The PIE News http://thepienews.com News and business analysis for Professionals in International Education Wed, 29 Jul 2015 17:02:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.3 UK: work visas up but study extensions down http://thepienews.com/news/uk-work-visas-up-but-study-extensions-down/ http://thepienews.com/news/uk-work-visas-up-but-study-extensions-down/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 16:56:30 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55427 The number of non-EU students allowed to stay and work or continue studying in the UK fell by a third in 2014, despite the number of work-related visa extensions increasing by 13%.

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The number of non-EU students allowed to stay and work or continue studying in the UK fell by a third in 2014, following Home Office measures to crack down on study visa extensions.

Study-related extensions fell by more than a quarter in the year ending March 2015, but still accounted for 84% of the 74,760 visa extensions granted to students in 2014.

Work visas granted to former international students rose by 13% to 7,043 in 2014

The remaining extensions granted to international students were work visas like graduate entrepreneurship and internship visas, which rose by 13% to 7,043 in 2014.

This category includes 5,639 Tier 2 skilled worker visas – over a third more than in 2013. Tier 2 skilled worker visas are granted to students who have job offers from UK employers to earn a minimum of £20,000 annually.

Institution-sponsored applications for study-related visa extensions, which make up the bulk of all applications to extend study, fell largely due to fewer applications for the further education sector, the Home Office said.

Refusals of study-related extensions also increased by 39%.

These trends are likely due to previous falls in the number of visas granted and tightening of regulations including the introduction of interviews to determine whether students are genuine, according to the Home Office.

Further restrictions have been placed on the sector since these statistics were published, meaning that international students at a further education institution will no longer be allowed to extend their visa without returning home first.

The statistics also showed that visa applications sponsored by institutions in the further education sector fell by 11% over the course of the year.

“I can confidently say that the current UK legislation has had an impact on FE colleges’ ability to recruit students, and it has made it much harder for students to get visas,” John Mountford, international director at the Association of Colleges, told The PIE News.

Mountford called for a clearer breakdown of statistics to bring about a better understanding of the FE sector, as it is impossible to tell from the figures whether public or private providers have borne the brunt of this fall.

“There certainly has been a hit on further education, that’s for sure – the extent of it is difficult to tell from the figures,” he said.

“There is lack of clarity from the Home Office around where government further education colleges stop and private colleges start, when it comes to statistics and legislation.”

The number of educational institutions that can sponsor student visas fell by 8% in the year ending 31 March 2015 to 1,543, the majority of which were FE institutions.

Last year, 65 private colleges lost their ability to sponsor Tier 4 student visas in the six-month period following the announcement of a Home Office investigation into immigration fraud in June, after it found that some 45,000 immigrants may have fraudulently obtained English language test certificates.

The Home Office attributed the decrease in the number of sponsoring educational institutions to new accreditation criteria and compliance policy for educational sponsors, introduced in April 2011.

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Navitas reports 13% growth on back of increased HE and ELT enrolments http://thepienews.com/news/navitas-reports-13-growth-on-back-of-increased-he-and-elt-enrolments/ http://thepienews.com/news/navitas-reports-13-growth-on-back-of-increased-he-and-elt-enrolments/#comments Wed, 29 Jul 2015 13:32:23 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55410 The company's ELT, HE and vocational division has also seen a 17% EBITDA increase, mostly due to enrolment growth in North America.

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Global education provider, Navitas, has announced a 13% increase in overall EBITDA in the last full year, due to sustained growth in its professional and English programmes.

The company’s year on year revenue increased from AUS$878.2m to AUS$980.3m while the rise in EBITDA equated to AUS$163.1m in growth.

“Our reputation in this area is strong, and continues to attract students”

The company’s professional and English programmes, which also include higher education and vocational qualifications, saw a 17% increase in EBITDA resulting in a AUS$29.5m gain on last year.

Rod Jones, CEO of Navitas, is bullish that interest in programmes in this division will endure.

“As quality, well established providers, our reputation in this area is strong, and continues to attract students,” he told The PIE News.

Semester two enrolments in university programmes grew for North America – up by 18% in the US and 17% in Canada.

However, the company saw a 13% decrease in enrolments in the UK, saying government changes to visa refusal rate were partly to blame.

“The UK government’s focus on reducing non-EU student numbers is providing us with challenges in achieving growth in this region,” Jones explained.

“We are working hard to manage risk and keep our visa refusal rates low in the UK. We are also working closely with government, and in conjunction with our partners and other providers within the sector, to support positive legislative change.”

Contributing to further growth in this division, the company announced two university agreements with the University of Northampton and Florida Atlantic University.

“We are working hard to manage risk and keep our visa refusal rates low in the UK”

And under a new joint venture model where Navitas and the institution equally invest in pathway colleges, it announced new partnerships with the University of Canberra and the University of Western Sydney.

Elsewhere, the company reported that it will not renew contracts with the Sydney Institute of Business and Technology or Macquarie University which will “impact student enrolments and financial performance for the division” in 2016 and 2017.

According to Jones, however, the loss of earnings “will be made up by growth across the other two divisions [professional and English programmes and the SAE institute group, Navitas’s creative media education subsidiary] as well as additional growth across other university programmes colleges and regions”.

The SAE division alone recorded a 7% increase in EBITDA to AUS$26.1m, and a 23% increase in revenue this year.

For the coming year, Jones said the company’s growth strategy will focus on forging new partnerships in the US, as the demand for international education continues to increase.

“Globally, demand for high quality education remains very strong with the number of students predicted to travel overseas for education set to grow to eight million by 2025,” he said.

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Epigeum launches online HE prep course http://thepienews.com/news/epigeum-launches-online-he-prep-course/ http://thepienews.com/news/epigeum-launches-online-he-prep-course/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 15:51:50 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55389 Epigeum, founded by Imperial College London and partly owned by Oxford University Press, has developed a new EAP course to prepare students for university study under English medium instruction.

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Epigeum, an online course provider founded by Imperial College London and now partly owned by Oxford University Press, has launched a programme that aims to prepare students for English medium instruction at university.

Developed with contributions from the British Council and 25 universities from nine countries, the English for Academic Studies programme is a pre-sessional course for students planning on studying a higher education degree in English.

“A high level of competence in academic English is fundamental in achieving desired student learning outcomes”

The course also provides a toolkit for academic professors who wish to transition to online and blended learning.

“A high level of competence in academic English is fundamental in achieving desired student learning outcomes,” said contributor Siew Mei Wu, from the National University of Singapore.

“English for Academic Studies is an initiative customised to empower students with effective language skills to meet the rigorous demands of their institutions.”

Student modules include “Core academic language: Functions, meaning and grammar” and “Academic identity: Position and voice”.

David Leferve, co-founder and chairman of Epigeum, added that part of the course aims to support teachers to develop online learning.

“The primary audience is the students but people teaching those students, they also need help,” he told The PIE News.

“The idea is that we engage with universities, they get a complete online interactive multimedia course, we train their staff how to teach it and then we offer the whole range of implementation services.”

Course content for teachers includes “Understanding the role and purpose of being an EAP teacher; EAP competencies” and “Teaching online – introduction and practical skills”.

The EAP course is is currently only available to the international students of the contributing universities, including the University of Malaya in Malaysia and Graz University of Technology in Austria. However, Leferve said: “The response has been extremely positive.”

“We’re about to offer it to other universities, and we’re expecting to get quite a significant uptake.”

Epigeum has been providing online courses for universities since 2005, and reportedly develops online content for 95% of Russell Group universities. In May this year, Oxford University Press bought a 17.8% stake in the company from co-founders Imperial Innovations Group for £1.9m in cash.

The company has offices in the UK and US.

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International students aren’t taking Australian jobs, says Hobsons http://thepienews.com/news/international-students-arent-taking-australian-jobs-says-hobsons/ http://thepienews.com/news/international-students-arent-taking-australian-jobs-says-hobsons/#comments Tue, 28 Jul 2015 12:08:26 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55384 Four in five overseas students who study in Australia return home immediately after graduating, a Hobsons survey has revealed. The company has argued that the findings show international students do not pose a threat to Australians' employment opportunities.

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Four in five international students who study in Australia return home immediately after graduating, a survey by student recruitment and conversion specialists Hobsons has revealed. The company has argued that the findings show international students do not pose a threat to domestic graduates’ employment opportunities.

Just 2% of overseas students stay in the country long-term post-graduation, according to the study of 1,026 overseas graduates of Australian universities, while 14% stay for a short period.

“The data found what Hobsons has long known – international students are not taking jobs from Australians”

“The data found what Hobsons has long known – international students are not taking jobs from Australians,” Tanya Perera, Hobsons director of client success, told The PIE News.

“Hobsons knows the immense benefits international students bring to Australia and now have the data to dispel this community perception,” she continued.

International students are a valuable asset to Australia, both in terms of building cultural diversity and global networks in education and from an economic perspective, Perera said.

With strong growth in international student numbers – up 11% last year – international education is Australia’s fourth largest export industry. It added AUS$17.6bn to the economy last year, and supports more than 130,000 jobs nationwide.

As such, stakeholders are keen to demonstrate overseas students’ value to the country.

The survey, which was distributed to graduates via LinkedIn and Facebook, was conducted in response to a “commonly held perception” in Australia that international students are taking the jobs of Australians, Perera explained.

“This is damaging our reputation as a destination for international students and flies in the face of reality,” she said.

“We want to use this data to inform the community so we can begin to change attitudes to international students.”

Australia needs to overhaul its image as a welcoming destination for international students, she argued.

Perera cited rolling media coverage of a series of apparently racially-motivated attacks on international students in Victoria in 2009 that “inflicted some significant damage to our international reputation as a safe and welcoming destination for international students”.

“Hobsons knows the immense benefits international students bring to Australia and now have the data to dispel this community perception”

Higher education stakeholders, government and business must work together to re-shape the way international students are viewed in Australian society and acknowledge and promote the benefits beyond just the economic, she urged.

“Let’s be clear that we are not starting from a position of immense strength, in our perception of being a welcoming nation,” she counselled. “Safe, yes but welcoming, I would say, no.”

For those that do decide to stay in the country, the survey found that graduates felt their Australian degree had improved their employability. Almost two thirds of the graduates surveyed said their employment outcomes had increased a significant or very significant amount thanks to their degree.

In fact, just 4% of respondents felt that it had had no impact on their job prospects.

According to Hobsons, the few students who do decide to remain in Australia present businesses with opportunities to hire talented international graduates.

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Universities UK declares “in” stance in UK’s EU debate http://thepienews.com/news/universities-uk-declares-in-stance-in-uks-eu-debate/ http://thepienews.com/news/universities-uk-declares-in-stance-in-uks-eu-debate/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 15:39:41 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55376 Universities UK has nailed its colours to the mast in the country’s in-out European Union debate by launching its Universities for Europe campaign that aims to inform academic discussions around the issue and empower students to vote.

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The representative body of higher education in the UK, Universities UK, has nailed its colours to the mast in the country’s in-out European Union referendum debate. The organisation has launched a Universities for Europe campaign in a bid to back membership of the EU.

Remaining in the EU makes the UK’s universities “stronger” and contributes to “economic growth, employable graduates and cutting edge research discoveries” argued Julia Goodfellow, president-elect of UUK at the launch today in London.

“The European Union supports research, knowledge, innovation and technology – the factors that will decide future economic growth, productivity and human progress,” she said. “It is in part through our membership of the EU that UK universities are creating employment opportunities and innovations –strengthening the UK’s position in the world.”

“It is in part through our membership of the EU that UK Universities are creating employment opportunities”

Goodfellow underlined that 14% of academic staff in UK universities are from the other European countries while 125,000 EU students studied at UK higher education institutions in 2013, generating £2.27bn and creating 19,000 jobs.

Additionally, the UK receives £1.2bn in European research funding a year and is the largest beneficiary of EU research funds to universities.

“By supporting collaboration and breaking down international barriers, the EU helps UK universities to deliver cutting-edge research and to make discoveries that improve people’s lives and enhance the UK’s global influence.” said Goodfellow.

She was joined by Labour and Conservative MPs who have both come out in favour of the UK’s membership in the EU despite no clear party lines being drawn on the issue yet.

Chuka Umanna, Labour MP and Shadow Secretary of State for Business, Innovation and Skills, argued that the campaign couldn’t be “won by captains of industry or politicians at lecterns lecturing Britain– it needs to be a grassroots bottom up campaign”.

“We need a broad range of faces of the campaign who are authentic, credible and win people over to the cause– not only universities and business but environmental organisations, consumer groups, our creative industries and others,” he said.

Meanwhile, Damian Green, Conservative MP and chairman of the pro-EU group, Conservative European Mainstream, pointed out that not just universities benefit from EU membership.

“The Erasmus scheme means young people from all over Europe can enjoy each other’s cultures and traditions. It is no surprise that young people are among the strongest supporters of Britain remaining in the EU. For them, Europe is home.”

Prime Minister David Cameron has not set a date for the in-out referendum but has said it will be held before the end of 2017. In the meantime, he is holding bilateral talks with EU leaders to negotiate new terms of the country’s membership, including a four-year freeze on benefits for low-skllled EU workers.

Both MPs and Goodfellow conceded that while the European Union isn’t without its faults, a reformed EU would still benefit UK universities.

“We want to get all people in university life involved so it will involve making sure our students can vote in the referendum”

“Of course, we recognise that the EU is far from perfect,” said Goodfellow. “The UK’s International Higher Education Unit is playing an active role in the debate in Brussels. However, for the UK to have significant say in any reforms, we need to commit to a future in the EU.”

Through the campaign, UUK said it wants universities to inform and strengthen discussions around the issue and for campuses to be a place to host public debate.

Speaking with The PIE News, Goodfellow said that despite no official referendum date, UUK is keen to start conversations around the issue.

“We want to get all people in university life involved so it will involve making sure our students can vote in the referendum, and we’ve done that before for the election. We work very closely with our student unions to make sure that that happens,” she said.

“We want more debates on campus, we want to empower our academic staff to work in very relevant areas across the whole breadth of attitudes toward the EU to come out and speak their minds.”

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Accord to protect HE in conflict zones http://thepienews.com/news/accord-to-protect-he-in-conflict-zones/ http://thepienews.com/news/accord-to-protect-he-in-conflict-zones/#comments Mon, 27 Jul 2015 12:21:52 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55360 University leaders from around the world convened this month to sign the York Accord: an agreement laying out the principles for safeguarding higher education in conflict regions.

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University leaders and academics from around the world convened this month to formulate and sign the York Accord: a first-of-its-kind agreement laying out the principles for safeguarding higher education in conflict regions.

The University of York hosted the meeting in the UK, in collaboration with Brookings Doha Center and the Institute of International Education, whose Scholar Rescue Fund has supported fellowships enabling more than 600 threatened scholars from 53 countries to continue their work in safety at partner institutions worldwide.

A series of violent attacks on academic institutions around the world in recent months lent urgency to the meeting

It welcomed representatives from countries that have been affected by violence including Liberia, Kenya, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria.

A series of violent attacks on academic institutions around the world in recent months lent urgency to the meeting.

Almost 150 people – mostly students – were killed at Garissa University College in Kenya by al-Shabab militants in April. In Iraq, nearly 500 academics have been assassinated and campuses have been looted during the post-war violence.

“Higher education institutions should be safeguarded as inclusive, open spaces where challenging ideas are debated and diversity is accepted without resorting to violence,” the accord states.

It calls upon “state and non-state armed actors” to treat universities as “neutral, safe spaces during conflict, and to ensure that higher education communities are physically secure and free from intimidation”.

It recommends the establishment of national, regional and internationally legally responsible bodies to investigate attacks on higher education, as well as a Rapid Response Mechanism for Higher Education to “mitigate the effects of conflict and ensure students can return to university quickly”.

In the document, states and higher education institutions are instructed to review and update the procedures they have in place in case of emergencies.

A letter detailing the accord’s key recommendations will be sent to the United Nations Special Envoy on Global Education, Gordon Brown.

“We are targeting the higher institutions in the first place but we would like Gordon Brown to take it on board,” commented Sultan Barakat, Director of Research at the Brookings Doha Center.

“My hope is that universities can really stand by those which are affected by conflict in a way that demonstrates an awareness of their cirumstances, but also an understanding of the potential that exists for proper and mutual collaboration,” he urged.

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How have the new SELT rules at sub-degree level impacted the UK sector? http://thepienews.com/analysis/how-have-the-new-selt-rules-impacted-the-uk-sector/ http://thepienews.com/analysis/how-have-the-new-selt-rules-impacted-the-uk-sector/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 15:46:29 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55339 On April 6, the UK government announced that it was reducing the number of approved providers of Secure English Language Tests – those that can be used to support a visa application for sub-degree applications – from four to two. Beckie Smith assesses the impact. 

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The SELT shake-up has been a topic of conversation this summer, with sudden changes meaning IELTS is now the only approved global provider of Secure English Language Tests for students seeking to obtain a visa to enter the UK and study at sub-degree level, while Trinity College London can also provide SELTs but only in the UK, for students already onshore.

Universities – free to determine their own criteria for entry and use a vouching system to sponsor Tier 4 visas – are in fact unaffected by the new SELT legislation, but the impact on the FE and private language sectors and ensuing uncertainty in the marketplace has been notable.

As well as restricting who can offer SELTs, the regulations also stipulate that SELT centres must be operated directly by test providers – an additional security measure aiming to cut opportunities for fraud.

This has led to the number of centres where students can sit a SELT in the UK dropping to 20, while the global number has been slashed from upwards of 15,000 to around 110 IELTS SELT centres, making capacity a major concern.

In Japan, for example, there are only two SELT centres, while there are just 12 in a country the size of China.

This includes just one in Beijing, despite lobbying by education agencies for greater provision in the capital.

In the first two months following the regulatory change, limited capacity in the UK meant that some students struggled to book exams at a nearby test centre. With demand particularly high in the south and southeast of England, some were offered spots in Belfast in Ireland, Birmingham in the Midlands and Portsmouth in the southwest instead.

However, efforts to increase capacity appear to be paying off; English UK, for example, is now receiving far fewer complaints about capacity than it did in early June, according to Huan Japes, its deputy chief executive, professional services.

“Agencies claimed a vast majority of students will be unable to make their visa appointment or start the autumn semester in time”

But in China, concerns are more deep-seated, according to Jon Santangelo, communications director at the Beijing Overseas Study Services Association.

At a conference, “agencies claimed a vast majority of students will be unable to make their visa appointment or start the autumn semester in time,” he told The PIE News.

“Students are now turning to Australia for IELTS-accepting schools while some are switching to the US.”

And an FE college stakeholder who preferred to remain anonymous told The PIE the new rules were impacting September enrolments for vocational courses.

“Our agents are telling us… it’s the risk of travel to a SELT centre, the risk that they might not then get the school that they need, so it’s all those costs and time of travel. If it was easier they’d be prepared to take the chance and have another go – but it’s just not worth the risk. And Canada will open its arms to them much more easily.”

Some schools have been hit particularly hard, with former SELT centres seeing test takers plummet by 30-50%

However, Alex Proudfoot, chief executive of private FE and HE body Study UK, said that despite having been “sceptical” about IELTS’ ability to meet capacity needs, he has yet to hear of any major issues.

Meanwhile, the Home Office, which determines the locations of SELT centres, gave assurances that “sufficient capacity is in place to meet current demand, even during the busiest periods of the year”.

“In addition to the permanent SELT centres, there are also 84 mobile centres available around the world which offer tests in more remote locations,” a spokesperson told The PIE News.

The Home Office gave assurances that “sufficient capacity is in place to meet current demand, even during the busiest periods of the year”

And IELTS has doubled places in some of its most high-demand locations such as Shanghai and Qatar for August, typically a busy period, though this does not address the issue of location.

“Of course, we are monitoring demand very closely and if we do find areas where provision is inadequate, we will discuss this with UKVI,” Victoria Sellar, IELTS SELT Consortium concession manager, told The PIE News.

Students are not the only party to be affected by the changes; following the announcement that IELTS exams delivered through independent centres would no longer be classified as SELT, many language schools saw their test centre business fall overnight.

The number of test takers across EUK’s 30 member schools that act as IELTS test centres is down around 18%, Japes reported, though a small percentage of this is due to lower enrolment figures overall.

Some schools have been hit particularly hard, with former SELT centres seeing test takers plummet by 30-50%.

The impact of the changes has no doubt been amplified by the speed with which they came about, leaving centres little opportunity to adjust.

“The examination centres were suddenly presented with this decision, and were not given any due warning, so there’s a question of transparency”

“There’s a problem certainly with the examination centres themselves, which were suddenly presented with this decision, and were not given any due warning really, so there’s a question of transparency there,” Japes said.

Earlier this year, Crest Schools of English, one of EUK’s members, closed its doors after three decades of teaching, citing the new SELT rules as one of a number of factors.

Though Japes said that EUK has no immediate fears about any further closures, many other schools have felt overwhelmed by constant policy changes affecting international students. Many in the FE and private ELT sector feel that policy adjustments are creating an ever greater divide between them and the HE sector, which continues to accept all IELTS test results as usual.

“We’re all exhausted with these changes, and I don’t think either people like myself or professional bodies – certainly not the Home Office or [the Department for] Business, Innovation and Skills – have caught up,” said Mark Allen, international manager at Sussex Downs College.

“I think 6 April is really a tipping point where we’ve really started to push people too hard”

“I think 6 April is really a tipping point where we’ve really started to push people too hard,” Allen said.

For John Mountford, international director at the UK’s representative body of state FE providers, the Association of Colleges, the main gripe is that rules targeting FE institutions “doesn’t really reflect on the quality of the sponsor”.

“These opportunities should be based on your performance, not on your sector,” he said. “To have this blanket licence for universities to use their own tests or use tests as they feel appropriate doesn’t really reflect the quality of the work the FE sector does.”

“There is definitely, in my opinion, a lack of understanding of the quality of our sector; and more particularly of our quality as sponsors,” he elaborated.

“We are very regulated, we do take a very robust approach to things like attendance and performance.”

Nevertheless, there is some optimism that the worst is over, and IELTS has said that it will continue to endeavour to adapt as needed.

“We have always managed the IELTS centre network dynamically to enable us to meet test takers’ needs, and this is no different for the SELT tests,” Sellar said.

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Renè M. Du Terroil, Badgir, Iran http://thepienews.com/pie-chat/rene-m-du-terroil-badgir-iran/ http://thepienews.com/pie-chat/rene-m-du-terroil-badgir-iran/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 13:40:46 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55305 Going to Iran makes a statement of rejecting propaganda and stereotypes and then afterwards when people come back they become an advocate for reality

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Renè M. Du Terroil is co-founder of Badgir, an NGO that organises educational tours and language immersion trips around Iran. With more than six years’ experience working in and travelling to the country, he’s eager to share its culture and history. As international relations with the country thaw, he’s optimistic more students and faculty will get that opportunity.

The PIE: Tell me how you got involved with bringing study tours to Iran.

RDT: For the last 16 or 17 years I’ve worked in international education in the Mediterranean, mainly based in Italy.

I’ve always had an interest and a desire to work further in the Middle East but many of the places where I wanted to work, for example Egypt, or in Lebanon were already kind of saturated with big established names and programmes. I’ve always had a lifelong interest in Iran through family, friends, through people I knew, through my interest in the region.

So in 2009, I had a sabbatical year and I went to Iran and I started doing the basic research for taking faculty to Iran on kind of like fam trips, in the hope that one day I could do a student tour. Over the last six years of going to back to Iran, I’ve now worked with and for a couple of major tour operators. I do student recruiting as well, Iranian students going abroad. And in creating all of this network, I’ve created the basis by which we can start bringing faculty administrators and students to Iran on study tours.

The PIE: What does Iran have to offer for students or faculty going there?

“You have this very distinct identity of what Iran means and what it means to be Iranian”

RDT: First and foremost, going to Iran makes both a political and cultural statement, in the sense that the isolation that Iran has found itself in in the last 36 years reflects the isolation that other countries have had from Iran for 36 years as well. It’s very much starting a new chapter, starting a dialogue, people breaking down stereotypes, prejudices and boundaries which have been imposed by the media, by governments and by propaganda on both sides. So I think that’s the first part.

The second part is that it is a country as rich, if not richer than Italy, where you have this crossroads of civilisations and the idea of a very old nation. So you have this very distinct identity of what Iran means and what it means to be Iranian.

I think these are very interesting things for people to see in a region especially where identities are so fragmented and so fragile. In terms of being Iranian, or even within Iran, let’s say ethnic groups and religions also have very strong identities, but at the same time they are Iranian. So the Jewish community of Iran, are Iranian and Jewish. The same with Armenian, Azeri and Kurdish communities. It’s not one before the other or one against the other. This also leads to being able to look at lots of different topics in Iran, urban development, problems in climate change and agriculture, women’s studies, even the history of the Islamic republic, and then of course the obvious things, architecture and archaeology.

The PIE: How has the government reacted to you doing this?

RDT: It comes under the authority of the cultural heritage organisation. They’re purely tourism but we are looking at very specific things in these tours.

The PIE: Do you have any partnerships with universities there?

RDT: At the moment we have lecturers, but no there are no relationships with the universities.

The PIE: Tell me about the students you recruit out of Iran, what are they looking for?

RDT: They’re looking for a job, they’re looking for a career, they’re looking to establish themselves abroad, and they’re very interested in the opportunity cost of the education that they’re seeking. For example, right now Italy has become an interesting destination for Iranian students because there are a large number of English language MA programmes and PhD programmes and Italy, interestingly enough, is a very good cultural fit coming from Iran.

“Students get opportunities to use the language, hear the language, to see the language in use in parts of the country where travellers don’t usually go”

So it’s a very easy adjustment at the same time, they’re in the EU and so should things work out afterwards and they start to work and get residency, it’s very nice because then it allows them to flow back and forth. They don’t talk about the concept of being a transnational citizen anymore, but I think this is much more the trend of the future. Before you had students from “developing nations”, when going to school was like abandoning their country. Rather today, it’s much more career-oriented but still having that continuous connection through the gift of tech and the ease of transportation.

The PIE: Are you familiar with Iranian students coming to the US?

RDT: Yes, a lot of students will go to certain countries often times because they are pathways that have already been established. There’s like a family pathway, or someone from their town has gone there. Like our family or people from our town, we went to school at the University of X at California. It’s kind of like that tradition.

In the US, it’s kind of changing a little bit, and difficult to say what decision because of how the immigration laws and visa status has changed, so very often if they do have family in the US, it might be harder for them to study there. That’s one of the reasons why Canada is a very popular choice for Iranian students because they offer all of these pathways to work permits and permanent status because they’re actually looking to their international students to become the engineers and the researchers and the doctors of the Canada of tomorrow.

The PIE: Is language ever an issue?

RDT: We can have a faculty member who is one of the tour leaders so there is a tour leader who obviously speaks English and the programmes are all customised to the requirements of either the institution or the group of people who decided to come to visit Iran.

“Canada is a very popular choice for Iranian students because they offer all of these pathways to work permits and permanent status”

The PIE: How long are the tours usually?

RDT: On average about two weeks. Nine days is the minimum we can do and we have a three week programme which is what I call a Persian version tour. It’s basically a tour where students of Persian Farsi only speak Farsi during the full trip.

I based it on what they already do in Iran, since it’s so hard for Iranian students to go abroad and almost impossible for them to go abroad to study English. They go on vacation in their own country and it’s like an English only bus trip for like a week, and so it’s taking that same principle. Students get opportunities to use the language, hear the language, to see the language in use in parts of the country where travellers don’t usually go.

The PIE: Are some of the programmes you do credit-bearing for universities?

RDT: It depends on the organisation that has asked to organise the programme, like with all these types of things, that credit is all something that happens with the organising institution and whatever work the students might do is usually completed afterwards, so they might do like a prep somewhere, for like a week like in Istanbul, come to Iran for two weeks and then go back to Istanbul to decompress. Or start in Dubai, come to Iran, and then go back to Dubai. We are looking for those to start in January or in the summer of 2016.

“It’s so hard for Iranian students to go abroad and almost impossible for them to go abroad to study English”

The PIE: Are you optimistic following the regime change in Iran, that it will open up?

RDT: In 2013, there was a presidential election and President Rouhani is the new president. And one of the big things that the new government is promoting is increasing tourism. So for most nationalities, they can actually get the visa at the airport and they’re actually updating the policy right now so that you can renew the visa and stay longer. Tourism for the Iranian market right now is driven primarily from Europe, Italy being one of the main countries for tourists to Iran, as well as a large number of Chinese tourists

I really think that going to Iran makes a statement of rejecting propaganda and stereotypes and then afterwards when people come back they become an advocate for reality. I think tourism is the first step in change, I think universities and studying and all this type of thing, this is something that will happen, but small steps at a time. There are already lots of European students and Asian students who study in Iran. There are several universities that have Persian language and culture programmes, and they go on those programmes. Small numbers but they exist.

The PIE: Do you think the US/Iran nuclear agreement will have an impact on mobility into and out of Iran?

RDT: At the moment I would say it is too soon to tell, there are lots of events that still have to transpire and the effect of the end of sanctions on the economy are hard to predict in terms of the exchange rate, inflation and consumer confidence.

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McGraw-Hill grows digital learning through busuu investment http://thepienews.com/news/mcgraw-hill-education-grows-digital-learning-through-busuu-investment/ http://thepienews.com/news/mcgraw-hill-education-grows-digital-learning-through-busuu-investment/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 13:21:07 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55309 Educational publishing powerhouse, McGraw-Hill Education, has expanded its reach into the digital language learning sector by purchasing a minority equity stake in social learning platform, busuu.

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Educational publishing powerhouse, McGraw-Hill Education, has expanded its reach into the digital language learning sector by purchasing a minority equity stake in social learning platform, busuu.

The €6m ($6.5m) investment was announced officially last week and will expose McGraw-Hill to busuu’s base of worldwide consumer users, while McGraw-Hill Education will help the language learning platform to further develop technologically.

“The exciting thing for us is to help busuu focus on job number one which is the core business”

Under the agreement, McGraw-Hill Education will also have the exclusive rights to distribute busuu in the B2B space, including selling it to schools, private language providers and universities.

Launched in 2008, busuu is the largest social network for language learning, now with over 55 million users.

The platform provides both free and paid-for courses in 12 different languages and gives learners the opportunity to directly interact with native speakers.

Although the service is growing significantly around the world, with 100,000 new users signing up every day, Mark Dorman, president of international and professional at McGraw-Hill Education, said the company is keen to help busuu extend its reach.

“The exciting thing for us is to help busuu focus on job number one which is the core business,” he told The PIE News.

“We have this great geographic reach for them in that institutional market that it would be hard for them to get on their own. I think the combination of the two companies will be really powerful.”

McGraw-Hill Education will also be exploring how to integrate adaptive learning into busuu services.

Bernhard Niesner, CEO and founder of busuu, explained that the agreement with an education publishing heavyweight adds an “additional distribution channel for busuu.”

“McGraw-Hill Education enjoys excellent relationships and a great reputation with universities and schools around the world,” he told The PIE News.

“busuu gets the opportunity to explore adding some of McGraw-Hill Education’s technology, which was developed with an investment of millions of dollars, to its consumer products.”

“People accessing content and learning are doing it more and more to mobile devices”

According to Dorman, McGraw-Hill Education has been making the transition to digital “pretty aggressively over the last few years”.

With two thirds of busuu’s users accessing the content through mobile technology, he said it was an attractive investment for them to continue the transition.

“People accessing content and learning are doing it more and more to mobile devices,” he said.

“They give us a great access to consumer market that is really focused on learning, particularly language learning, which is a growing and increasingly important segment.”

The deal is the latest in a series of investments busuu has won in the last seven years. In 2012 it received $4.7m in a series A investment from PROfounders Capital and private investors. Previously, it received angel investments of undisclosed amounts from Spanish and Australian investors.

In 2014, it entered into a strategic partnership with Pearson English that gave its users access to Pearson’s online test, gSET.

 

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Awards celebrate excellence in BC int’l education http://thepienews.com/news/awards-celebrate-excellence-in-bc-intl-education/ http://thepienews.com/news/awards-celebrate-excellence-in-bc-intl-education/#comments Fri, 24 Jul 2015 12:42:30 +0000 http://thepienews.com/?p=55310 The British Columbia Council for International Education announced the winners of its annual international education awards at its conference in Whistler last month.

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Fraser International College, British Columbia’s largest pathway provider, has won the BC Council for International Education’s Outstanding Program in International Education Award, in BCCIE’s 2015 awards celebrating excellence in the sector.

FIC won the accolade for its Peer Education Program, a tutorial course including skills workshops and opportunities to gain volunteering and leadership experience.

The annual awards were presented at the BCCIE Summer Seminar in Whistler last month.

“This unexpected recognition of the work that I have been privileged to be a part of is somewhat overwhelming”

The Excellence in International Education Marketing Award went to the marketing team at Bodwell High School, led by assistant director of admissions Boris Remes, for their “persistence, hard work, skillful relationship building, and creative marketing efforts to reach a diverse international audience”.

“Boris and his team have shown what successful international marketing can accomplish when done well and with integrity, honesty and dedication to their students, colleagues, and peers,” a BCCIE spokesperson said.

Meanwhile, the 2015 Lifetime Achievement Award went to Margaret Froese, programme coordinator for Simon Fraser University’s Office of International Education, for her work in post-secondary education.

“I am deeply honored and humbled to receive this award,” commented Froese, whose career spans over 35 years, and who coordinates more than 100 programmes at SFU.

“This unexpected recognition of the work that I have been privileged to be a part of is somewhat overwhelming.”

Dave Paul, former assistant superintendent at Surrey Schools, was the winner of the International Education Distinguished Leadership Award.

Paul’s work with the school district included helping with initiatives to establish cultural awareness events in district schools; creating a district-wide post-secondary international student fair; and providing free English programmes for the parents of international students.

Jobin Mojtabavi, director of student services at Fairleigh Dickinson University’s Vancouver Campus, was recognised as an up-and-coming leader in the sector and received the Award for Rising Star in International Education.

Moajtabavi was lauded for his organisation of a pre-arrival online orientation programme for international students, who make up 90% of FDU’s students .

International education is BC’s fourth largest export sector, generating over 25,500 jobs and CAN$2.3bn for the province in 2012/13.

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