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News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education
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‘Publicly engage like never before’, universities urged

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 06:08

Higher education institutions aiming to forge ahead with their internationalisation strategies will need to reevaluate how they articulate their goals and engage with the public, leaders in the sector have said.

“We have engaged in a serious omission,” John Hudzik of Michigan State University told an audience of higher education professionals at the Going Global conference this week in London.

“We have paid insufficient attention to documenting the outcomes of internationalisation in terms that are relevant to politicians and the public.”

Answering the question “Is internationalisation dead in a ‘post-truth’ age?”, Hudzik and other prominent leaders in the sector were reflecting on how universities should communicate their mission in the current political climate.

“Globalisation should not be seen as a process to exclude people and countries”

Those in higher education leadership are often guilty of dismissing the public’s concerns about globalisation and immigration, rather than addressing them and demonstrating the benefits of international engagement in a local context, the panellists argued.

“Globalisation should not be seen as a process to exclude people and countries,” commented Ka-Ho Mok, vice president of Lingnan University in Hong Kong, but the panellists acknowledged that it is often seen that way.

To counter this, “We need to publicly engage like we never have before, demonstrate rather than just explain the role internationalisation plays in the local context,” urged Janet Beer, vice chancellor of the UK’s University of Liverpool.

“Unless we create an understanding that we exist for public benefit, then everything we do is at nought. We are here for public benefit, we are here for good.”

But too often, Hudzik admonished, “We talk mainly to ourselves, in rooms like this, comfortably in an echo chamber, and we ignore how globalisation has spawned real concerns for people elsewhere… and we dismiss them as surely uninformed or worse.”

In the UK, last year’s Brexit referendum, in which universities campaigned vocally to remain in the EU, showed that the attitudes in the higher education sector are often out of step with a large proportion of the public. This is one example where the sector has been seen as elitist and self-interested, panellists noted.

Universities must also be culturally sensitive in articulating their goals, counselled Nico Jooste, director of Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University in South Africa.

“In the developing world, the word ‘internationalisation’ is not a favourite word,” he said. “They’d rather talk about linkages than internationalisation,” he explained, as the latter is often associated with imbalanced relationships between international partners.

And simply changing the way universities communicate isn’t enough, he said – they should also examine their approach to internationalisation itself.

“Our practices are defeating ourselves in bringing a better message,” he challenged.

“We are calling things internationalisation that are not internationalisation. We sugar coat our commercial drives by calling them internationalisation and by doing that we might just kill internationalisation.”

Rather than seeing international engagement through the lens of student recruitment as a revenue-generating exercise, institutions should be investing in meaningful collaboration, he argued.

“I don’t think universities are prepared to put enough money into internationalisation,” he said. But when a large proportion of international student mobility accounts for students from the developing world coming to study in developed countries, “just imagine what it would do to the world if you took 30% of those fees to develop linkages with institutions in those countries”.

Mok echoed that “internationalisation should not just mean student mobility”.

“Universities should think about creating an international context on campus to help students appreciate we are living in a world of diversity,” he said.

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Proposed US budget threatens educational exchange programs

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 06:07

Deep cuts to the State Department’s educational exchange programs outlined in the White House’s proposed 2018 budget would damage the US’s soft power diplomacy, education organisations have warned.

The White House’s budget, A New Foundation for American Greatness, would cut funding for the State Department’s Educational and Cultural Exchange (ECE) programs, which include the prestigious Fulbright program, by 52%.

“Gutting exchange programs isn’t a win for the taxpayer, because the investment in national security is immense”

Under the proposed budget, resources for educational exchange “will be more narrowly targeted towards specific foreign policy priorities while avoiding duplication”, according to a congressional budget justification, focusing support on “core global programs” such as Fulbright.

But while it does allocate the majority of academic exchange spending – $125.6m of a total $148.6m – to Fulbright, the budget would still cut Fulbright funding by 52% compared to the 2017 budget estimate.

It would continue to operate in 90 countries (compared to 160 now) “where the program provides the greatest benefit to US interests”.

Global academic exchange programs – including English language programs and educational advising and student services – would be hardest hit, facing a 73% budget reduction.

Meanwhile, more than half the funding for professional and cultural exchanges would be removed.

The budget for program and performance activities, such as alumni engagement and program evaluation, would be slashed by 86%, and the ECE personnel budget by just over a third.

Some other “impactful programs” funding outbound mobility will also be maintained, such as the Gilman Scholarship and the Critical Language Scholarship.

And continued support for Education USA’s advising centers “will help reinforce foreign student interest in US higher education and study opportunities in the United States”, the budget justification adds.

If enacted, the cuts come as part of a $19bn reduction to US diplomacy and aid budgets – almost a third.

But those in the education sector have argued that these programs play a crucial diplomacy role. One in three world leaders have taken part in a US exchange program, noted Ilir Zherka, executive director of the Alliance for International Exchange.

“Gutting exchange programs isn’t a win for the taxpayer, because the investment in America’s national security is immense,” he said, adding: “If adopted, these cuts would greatly harm our nation’s public diplomacy efforts.

“As Defense Secretary James Mattis has suggested, the way to reduce the possibility of war is to increase people-to-people diplomacy – which is at the heart of cultural and educational exchanges.”

NAFSA echoed similar concerns. “As an organisation whose members are devoted to promoting the value of global understanding, we believe a reduction in the tools America uses to build bridges makes us all less secure,” its deputy executive director, public policy, Jill Welch, told The PIE News.

“We believe a reduction in the tools America uses to build bridges makes us all less secure”

“We urge the administration to reconsider its approach to international assistance and exchange efforts.”

The $4.1tn budget, which would come into effect in October, marks a sharp move away from non-military overseas engagement, while ramping up military expenditure.

“This budget requires some tough tradeoffs between competing priorities in both non-defence and also with the State, AID [Agency for International Development], and International Affairs Budget,” Doug Pitkin, the State Department’s director of budget and planning, said in a briefing.

The proposed cuts are reminiscent of those included in the March preliminary budget. However, these were overturned in the 2017 Omnibus Bill, which secured a 7% budget increase for educational and cultural exchange programs through the end of the year.

Several politicians have pledged to similarly thwart the cuts proposed this week.

“This budget is not going to go anywhere,” said Lindsey Graham, the Republican chair of the Senate subcommittee responsible for diplomacy and foreign aid, who argued the cuts would “gut soft power.”

“If we implemented this budget, you’d have to retreat from the world or put a lot of people at risk.”

Almost all of the proposals outlined in this week’s budget would require legislative action to take effect.

“As we continue to make the case for strong funding in fiscal year 2018, we will once again count on bipartisan congressional leaders and the thousands of exchange supporters across the country who will work to ensure that these programs are maintained,” Zherka said.

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Cloud-based language learning market set to soar

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 02:44

The global cloud-based language learning market has huge growth potential – with demand from those learning for education purposes set to outpace the business learner, according to a global research firm.

Transparency Market Solutions has studied the market and estimates that the market was worth $146.3m in 2016, and will rapidly expand to be worth $427.5m by 2025.

North America’s leading position is down to “vast spending” on English courses by foreign students

Its report says that much of the demand for virtual learning is coming from North America, which accounted for 50% of revenue in 2016.

“The leading position of North America in the market is primarily attributable to the vast spending on English language learning courses by foreign students enrolled in higher education institutions in the region,” it notes.

Languages considered in the scope of study were English, Spanish, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Italian, and Russian.

English will lead future demand, “as the language increasingly becomes the preferred language of communication in the fields of academics and businesses across the globe”, states the report.

It says that the corporate market currently accounts for 50% of demand but the “education segment” of learner is expected to grow at a faster pace to 2025.

And the Asia-Pacific will see most new growth in business by region, it predicts: “Governments in [India, China, and Japan] and other countries in the region have mandated language learning initiatives in school systems, which is also expected to drive the market.”

It is a fragmented marketplace in terms of leading providers, with acquisitions and partnerships happening to build market share.

Leading providers currently include Duolingo, Linguatronics LC, Rosetta Stone, Culture Alley, Speexx and EF.

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Fertile ground for US-UK HE partnerships, potential for deeper ties

Fri, 05/26/2017 - 00:09

Similarities between the US and the UK’s higher eduction environments create fertile ground for institutional collaboration, which many universities to take their first forays into cross-border partnerships before venturing into other markets, it has emerged from a report from the American Council of Education.

The report also outlines that the political situation in both countries has led to renewed attention on these US-UK partnerships.

The two countries share “overall quality, access to funding, strength of the research enterprise, and general trajectory of internationalisation” in higher education, according to US-UK Higher Education Partnerships: Firm Foundations and Promising Pathways.

Because of these similarities, UK-US partnerships are sometimes used to test the waters for institutional partnerships further afield, explained Brad Farnsworth, vice president at ACE’s Center for Internationalization and Global Engagement.

“In terms of where our US institutions are looking at as the next frontier, the UK is not in there”

“US institutions… use their partnerships with the UK as more of a laboratory to experiment on more sophisticated modes of engagement because of the familiarity,” he told The PIE News.

Some institutions think international partnerships are “really risky and complicated and it could have huge payoffs, so let’s start doing this at a place where we are really, really familiar with the legal and political environment,” he said.

“And if it works, we can take it around the world.”

However, there is the danger that this familiarity will lead to complacency. Robin Helms, director of internationalisation and global engagement at the CIGE, said US-UK partnerships are sometimes placed on the backburner.

“One issue we brought up is there’s a lot of existing activity, but in terms of where our US institutions are looking at as the next frontier, the UK is not in there,” she told The PIE News.

Existing relationships need to be actively maintained, Helms said, but are sometimes taken for granted.

“There was one UK institution representative who said every time we do something in a new country, when we start a partnership in China, there’s a big press release and all of these things, and not so much when it’s US and UK,” she commented.

Another commonality that has emerged more recently between the two countries is political turbulence.

The Brexit vote and the election of Donald Trump have brought about a “parallel set of challenges for colleges and universities, particularly when it comes to internationalisation, and renewed attention to the UK-US higher education relationship,” the report states.

One common challenge is boosting the levels of participation in outbound study, despite both being among the top study abroad destinations for students of each country, the report notes.

Twelve per cent of US students who travelled abroad in 2015/16 (38,189) went to the UK, for academic credit and non-credit bearing programs, according to IIE’s Open Doors data.

The US was the third most popular destination for study abroad for UK students (3,615) in the same year, behind France and Spain.

In spite of these common elements, the report points out a number of differences between the two higher education systems, which create further challenges in partnerships, including the size of these institutions, degree structure, and compliance requirements.

Another challenge is calendar and course equivalencies. While in the US, a course unit typically equals the duration of a semester, in the UK, it often lasts as long as a year.

Cultural differences, as well as internationalisation and partnership goals, also inhibit some relationships.

As a result, the report recommends that institutions work to clearly articulate the value proposition.

“In everybody that we talked to there really is an enthusiasm for these relationships”

“In everybody that we talked to there really is an enthusiasm for these relationships,” Helmes assured. “I think they are really seen as strong and there is strong commitment to it. It’s just this really thinking through making the case and really articulating the value proposition.”

And, in light of the geopolitical changes, Helms noted that there is “tremendous potential” to navigate this shared reality “by sharing practices and thinking beyond institution level partnerships to how our system’s working together”.

“How are we sharing good practices?” she asked. “How are we contributing to the greater global good in ways that go beyond these institution partnerships?”

The post Fertile ground for US-UK HE partnerships, potential for deeper ties appeared first on The PIE News.

Students reveal intent to build community links

Thu, 05/25/2017 - 03:05

While a particular postgrad course choice was their main decision-making factor, a range of international students in the UK revealed a strong desire to make links with their local community while studying, noting an “international” city and university efforts to offer access to the wider community were favourably regarded.

Twenty students based in eight cities nationwide travelled to London this week to share their unique experience of living in the UK.

The student roundtable session on the impact of cities in student experience was organised by The PIE and BUILA during the British Council’s Going Global conference.

The ability to work part-time was also lauded as a very important way for students to immerse themselves in city life beyond their university network.

Some students considered working part-time to be essential, not just for financial reasons but because it gave them the opportunity to access a wider network and build self-confidence.

Students shared observations that were as valuable as they were authentic, with Quynh from Vietnam, for example, revealing she did not how to cross the road in the UK and had presumed that just as in Vietnam, it was permissible to attempt crossing anywhere.

More targeted orientation and help finding part-time work were two recommendations that students made, while Dilson, a master’s student from Brazil, said more support in acquiring his Biometric Residence Permit (BRP) would have been appreciated.

“I had to work hard to find out” when and how to pick this up, he said, saying he had expected the UK to be more organised.

Working part-time was viewed as essential to build self-confidence while living in the UK

He cited the important role that accommodation played in helping him gain a social circle of friends because he lived with many other nationalities.

Quynh revealed getting involved with a local church had helped her get to know locals, and said even during classes, she had found it hard to mix with British and other international students without this being facilitated by the university.

Both of these students acknowledged that they had looked at the Facebook pages maintained by cities to get a feel for their chosen city before arriving.

Cities such as Nottingham, Huddersfield and Dundee were all praised for being able to offer multicultural communities with Halal food, for example, within a relatively small scale. Cost of living was also a factor noted by those in some of the more affordable cities.

However, course choice did trump most other factors for many students, with the one-year master’s being another big determinant when comparing courses with those in other destinations.

Charlene Allen, chair of BUILA, commented, “It was invaluable to hear directly from the students’ themselves about what informs their decisions and what their real experience of studying in the UK has been.”

“They have gained many skills outside of their studies through their amazing voluntary work, part-time paid work and roles in helping other students to settle into UK university life.”

Allen said it was clear that universities which are enabling this additional activity are really adding value to the students’ study experience: “We will certainly be looking at ways of including the lessons learnt in future BUILA training sessions for our members”.

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HE opportunities limited, weak, say Syrian refugees

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 09:22

Despite the efforts of governments and higher education institutions in Jordan, Lebanon and Turkey to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis, higher education opportunities are still limited and often inadequate, according to a study of Syrian youth in the three countries.

A series of focus groups for the study, commissioned by the British Council, revealed that young Syrian refugees “generally felt that scholarship provision for refugees was inadequate, both in terms of quality and quantity” in the three countries.

Students felt the supply of scholarships was insufficient, while those that were available were generally not available for in-demand subject areas, such as medicine. As a result, many refugee youth ended up studying subjects not related to their previous study, or those for which they had “little aptitude or interest”.

“There as a belief that the scholarships offered to Syrian refugees were ‘leftover’ spaces”

“There was a belief that the scholarships offered to Syrian refugees were ‘leftover’ spaces at institutions after paying national students had had their first pick of majors,” the report observes.

The funding that was available was not always sufficient to support a full course of study, it adds. Scholarships frequently covered tuition but not living costs, for example, and many only covered the first year of study.

And because funding only supported study at particular institutions, students often faced long commutes of up to two hours each way.

This was especially problematic in some areas; refugee youth in Lebanon said they had to navigate numerous government and paramilitary checkpoints en route to university, and failure to carry the correct documentation could result in their detention or deportation.

Presenting the findings of her research at the British Council’s Going Global conference yesterday in London, the report’s author, Kathleen Fincham, observed that “even when education is available and accessible, it might not be acceptable”.

Cultural and community-based factors can also create barriers to accessing education, the report notes. A student’s decision to pursue higher education must usually be approved by their family, while married women must seek the approval of their husbands.

Female students also said transportation to and from campus was problematic, as they felt exposed to a risk of sexual harassment. A lack of access to childcare also had a disproportionately adverse impact on women, the study notes.

Meanwhile, male youth described feeling pressure to support their family financially. This often resulted in them taking illegal and poorly-paid jobs, detracting from study time, which was doubly problematic for those on scholarships that were dependent on academic performance.

On the institutional side, the language of instruction, difficulty obtaining refugees’ documentation, and institutional practices such as rigidly enforcing enrolment dates, all made accessing education more difficult for Syrian youth.

Online education was the least favoured option among the study participants, after university and vocational training.

One reason was that students were concerned about the accreditation of online courses, which they felt were appropriate for certificates but not degree-level qualifications.

Another was that many students did not fully understand what online learning was. Many assumed professors would be less competent than on campus, or that classes would not be interactive.

This finding indicated that universities have some work to do to educate refugees about the positives of online learning, noted Fincham. However, she cautioned that some examples given by the participants indicated “poor pedagogical practice” – some who had taken online courses said there had been little interactivity, for example.

“Sometimes, when you ask a question, you get an answer you don’t want to hear,” she said.

Practical concerns like poor internet access and electricity sources, as well as students’ own weak computer skills, compounded students’ negative perception of online education.

Students did, however, acknowledge that the flexible nature of online learning could be beneficial for marginalised groups such as women in the home, people working full time and those who are less mobile.

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Barbara Hill, American Council on Education, US

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 05:28
Barbara Hill is the senior associate for internationalisation at the American Council on Education, and helps institutions in the US and beyond with their internationalisation strategies. She tells The PIE about how this process goes beyond student mobility, and the importance of perseverance in challenging political times.

The PIE: How does ACE’s Internationalization Lab work?

BH: Institutions contract with ACE to have a guided consultation for 20 months, in which we take them through an internationalisation review so that they know what their assets are. We have pieces where they define their aspirations and then we try to put together all of this in a strategic plan.

It’s a cohort model so there are usually about 10-12 institutions in a cohort. They meet in Washington three different times at the beginning of the process when they’re forming their work group, in the middle when they’re starting off the internationalisation review and at the end when they’re trying to pull everything together in either a report, or sometimes they actually get to a strategic plan. It just depends what the senior leadership wants.

“Now, it’s not just the number of international students you draw on; it has to do with how does it affect your curriculum?”

At the end I bring in a team of two other professionals from institutions that they admire and think they could learn from and we comment on their steps going forward and give them advice about things they might want to think about doing before they take the big leap.

The PIE: The big leap meaning implementation of a complete internationalisation strategy?

BH: Whatever their individual recommendations are. So it’s pretty collaborative but it’s very good. If they have gone through the review and they have a peer review report, five to seven years later I can bring in another team in order to see if they have actually made any progress. And if the leadership has stayed stable, they invariably do. If there’s been leadership change, it’s iffy – there has to be some kind of continuity.

But it’s a way of rekindling the momentum, giving credit where credit is due and since the field keeps changing, the emphasis on things keeps changing. What does that mean in terms of the direction they want to go? So they can tweak their goals too.

The PIE: Do you only work with American universities?

BH: The lab has been really interesting because even though it is primarily American, we have also worked with a Mexican institution. I’ve worked with an institution in Lebanon – even though I was not allowed to travel there – they could get money from the US Agency for International Development. So they came here, and then we did it long distance. And this year we have in the cohort a university with 23 branches in Colombia.

The PIE: Are there any countries or even institutions that you think are really doing internationalisation well?

BH: Well, a lot of countries are making gestures in that direction. Now, it’s not just the number of international students you draw on; it has to do with: how does it affect your curriculum? How does it affect all of the policies you have? What structure do you have? Is there visible articulation of this commitment at the senior leadership level? And then, what are you creating partnerships for? It used to be people only thought about study abroad and the number of international students – that’s only one of six dimensions that we work with, partly because not everybody is going to study abroad.

“As a research institution, of course you’re looking at worldwide rankings”

The Japanese government, for example, selected twenty universities to become global universities and so they had a symposium where they brought in somebody who deals with European universities more broadly and me to talk about how we conceptualised internationalisation on our own campuses.

Sometimes that’s helpful to do – to see why other people are thinking more differently about it. And it’s partly because of rankings. If you want to be a global institution and your president or your ministry is very interested in rankings then it’s the research focus, but it’s not totally comprehensive internationalisation.

The PIE: Do you have an opinion on rankings?

BH: They exist and people pay attention to them. The nature of the business has changed – we used to just think about the rankings in US News and World Report and as a president, you have to pay attention to that because your board is paying attention to it. As a research institution, of course you’re looking at worldwide rankings. That may not have been the case 50 years ago, but it is now.

The PIE: How does comprehensive internationalisation move beyond just international student mobility?

BH: You have the biggest impact if you affect your curriculum. Having agreed upon global learning outcomes is the first step and then making sure that all of your units are using the same thing. We’re doing some work now in the co-curriculum. There are 168 hours in the week and most students are in class 15 hours – can they be learning in those other 155 hours?

We used to think that study abroad was ‘send them abroad, let them have an immersion experience, they’re going to necessarily learn something’ but we never asked them. Twenty years ago we asked about their housing accommodations, things to do with tourism, not with learning. Institutions are now moving to get learning outcomes across everything they do.

The PIE: What do people most struggle with in measuring outcomes?

BH: I think 10 years ago they would have been struggling to get learning outcomes that were global, and then how do you measure them. There are tools now that help you see what you are succeeding with – so keep doing that – and what you are not succeeding with, do some change. I don’t believe in quantitative assessments as much as I do qualitative.

“Institutions are now moving to get learning outcomes across everything they do”

For example, there’s a big difference if you’ve globalised the majors and if you’re just requiring one international course as part of general education. They have a very different impact. I’ll take whatever the institution is starting with, as long as it keeps wanting to make sure they are moving into internationalising the majors. Every program can be thought of in terms of its global positioning and getting people to understand that is the hard part.

The PIE: How long have you been working in the field of international education?

BH: More or less since 2001. It started with my working with the American Association of Colleges and Universities on a definition of liberal education for the 21st century. I was in charge of the global piece and convened a group of 18 or 20 institutions that had been selected as being very good in terms of teaching level, education and having high-impact practices. We were trying to name the high-impact practices, and study abroad was certainly one of them. Then the other piece I was doing was convening a think tank about what should the globally prepared student do.

Then [former vice president for international initiatives] Madeleine Green hired me back at ACE because she had just started this new Internationalization Lab, so I came in halfway through the first cohort in 2003 and then have been pretty much running it since then.

The PIE: Looking back over your tenure with ACE, what stands out for you?

BH: The people that I get to work with! It’s very interesting. The associations can feel very removed from campus, but because I’ve had a career as a faculty member then I had a career as an administrator, I can see places where what we might conceptualise in an organisation doesn’t actually suit the way life is on campus. And so that’s one of the contributions I’ve been able to make is grounding our work in the way institutions actually behave.

The PIE: Tell me what role you think ethics should play in internationalisation.

BH: Ethics should be grounded in respect for the other – whoever that other is. It could be the other who comes to your institution and the one you send out. How do you want people to behave as representatives of your institution? For example, it would not be ethical for a religiously based institution to bring in international students with the thought of proselytising them. I mean, that one’s pretty easy.

On the larger scale, when you go to have a partnership with a university in another country, don’t just go to tell them what to do. Have some mutual benefit. What can you be learning from them that’s going to help your institution? I suppose the real trick is: Are we doing American imperialism when we’re working in Colombia or Lebanon? Well, a lot of countries think about the US and the UK as having very, very strong higher education systems. So in some cases they want to emulate us, but it plays out differently given the cultures of different places.

“The work is essential more now than ever before, and if it’s made more difficult by certain changes, keep at it”

The PIE: Is an international education still something for the elites of the world?

BH: No, but institutions are struggling to figure out how to do it. Some of the very small institutions are trying with programs where every student has to have a 10-day program abroad. That’s fine. It’s not a deep experience necessarily, but it can be a start. I think being internationalised is part of lifelong learning.

The PIE: How do you see the work of internationalisation fitting into the current political climate in the US?

BH: I’ve been thinking about this an awful lot. I may say some things in private that I don’t say in public, but whenever a group feels besieged, it’s useful. I have recently been in London and went to the Imperial War museum and bought the magnet for the kitchen that says ‘Keep calm and carry on’.

The work is essential more now than ever before, and if it’s made more difficult or if it’s constrained by certain changes that happen, keep at it and keep doing the things you can do. Have those organisations that are politically driven carry the banner for you. I know the ACE has had a letter signed by associations that responded to the executive order about the travel ban and they did another one for institutions to sign too. So keep yourself politically active.

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‘Extreme vetting’ could deter international students, US educators warn

Wed, 05/24/2017 - 04:35

Plans to introduce ‘extreme vetting’ for some would-be travellers to the US would damage higher education and research collaboration and drive potential students and scholars to competitor destinations, educational and scientific organisations have said.

Earlier this month, the State Department opened up a public consultation and emergency review of supplementary questions for specified visa applicants including previous passport numbers; five years’ worth of email addresses, phone numbers and social media handles; and a 15-year address, travel and employment history.

“The notice sends a message to the global community that all international visitors may be viewed with suspicion”

Some 65,000 “immigrant and nonimmigrant visa applicants who have been determined to warrant additional scrutiny in connection with terrorism or other national security-related visa ineligibilities” would be affected, the State Department said.

But the “chilling effect” of the measures is likely to extend beyond those directly affected to all international travellers, according to a letter co-signed by 50 scientific and education organisations including NAFSA and the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers.

The “uncertainties and confusion” surrounding the proposed legislation will not only create logistical barriers to collaboration and mobility, but also project an unwelcoming image to the international community, the letter warns.

A lack of detail as to how the policy would be enacted could create “unacceptably long delays in processing”, it argues. The published document for consultation does not define which travellers would be subject to additional scrutiny or the consequences of submitting incomplete information.

Students, scholars, and scientific collaborators are especially likely to be deterred from coming to the US, it argues, in light of the negative worldwide media coverage of previous policy shifts.

“International students and researchers have choices and by adopting unclear and ill-defined visa requirements, the United States risks sending existing and potential partners and students elsewhere,” the letter states.

International students add more than $30bn to the economy annually, contribute to the “intellectual richness” of US universities and “serve as goodwill ambassadors” upon their return home, it adds.

It also predicts a dampening effect on international scientific and research collaboration.

Creating additional barriers to travel could mean foreign academics and scientists choose not to attend US-based conferences – often used as a basis for networking – or opt to hold high-level meetings in other countries, “hurting US economic, technological, and scientific competitiveness”, it warns.

Should the legislation be enacted, the government must put out positive messages and statements to ensure legitimate visitors, especially students, scholars and scientists, are “still welcomed and encouraged”, as well as equipping consulates with additional resources to handle the administrative burden of the additional questioning, the coalition urged.

“We appreciate and support the need to secure our nation and its citizens from individuals who seek to do us and our interests harm,” the letter reads.

“As an international educator I fear these changes will deter quality students from attending our programs”

“But we caution that this security need should be balanced with the need to remain open to those pursuing academic study and scientific research.”

Federal regulations mandate that the State Department must obtain approval from the Office of Management and Budget and invite public comment in order to enforce the proposed extra scrutiny on visa applicants.

“As an international educator I fear these changes will deter quality students from attending our programs. International students bring rich diversity to our college campuses and surrounding cities,” reads one comment.

“The process of admissions is tedious and complicated; adding more supplemental items to [the] already lengthy list of items would negatively impact the desire to study in the US,” says another from a director of international students at a private university.

A second letter signed by five educational organisations including the American Council on Education and the Association of American Universities, warns that in its current state, the legislation could “inadvertently choke our nation’s pipeline of international students and scholars”.

It describes the additional evidence requirements as “burdensome, difficult to meet, and likely to deter international students, scholars, scientists, and researchers from contributing their talents to the United States”.

And because the legislation was proposed through an emergency review, rather than the regular rule-making process, it lacks crucial details on areas such as reporting requirements and privacy protections, it states, adding: “Absent specific guidelines, clear visa classifications, or specific criteria outlined, the notice is vague and sends a message to the global community that all international visitors may be viewed with suspicion.”

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Calls to protect exploited foreign workers in Aus

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 07:25

A proposal to protect international students and foreign workers from deportation in instances of workplace exploitation and allow them to issue entitlement claims has been submitted to the Australian immigration minister.

The proposal, submitted by Sydney-based Redfern Legal Centre, seeks to amend section 499 of the Migration Act to prevent the automatic cancellation of a student’s visa when they have breached the terms as well as combat employee exploitation.

“In our experience, international students frequently have a visa issue associated with their legal problem, and fears about their visa status can prevent these students from seeking advice or asserting their rights,” said Sean Stimson, RLC international student solicitor.

“Employers have hid behind the fact that international students are not going to pursue their employer because they are in breach of their visa conditions”

Under current conditions in Australia, international students can work up to 40 hours per fortnight.

But, Stimson said this condition has led to unscrupulous employers intentionally targeting students, coercing them to work in excess of their entitled hours, and then using the threat of deportation to force them into substandard employment conditions.

According to RLC, which provides free legal assistance to the community, international students are particularly vulnerable in areas including housing, employment, consumer scams and issues with their education providers.

“Students we hear from often describe working in ‘slave like’ conditions, receiving pay that is significantly below industry awards,” said Stimson. “This creates a vicious cycle, forcing students to work additional hours to survive. They are then essentially trapped by their employer, who often make threats of deportation if they speak out.”

The proposed changes would also allow international students to legally pursue employers to recover wages and entitlements, and if passed, would put employers “on notice for the first time”.

“Employers have hid behind the fact that international students are not going to pursue their employer because they are in breach of their visa conditions,” Stimson commented. “It exposes the employer to all of the breaches they have undertaken by the exploitation.”

Stimson said the timeframe for review and implementation of the amendment is uncertain, but the proposal has so far been favourably received.

Australia has had several incidents of international student exploitation, including a recent highly-publicised exposé by SBS on rampant exploitation of Vietnamese students.

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New Zealand tightens migrant visa conditions

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 06:53

The New Zealand government has issued a second round of changes for high- and low-skilled migrant worker visas, this time raising the minimum salary. The move has stirred up uncertainty among educators and agents.

The changes, which follow an increase in the visas’ points requirement, will see applicants needing to meet a minimum income of $48,859 per year for a high-skilled visa and $73,299 per year for a low-skilled visa. The salaries represent New Zealand’s median wage and 1.5 times New Zealand’s median wage, respectively.

“The government has a Kiwis first approach to immigration and these changes are designed to strike the right balance between reinforcing the temporary nature of Essential Skills work visas and encouraging employers to take on more Kiwis and invest in the training to upskill them,” immigration minister Michael Woodhouse said in a statement.

“It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills”

“It’s important that our immigration settings are attracting the right people, with the right skills, to help fill genuine skill shortages and contribute to our growing economy.”

The move will not affect international students’ post-study work rights, which provide a one year open visa option for undergraduate and postgraduate students and a two year employee sponsored option for students with an acceptable qualification, with a possible third year if working towards occupational registration.

Universities New Zealand expressed disappointment with the proposed changes, labelling it a populist policy that could damage the reputation of the country’s international education industry.

“It is unfortunate that election year issues around housing pressures and record migration are being conflated into a populist policy which unintentionally impacts genuine, high quality international student migration,” UNZ executive director Chris Whelan told The PIE News.

Whelan added that market sensitivities around immigration policy changes could impact student numbers, highlighting student and agent concerns in the wake of changes announced by the US, UK and Australia.

“We are particularly concerned by the introduction of a salary threshold to be met by early career graduates,” he said.

Education New Zealand chief executive Grant McPherson said it is expected the change will have a short-term impact on international student recruitment, especially for providers targeting students at below degree level qualifications. He added that the move sends a clear signal that residency is “not always a realistic expectation” and New Zealand’s education quality should be “the prime driver” for students.

In an open letter to the industry, McPherson also pointed to the Ministry of Education’s recently published Moving Places report, which found more than half of international students with postgraduate qualifications meet the remuneration thresholds three years after graduation – around the time their post-study work visas ran out.

However, the report also found the median earnings of young international graduates were below the thresholds up to six years after completing an undergraduate degree, and up to eight years after a sub-degree qualification.

Additionally, in all but a few qualification areas, international graduates were found to earn less than their domestic counterparts.

According to Ravi Lochan Singh, managing director of Indian agency Global Reach, however, relying on salary data from the Moving Places report to gauge how many international students would be affected does not provide a complete picture.

“Students with poor English communication levels and lower skills have made it to New Zealand”

“One of the biggest reasons for low salaries for the undergrads was that over the last few years, students with poor English communication levels and lower skills have made it to New Zealand,” Singh explained.

“The regulations only started changing about a year ago and the quality of students reaching New Zealand has improved. I believe an undergrad student with decent communication ability, who has studied at a decent institution and then uses the post-study work followed by work permit, will have no issues in securing a salary above the [threshold].”

In a blog on the changes, Singh also expressed disappointment that media outlets had confounded the expected impact of visa changes in the US, Australia and New Zealand, by providing misleading and inaccurate information.

New Zealand’s announcement of the proposed changes to its work visas came a day after the US and Australia made similar announcements and echoed the “Hire American” and “Australians first” rhetoric used by both the countries’ leaders.

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Uni of Birmingham to open Dubai campus

Tue, 05/23/2017 - 02:01

The University of Birmingham will open an overseas campus in Dubai next year, making it the first globally-ranked top-100 university to open a branch in the Emirate.

Opening in September 2018, the campus will teach a range of undergraduate and postgraduate programs, focusing on the needs of the labour market in Dubai.

Its first programs will be in Computer Science, Mechanical Engineering, Primary and Secondary Education, and Business.

“What Birmingham aspires to do is aligned with the Government of Dubai’s aspirations”

In the years to come, postgraduate researchers will join students on the campus.

“We are a research intensive university and research will be at the heart of what we do in Dubai,” commented David Eastwood, the University of Birmingham’s vice-chancellor.

Announcing the launch at the Going Global conference in London today, he added: “There is a real opportunity to drive innovation in Dubai.”

The university will provide mobility opportunities for students on both campuses. Eastwood said he envisages the campus will become “a hub for the international experience for our students right across the University of Birmingham group”.

There is “full transferability, full equivalence” between degrees offered in Birmingham and Dubai, added Robin Mason, the university’s pro vice-chancellor, and students on the two campuses will pay equivalent fees.

All programs will be taught by University of Birmingham staff and will follow the same curriculum as those on the home campus.

Abdulla Al Karam, chairman and director of the Dubai Knowledge and Human Development Authority, said “there could not have been a better time than this” for the university to put down roots in Dubai.

“The University of Birmingham is exciting to have in Dubai because it’s one of the top 100 universities, it’s part of the Russell Group; but most importantly because of the timing,” he told The PIE News. Dubai started welcoming branch campuses 15 years ago

“What Birmingham stands for or aspires to do is basically aligned with the Government of Dubai’s aspirations. As a research university, they will establish research in energy, water and transportation, which is part of our plan.”

The focus on education will also be extremely beneficial for Dubai, he said, as education and teacher training are an “integral part” of the UAE’s national strategy, UAE Vision 2021, the goals of which include positioning the UAE’s education system as one of the best in the world.

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UK: party manifestos lay out int’l student policies ahead of snap election

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 09:59

Policies affecting international students are central to plans laid out by the main political parties in the lead up to the UK’s snap election on June 8. In their manifestos, each party has included proposals impacting immigration, post-study work and international student visas.

The main parties in the UK, with the exception of the Scottish National Party and the UK Independence Party, have recently released their manifestos, each underlining the importance of ensuring that the UK remains welcoming to international students.

The Conservatives have maintained the policy to keep international students in net migration figures, while Labour has promised to take them out. The Liberal Democrats meanwhile have pledged to bring back a pared down version of post-study work.

“Universities are committed to working with government to ensure that any visa abuse in the sector remains very low”

In their manifesto, the incumbent Conservatives say that Britain is an “open economy and a welcoming society”.

“We will always ensure that our British businesses can recruit the brightest and best from around the world and Britain’s world-class universities can attract international students,” it reads, but also promises to “toughen the visa requirements for students, to make sure that we maintain high standards”.

Meanwhile, current opposition leaders Labour, say the party “welcomes international students who benefit and strengthen our education sector, generating more than £25bn for the British economy and significantly boosting regional jobs and local businesses”.

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto says they will “ensure the UK is an attractive destination for overseas students”.

Despite a shared welcoming attitude towards international students, the immigration policies each manifesto proposes will dictate the degree of openness the country achieves under each party.

On immigration, the Conservatives have maintained their contentious plan to keep international students in net migration figures while aiming to “reduce immigration to sustainable levels”, which means cutting net migration from the 273,000 to tens of thousands.

Conservative plans to toughen student visa requirements is concerning, Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs said.

“I don’t think anyone can say why that is either sensible or necessary,” he told The PIE News. “And one only hopes that this is merely election rhetoric and that better sense will prevail when and if in government.”

Care should be taken to make sure that the “talk of toughening the visa requirements for students” doesn’t deter those considering coming to study in the UK, said Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK.

“Universities are committed to working with government to ensure that any visa abuse in the sector remains very low,” she said. “And that there is improved and reliable data to identify the extent of any overstaying.”

Sally Hunt, general secretary at the University and College Union, which represents professional staff in the higher education and further education sectors, echoes that toughening visa rules will send out a negative message.

“Instead of pulling up the drawbridge, the next government needs to ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination for academics and students from around the world,” she said.

The next government “should start by immediately guaranteeing the rights of EU nationals currently working and studying here rather than using them as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations,” she argued.

Meanwhile, Labour says it will “develop and implement fair immigration rules,” and emphasises that in trade negotiations, the party’s priorities favour “growth, jobs and prosperity” over immigration targets.

“The next government needs to ensure that the UK remains an attractive destination for academics and students from around the world”

The Liberal Democrats’ manifesto refers specifically to students who overstay their visa and promises to “work with universities to ensure a fair and transparent student visa process and find ways to measure accurately the number of students leaving at the end of their course.”

Wales’s national party, Plaid Cymru, meanwhile, says it will create “Welsh-specific visas” which will be “necessary to plug skills gaps and to protect our health service from staff shortages”.

Policies split on post-study work right for international students, with only the Liberal Democrats promising to reintroduce the offer, albeit partially.

“We will reinstate post-study work visas for graduates in STEM subjects who find suitable employment within six months of graduating,” reads the party’s manifesto. The Liberal Democrats also plan to “give the devolved administrations the right to sponsor additional post-study work visas”.

On the other hand, the Conservatives, along with pledging tougher visa requirements for international students, have also promised higher requirements for those hoping to stay after they graduate.

“We will expect students to leave the country at the end of their course, unless they meet new, higher requirements that allow them to work in Britain after their studies have concluded,” the party’s manifesto says.

Taking international students out of the net migration figures has become a hotly debated topic in public discussions across UK politics. A recent amendment in the Higher Education and Research Bill called for their removal, however it was defeated in the House of Commons.

But, the main political parties have readdressed the issue in their manifestos.

“[International students] are not permanent residents and we will not include them in immigration numbers,” reads the Labour manifesto. “But we will crack down on fake colleges.”

“Recognising their largely temporary status, [we will] remove students from the official migration statistics,” the Liberal Democrats’ manifesto says.

Wales’s Plaid Cymru also argues that international students must be taken out of the net migration figures.

While other parties have promised to take international students out of net migration counts, Scott at UKCISA said it was “disappointing” but “not surprising” to see the reference in the [Conservative manifesto] “to students being ‘within the scope of the government’s policy to reduce annual net migration’.”

“After so much discussion and debate – most recently in the House of Lords – sticking with this continues to seem unnecessary and really damaging,” he commented.

The future of funding for European mobility and research is uncertain in the run up to Brexit negotiations, but both Labour and Liberal Democrat parties have pledged efforts to retain access to Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ programs.

The Green Party outlines its plan to “guarantee the rights of young people to study, work, live and travel in the EU, including through schemes like Erasmus,” the manifesto reads.

Last month, UK Prime Minister Theresa May called an early general election on June 8.

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NZQA closes third PTE, Linguis International

Mon, 05/22/2017 - 02:30

The New Zealand Qualifications Authority has cancelled Linguis International Institute’s PTE status, making it the third international private tertiary provider to be deregistered in the last 12 months.

The provider, which had campuses in Auckland and Christchurch and delivered English and business studies, was cited for plagiarism, overcrowding and bad marking.

Linguis was criticised by NZQA in November 2016 in a report that found the provider had classes of up to 64 students, a shortage of furniture and “inadequate washroom facilities”.

“The priority is ensuring students are supported at this time and reducing disruption to their studies”

“The non-compliance took place over an extended period of time,” NZQA deputy chief executive of quality assurance Grant Klinkum told The PIE News.

“NZQA followed all standard procedures in its actions regarding Linguis, including ensuring Linguis had opportunity to address the concerns identified by NZQA and, most recently, to respond to the proposed deregistration,” he said.

Klinkum said now that Linguis has been deregistered, the focus is on ensuring its students found another suitable provider.

“The priority is ensuring students are supported at this time and reducing disruption to their studies. We appreciate this may be an uncertain time for students and we have made every effort to keep students fully informed,” he said.

According to NZQA’s initial report, Linguis’s rapid growth from 158 students in 2012 to over 1,000 in 2015 was poorly managed, leading to systemic plagiarism, and inadequate services. The report concluded NZQA was “not yet confident” in the provider’s capability to self-assess.

At the time of its closure, Linguis had only 81 students.

Linguis is the second private provider to be deregistered this year, and the third in the last 12 months, after Aotearoa Tertiary Institute closed in January, and the International Academy of New Zealand was liquidated in August last year and bought up by EDENZ Colleges while under investigation by NZQA.

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UK’s first South Korea campus to open this year

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 04:17

Scotland’s University of Aberdeen will open the UK’s first branch campus in South Korea later this year, it has announced.

The campus, based in the Gwangyang Free Economic Zone in Hadong District in the southeastern South Gyeongsang province, will focus on teaching engineering subjects needed for the offshore oil & gas industry – a key area of investment for South Korea.

“We look forward to the campus becoming a centre of expertise in offshore engineering”

As part of this investment, the campus is backed by “establishment funding” from the South Korean Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

In the first year, it will offer a one-year graduate course in petroleum engineering. The curriculum will later expand to offer courses in subsea engineering and oil & gas topside engineering.

The campus will be licensed to offer one-year master’s and MBA courses, as well as PhD programs in engineering.

“The Korea project is a major step forward in our internationalisation plans and we are very excited about the prospect of taking our expertise in offshore/oil & gas related teaching and research to the region and having the opportunity to work with our educational, governmental and industrial partners to make this a huge success,” the University of Aberdeen’s principal, Ian Diamond said in a statement.

The campus was initially set to open in September last year, but will arrive a year behind schedule due to financial and bureaucratic delays.

It was given the go-ahead last month after a visit to the University of Aberdeen’s home campus by nine representatives from the Hadong and South Gyeongsang municipalities.

Eighteen members of faculty from the campus in Aberdeen will transfer to the Hadong campus in time for the September opening.

Speaking at the launch of the branch campus in 2015, Hee Bong Lee, commissioner of the Gwangyang Bay Free Economic Zone Authority, said: “The Korean partners actively support the establishment of the university’s Hadong campus, which we look forward to becoming a centre of expertise in offshore engineering thanks to the strong curriculum on offer and the university’s reputation for excellence in offshore teaching and research.”

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Germany’s outbound study travel market holds steady despite Brexit unease

Fri, 05/19/2017 - 02:54

The German outbound study travel market remained steady last year, according to an annual agency survey, which shows that the number of students going abroad for language study fell by just under 2%.

The annual analysis by German agency association FDSV reveals the decline in interest in the UK as a destination continued last year, but the impact of Brexit was dimmer than agencies expected.

Overall interest for English fell, however, as other languages gained ground.

The number of students going abroad for language study dropped 1.93% last year from the year before, the survey found, based on 24 responding agency members of FDSV.

“We expected Ireland to be much more up in numbers, this didn’t really happen”

The average length of stay also remained fairly consistent from 2015 to 2016, increasing just marginally from 1.93 weeks to 2.03 weeks.

And while the UK remained the top destination of choice for almost half (45%) of German language students, interest in the country has consistently fallen year on year.

In 2015, 48% of language learners went to the UK, with over half (54%) opting for the UK the year before.

The drop is less than agencies feared, however, as they had prepared for a Brexit fallout, explained Julia Richter, managing director of FDSV.

“The big surprise was we expected Great Britain to be much more down,” she told The PIE News. “In the end it wasn’t that bad.”

She went on to say, “We expected Ireland to be much more up in numbers, this didn’t really happen,” and credited the maintained interest in the UK to the weakness of the pound.

Malta meanwhile was the second most popular destination for German students, accounting for just over 15% of all language stays, and increasing by just over 2% from the year before.

“For the German market it’s always been a very positive destination over the last 20 or 30 years,” said Richter. “It’s always second in regards to English speaking countries.”

English overwhelmingly remained the top language of choice for study travel, according to the survey, accounting for almost 80% of all bookings. Among the junior market this proportion was as high as 93%.

“In the US and UK it’s quite uncertain how things are going to develop and Malta is so easy to reach”

Still, the overall proportion of German English language learners fell by around 2.5% last year, as interest in other languages increased.

Spanish remained the second most popular language for Germans, followed by French and Italian. And while both accounted for less than 1% of language learners, interest in Chinese and Russian also increased.

The highest proportion of language learners (47%) were from the 14-17 age cohort. Those aged 18-30 made up of just over a fifth of all language students. And the group of 31-49 year old language learners displayed the biggest growth, up 14%.

2017’s numbers are shaping up to be consistent with previous years, according to Richter. However, lengths of stay may shorten and destinations may shift closer to home as political uncertainties and concerns about security impact students’ choices.

“In the US and UK it’s quite uncertain how things are going to develop and Malta is so easy to reach, and flights are quite cheap,” she commented. “In Malta you get much more for your money [compared with the pound].”

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Business schools not living up to their alumni network promises

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 09:29

Business schools rely on strong graduate networks to attract prospective students and to serve as global brand ambassadors. However, a new global survey of graduates has found they are falling short when it comes to engaging with alumni.

Career support is a “critical” area business schools will need to improve if they want to create more engaged alumni, argues a report from education market consultancy CarringtonCrisp, which found just one in five alumni definitely agree their school has a strong alumni network

Business schools also need to put greater focus on maintaining online channels in order to reap the benefits of their global graduate networks and overcome the “tyranny of distance”.

More than a third of recent business school leavers said they were unhappy with the career support they received

Unsurprisingly, alumni who reported having a positive experience at business school are more likely to remain connected after they graduate – nearly 90% of engaged alumni said they were satisfied with their student experience overall.

But the survey of 2,635 business school leavers – whose graduation years date back to 1961 – found as many as half were unhappy with the career support they received.

Satisfaction levels have increased significantly over the last two decades, though there is still much room for improvement. Of the alumni who graduated within the last three years, 61% agreed that their institution’s career support was good, compared to 35% who graduated more than 20 years ago.

But there remains a gap between happy graduates and engaged alumni. Some 80% of survey takers said they are both positive towards their business school and proud to be associated with it, but half as many said they agree “to any extent” that they still feel engaged with their school.

These figures highlight “a significant reservoir of goodwill” that, if harnessed effectively, “can be leveraged to a school’s benefit”, argues the report.

“Many schools promote their alumni network to candidates as a key benefit, but progress is needed to ensure the reality lives up to the promise, with only one in five (21%) alumni definitely agreeing their school has a strong alumni network,” said Andrew Crisp, the consultancy’s co-founder and co-author of the report.

Alumni communities online and digital communication channels play a “distinctive role” in alumni engagement, according to the report.

The survey found that more than three quarters of alumni who regularly visit Facebook or LinkedIn groups agree their school’s alumni network is strong, compared to only 50% of those who never visit the groups, the survey found.

And 83% of graduates who visit their school’s alumni webpages – which often don’t provide any interaction with alumni – rate the network as very strong, compared to 40% of those who never visit the website.

But participation rates in online communities set up by business schools remain low – only one in ten people who took part in the survey were classified as regular users – and highlight the challenge schools face in encouraging active participation from their alumni.

It’s not enough to simply create digital spaces for graduates to interact with each other and the school, the report counsels, but how schools use them will be crucial.

“Schools need to consider how they can make better use of social media to cultivate greater alumni engagement and benefit from their support and loyalty,” commented Crisp.

“Many schools promote their alumni network to candidates as a key benefit, but progress is needed to ensure the reality lives up to the promise”

“Whilst social media and digital communication is key, it’s not simply about having a Facebook or LinkedIn page, but creating content that provides real benefits and value to alumni,” he said.

Gretchen Dobson, vice president of international alumni and graduate affairs at Academic Assembly, a global education operations management company, agreed online engagement requires more effort than traditional alumni newsletters or printed magazines.

“It is one thing to build a LinkedIn group of alumni members, but how many of these members return to the space and participate in discussions? How many alumni feel motivated to share an alum’s op-ed piece with their other networks?” she said. “I would encourage institutions to remain creative and continue to ask the alumni what they think works best.”

Dobson added that business school graduates are inherently more likely than graduates in other fields to expect and contribute to supportive alumni networks, underlining the importance of improving alumni engagement.

“Business schools attract students who understand that networking is part of the DNA of their program,” she said. “Some students choose their business school based on the reputation of esteemed alumni, faculty and the opportunity to network their way to an internship or a job. The alumni network becomes stronger with engaged students.”

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Elections loom over Germany-Kenya university

Thu, 05/18/2017 - 03:12

With elections pending in both Germany and Kenya, work to establish the Eastern African German University of Applied Sciences is continuing apace amid concerns that a regime change in either country before final agreements are in place could scupper the initiative.

Working groups in both countries – which include representatives from Kenya’s Commission for University Education, the German embassy in Nairobi and DAAD – have drafted a bilateral agreement laying out how the institution will operate, as well as the two countries’ obligations in the process.

“Both panels are aware that priorities could change if new governments are elected”

The agreement has been submitted to the Kenyan government, which, along with its German counterpart, must give its sign off before universities can bid to host the institution.

At the moment, there is “tremendous goodwill” on both sides towards the project, Uwe Koppel, head of cultural affairs at the German embassy in Nairobi, told The PIE News.

“While it is not possible to put an exact date on when we should see the university up and running, the process is moving at a good pace.”

However, both working groups are apprehensive of policy or priority changes that might occur should the current administrations leave power.

Kenya will hold its general elections on August 8 this year, with Germany following in September.

“Both panels are aware that elections are coming up in both countries in August and September respectively, and aware that priorities could change if new governments are elected, they want to make sure that as much ground is covered and crucial [steps] are agreed upon in good time,” Koppel said.

Once the agreement is signed, tenders will be floated, inviting bids from both public and private Kenyan universities interested in hosting the applied sciences university. It had been decided that establishing an entirely new, standalone institution would delay the process of setting up the university, and so it will operate from an existing campus.

On the German side, a partner university will also be chosen to help with benchmarking and knowledge transfer.

The idea of establishing an institution using the German university of applied sciences model to teach students from across the Eastern Africa region was first mooted in 2015, and a declaration of intent was signed in February this year.

The Eastern African German University of Applied Sciences will teach mainly engineering and sciences programs, as well as German to facilitate student and staff exchange. Students will also have the opportunity to spend time working in industry in Germany.

“Some talented students will be benefiting from attachment opportunities in Germany, based on merit, and this will be a huge advantage to their academic wok and future careers,” Koppel said.

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Franco-Canadian pact to address teacher shortage

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 09:10

A new agreement between three higher education associations in Canada and France aims to create a single solution to two problems: a lack of French teachers in Canada and a lack of teaching jobs in France.

The letter of intent, signed at the French Embassy in Ottawa on May 16, will encourage students enrolled in French universities to teach in francophone Canada. It will make up for a lack of sufficient French language teachers in Canada, while fulfilling a need for more professional opportunities for students.

“We sincerely believe that this memorandum can contribute to the development of teaching in French in Canada”

The deal aims to facilitate collaboration between the 34 member universities of the Conférence des présidents d’université in France, the Association des collèges et universités de la francophonie canadienne and Universities Canada.

Through the agreement, students and graduates of French universities will be encouraged to complete supplemental training at a Canadian institution, before taking up teaching positions in schools that offer French immersion courses or as French language teachers in primary or secondary schools.

Though the purpose of the agreement is primarily to address a teacher shortage in Canada, it will also encourage Canadian students to gain work experience in France.

Concerns about the supply and quality of francophone teachers have proliferated in Canada in recent years, as interest in French immersion has increased sharply. Enrolment climbed 41% in the decade leading up to 2014/15, according to Statistics Canada.

“We sincerely believe that this memorandum can contribute to the development of teaching in French and the French language in Canada by fostering student mobility between our two countries,” commented Dominic Giroux, vice-chair of the Universities Canada board of directors and president of Laurentian University.

The agreement will also have a wider impact, added Allister Surette, co-chairman of the ACUFC and president of Nova Scotia’s Université Sainte-Anne.

“The partnerships and agreements between French and Canadian universities which will emerge from this letter of intent are sure to be beneficial not only for our educational establishments but also for the communities where we live and work.”

The letter of intent builds on a long history of Franco-Canadian mobility, including a longstanding youth mobility agreement to facilitate the movement of 18-35 year olds between the two countries.

A common language means France is a popular study destination for Canadian students, attracting 108,217 for-credit students in 2015. France was the third-largest source of international students for Canada in the same year, sending 20,136 students to study there.

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Vietnam: local enrolments at foreign schools expected to grow after cap removed

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 08:15

The international schools market in Vietnam is expected to see a surge in enrolments following the announcement of a draft decree which will uncap local student enrolments at foreign-invested schools.

The draft decree, which was announced earlier this year, will replace decree 73, which currently enforces a cap on the number of Vietnamese students enrolling at schools below higher education level established through foreign investment.

The cap currently dictates that only 10% of enrolments can be Vietnamese children at primary schools, and 20% at the high school level.

The new draft decree will allow institutions to decide on the ratio of domestic to international students themselves.

“If the government makes the improvements it is planning this will certainly help supply to meet the demand”

Sami Yosef, head of South East Asia research at ISC Research, said that it can be challenging to establish and operate an international school in Vietnam in the existing regulatory climate.

“The country currently ranks 78th in the World Bank Group’s Ease of Doing Business index,” he said. “This, along with the strict restrictions of decree 73, have severely hampered developments for foreign-owned international schools in Vietnam.

“If the government makes the improvements it is planning, including actively supporting education investment, this will certainly help supply to meet the demand.”

The latest ISC market intelligence report for Vietnam shows that growth in the country’s international school market has been relatively slow, restricted by some of the conditions of decree 73.

Between 2011 and 2016, there was an increase in the number of schools from 84 to 109 (29.8%).

The growth is initially expected in student enrolments in the existing foreign-invested institutions, commented Yosef, as spaces will become available for those on waiting lists.

“Then we would expect to see gradual expansion of existing schools and the addition of new foreign-invested international schools, particularly those offering affordable school fees,” he continued.

“Especially if the Vietnamese government takes the expected steps to actively support foreign direct investment in education.”

The decree only applies to those schools which have been set up through foreign investment rather than Vietnamese-owned international schools.

“These schools are in demand but also hard to come by,”  Yosef commented.

Vietnam is a growing student source market across many levels of study for top destination countries. But with more Vietnamese students likely to be enrolled at foreign-invested schools due to the removal of the local student quota, there may be more incentives to stay.

“The government is hoping that more K-12 international school options for local families will encourage more to stay in the country”

“The Vietnamese government is hoping that more K-12 international school options for local families in Vietnam will encourage more families to stay in the country, at least until higher education, if not beyond,” said Phan Manh Hung, the attorney supporting the Vietnamese Ministry of Education and Training to draft the new decree.

Yosef added: “It is certainly reasonable to assume that some families who would have otherwise sent their children abroad for pre-university schooling, will choose to keep them at home and send them to a local foreign-invested international school instead.”

Hung said the cap was a barrier to further development of foreign institutions outside of the most-populated cities in the country, Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City, especially.

The decree also lays out changes for foreign investments in higher education by increasing required minimal investments to around three times the current amount of 300 billion dong ($13,225).

And lecturers at foreign-invested universities will need to hold a degree at master’s level, with around half also holding a doctorate.

The draft decree is expected to be implemented later this year.

The post Vietnam: local enrolments at foreign schools expected to grow after cap removed appeared first on The PIE News.

Tatsuhiko Hoshino, JAOS, Japan

Wed, 05/17/2017 - 04:22
As Japan aims to boost tourism ahead of hosting the 2020 Olympics, the government has implemented a number of initiatives to increase English proficiency in the country. Tatsuhiko Hoshino, executive secretary of the Japan Association of Overseas Studies, tells The PIE how these efforts affect outbound study, and why some new destinations are on the agenda.

The PIE: How has JAOS grown over the past 25 years?

TH: This is our 26th year – last year was our 25th anniversary. In the late 1980s, as our economy was booming, what we call the ‘bubble economy’ happened in Japan from the late 80s to early 90s, like five or six years. And we saw so many Japanese students looking for education overseas at that time, and the number of Japanese going to study abroad increased rapidly.

Naturally, the agency business was kind of created then. As agents sent more students overseas, we had more complaints. The number of the complaints grew, and sometimes they were very serious, and created some problems in our society. Then the government started realising they had to do something to this industry. Before the government stepped in, some of the owners of the study abroad agencies at that time thought it better for us to create some platform so that we could have a dialogue among friendly competitors, to level out our services, make guidelines, and so we could talk to the government. We wanted to say ‘It’s okay for us because we take care of ourselves, look at these guidelines’.

“Outbound numbers hit rock bottom five years ago and agencies suffered”

So JAOS was created in that sense. We only had 10- 15 agencies, but we gradually grew as Japanese students going to study abroad were increasing up until 2001. But after that it decreased. Then it hit rock bottom five years ago, then study [abroad] came back again. So agencies suffered from decreasing student numbers. At that time, we thought we needed something more, on top of just making guidelines.

So we have done several things in the market. One, we created a certification course, a training course for study abroad counsellors. Another thing we did is we created opportunities, and found a place where we can have dialogues [with those] who are in charge of promoting education in Japan like Austrade, Education New Zealand… and we’ve made the dialogue meeting annual. We had this meeting in February, that was I think the 20th anniversary. JAOS members and officers from specific countries came together – one full day – and exchanged information.

The PIE: What was discussed in the last meeting?

TH: The topic we featured was new destinations like the Philippines, because other countries’ officers are very curious about how much that new destination has developed. As a matter of fact, the Philippines is a growing new destination for the Japanese market. Many of our members started sending their students to the Philippines.

The PIE: Why do you think the Philippines is gaining popularity?

TH: One, the majority of instruction is provided on a one-to-one basis, maybe 80% of instruction is individual. But it’s a very reasonable price, maybe half the price of Western countries. And it’s close. So it’s kind of a very good destination for beginners and intermediate students.

The PIE: What other changes are there in the Japanese outbound market?

TH: We see many universities, Japanese universities, sending their students overseas, so in a way, they are rivals to agencies. But we try to have a good relationship with the universities, so that they can outsource to us. But we see that trend, many universities sending their own students.

The PIE: In terms of language study abroad, how much is demand increasing for English overseas?

TH: It’s always there. But our Ministry of Education has decided to change our national entrance exam system, in regards to the English test. So far, we don’t test speaking ability for the entrance examination to universities. But they decided to add a speaking part of the test into that. It will change in five years, so every high school, junior high school, preparatory school is now in the process of changing their teaching methods. So it’s a big thing for Japanese parents and the students. Japan has six years compulsory English study, but yet we cannot speak good English. So it’s going to be changed. So that’s why the Philippines became very popular, one-to-one and training to speak English.

“Changing the English requirement in the national entrance exam is a big thing. It will have a big, big impact”

The PIE: So changes to the national entrance exam are quite significant.

TH: It’s a big thing, it’s like changing the format of the examination for SATs, or something like that. It will have a big, big impact.

The PIE: What else is happening in the market?

TH: Again, our Ministry of Education decided to start English teaching from third grade of elementary school. It’s now fifth grade, but they will make it younger by two years. So it’s changing a lot for English study, because we’re welcoming the Olympic Games and everything.

The PIE: The Japanese government is trying to attract more tourists into the country for the Olympic Games. How does this tie in with language learning?

TH: Our government is very keen to raise Japanese English ability, so one is adding the speaking part to the examinations, and elementary schools’ English classes. Naturally, we need teachers to do that, so teacher training. And our Tokyo metropolitan government is also very keen to build an English village where native speakers come and that particular area is all English. No Japanese allowed! We invite native speaker teachers and everything, so that elementary school, high school trips, they go to that village and they experience native speakers.

The PIE: What do you think will shape the future of the outbound market?

TH: I think we’ll see more and more Japanese going to new destinations like the Philippines or Malaysia. Those who are going to those new destinations tend to be beginners – they are potential students. There are so many potential students, but they used to not study abroad because they may not have confidence or because they don’t have enough money. But now the Philippines and Malaysia are attracting those kind of potential students. It’s good for the current traditional destinations as well, because once they build that confidence in the Philippines or Malaysia, they can move on to other destinations, final destinations, traditional countries.

“Once they build that confidence in the Philippines or Malaysia, they can move on to other traditional destinations”

The PIE: What other motivations are there for Japanese students to learn English?

TH: For the Olympic Games, and the tourists that we are welcoming. Last year, for the first time, there were more than 20 million tourists from overseas. And our government set a new target to double the number by 2020 – so 40 million. And those 20 million don’t come only to Tokyo; other parts of Japan are having more and more tourists. So they suddenly realise the importance of learning English – not only Tokyo, not only Osaka, not only Fukuoka, Nagoya – those major cities. But there are many, many unknown cities, in the countryside of Japan. That’s why they started realising it’s very important for them to learn English. In addition to the Olympic Games.

The PIE: What’s next for JAOS? How do you see the association growing?

TH: Last year, we started working with the British Council. We had a junior summer study campaign run jointly with the British Council, and this is our second year to promote that. So we’d like to have that kind of relationship with other destination countries and agencies like Austrade, Education New Zealand, IALC. We can promote the destinations, we can promote their schools and that impacts Japanese audiences – they think ‘maybe I should go to study abroad’.

The PIE: How did you get involved in international education?

TH: I used an agent when I studied in the United States in California because I had no idea at that time. It was like 35 years ago, no internet, no information. It was very difficult for us. But this particular agent helped me adapt. So I graduated university, I came back to Japan, I was looking for a job, and I applied to agencies. And for this career, I can make use of my experience, English, and everything – that really motivates me.

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