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Cameron expands Science Without Borders, UK

UK prime minister, David Cameron, has expanded Brazil’s Science without Borders scholarship programme in the UK to include pre-sessional English courses, following reports students were being turned away after failing English entry tests.

Along with added PhD funding the courses will be worth £20 million to UK education

From 2013, English courses of up to three and six months will be offered to ensure students meet the language requirements of the UKBA – which were raised last year – but also the often higher standards of universities.

In August, 100 Brazilians who failed to pass the entry test opted to study in the US

Along with new PhD funding the courses will be worth an extra £20million to the UK education sector.

Catriona Finlayson, head of communications and public affairs at the UK HE International Unit, which oversees the UK leg of the programme, said: “What we found in the first round of applications was that there were a lot of very talented students academically, but they were not quite meeting the English level requirements.

“The pre-sessional give them a chance to get their scores up to the required level.”

Some 101,000 students are due to take part in Science Without Borders over the next four years, which places talented Brazilian students on undergraduate and PhD sandwich courses and full length PhDs at top universities around the world.

The UK hopes to welcome 10,000 students, however demand has been lower than expected due to confusion over visas and the tougher English requirements introduced in 2011 to weed out bogus students. Times Higher Education reported in August that 130 Brazilians who failed their entry test opted to study in the US, which sets no minimum language requirement level to obtain a student visa.

Finlayson claimed the pre-sessionals were primarily needed to help students meet the higher English level required by UK universities in the programme, which hovers around IELTS 6. However, she said that of 1,000 first-round applicants 200 had failed to meet UKBA minimum standard.

“If students do not meet the English language requirements they will not be able to take up their course”

The move is clearly promising for UK ELT, although a list of providers to benefit is yet to be firmed up. However, it is not a given that all students will progress to degrees.

Said Finlayson: “If students do not meet the English language requirements [after their pre-sessional] they will not be able to take up their course although they will be carefully selected so that they will benefit from the pre-sessional English training.”

Speaking in Brazil last week, David Cameron also announced extra funding for PhD students on the UK programme of £5,000 per year. With the pre-sessionals, this raises the total value of Science Without Borders to the UK to £200 million, up from £180 million.

Among other destinations participating in the programme are the US, which hopes to take up to 16,000 students, Canada 12,000 and France 10,000. So far, just 580 students are scheduled to take up places in the UK this year, compared with 2,000 for the US and more than 1,000 for Canada.

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