mais Caminhos organising English language courses in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, earlier this year.

Those interested in getting involved or supporting the program can contact project manager Jessica Dunks by email at foundation@bayswater.ac or call 020 7221 7259.

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Indian finance minister allocates £46.6m to create “world class institutions”

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 23:00

India’s finance minister has proposed to allocate Rs 400 crore (£46.6 million) to create “world-class institutions” in a bid to attract a greater number of international students. However, concerns have been raised over whether India is ready for such an ambitious campaign.

“India has the potential to become a hub of higher education,” Sitharaman told members of India’s upper house, Rajya Sabha on July 5.

The Rs 400 crore is “more than three times the revised estimate for the previous year”, she added.

“International students are attracted due to the reputation of an institution”

The government will also bring in a new National Educational Policy, and proposes to establish a national research foundation to “fund, coordinate and promote research”.

“I, therefore, propose to start the program ‘Study in India’ that will focus on bringing foreign students to Indian higher education institutions.

“We will continue to make concerted efforts to improve the performance of our institutions of higher education,” Sitharaman explained.

“The regulatory systems of higher education will be reformed comprehensively to promote greater autonomy to focus on greater academic outcomes.”

Additionally, draft legislation for setting up a higher education commission of India will be presented in the year ahead, she added.

According to the draft National Education Policy, approximately 45,000 (11,250 per year) international students study in Indian higher education institutions.

This makes India the 26th ranked destination for international students, the policy explains and accounts for less than 1% of the globe’s nearly five million international students in 2014.

“It is important to recognise the fact that international students are attracted due to the reputation of an institution, and thereby the first step must be towards creating such institutions,” the document contends.

To increase the number of visiting students arriving at India’s institutions, the draft policy suggests introducing “internationally relevant” education, Indian culture and language courses, and facilitating student exchange, faculty mobility and research collaborations.

Institutions also need to create additional infrastructure, such as residential facilities required to host international students and focus on providing incoming students with a safe, positive, and holistic experience.

“At present, most of the foreign students studying in India are doing so at private institutions because they offer the best student experience available, but in time the influx into Central and State universities must increase,” the policy document reads.

“It will help Indian institutions to improve their global rankings and diversify education in India”

It also states that ‘select universities’ – the top 200 universities in the world – will be permitted to operate in India.

If an Indian institution is ranked in the top 100 by both the National Institutional Ranking Framework and the National Assessment and Accreditation Council, it will be part of the Study in India initiative, a spokesperson told The PIE News.

“We are open to students from every country,” they said, and Study in India is focusing on developing countries – SAARC, Asian, African, and CIS countries, they said.

A  15% supernumerary quota for international students has been in place “for some time”, according to the policy document.

“These seats are for foreign students,” the Study in India spokesperson said, and they were not filled completely in 2018.

“We want to fill these seats completely, and it will help Indian institutions to improve their global rankings and diversify education in India,” the spokesperson added.

“We are in the second year of execution – we got a good response this year, and we are trying hard to reach out to more countries and more students. It will take a little time to build the brand but sooner or later it will work.”

Some have suggested that allocating seats to international students is detrimental to domestic students, in that there are not enough university places to cover the population of India.

One stakeholder told The PIE News that EdCIL, a branch of the Ministry of Human Resource Development mandated to attract international students, does “not seem to have budgets or solid strategies” on how to reach target students.

“It all seems a bit of trial and error,” the source said.

“They seem to have launched this very ambitious campaign without figuring out if Indian universities are really ready to receive and support international students.

“They seem to have launched this very ambitious campaign without figuring out if Indian universities are really ready”

“This needs to be fixed really soon, else it may lead to students not being very satisfied with the quality and standards that they find at Indian universities,” they concluded.

Masud Hasan founder & director of Applycourses added that the current government is keen to promote India as a study destination and they are doing so by giving international students scholarships.

“We are working with many universities and agents across the world including India – most of them are private universities and colleges,” he added.

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