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US State Dept backs virtual college fairs

The US Department of State’s Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs is partnering with CollegeWeekLive, an online platform which provides video conferencing facilities and resources for prospective students, to deliver a series of virtual college fairs to entice more international students to study in the US.

CollegeWeekLive hopes to reach up to 90,000 international students with its events in the 2014/15 academic year.

“Our official partnership with the US Department of State/EducationUSA will be expanding the reach of our events even further”

Four events will take place over the next three months, including the flagship annual International Student Day global fair, which last year drew a record 22,000 participants, who made more than 55,000 ‘booth visits’ to the 104 participating universities.

“We are hopeful that thousands of students from around the world will take part”

Regional fairs on offer include for the first time an event targeted at European, Middle Eastern and African students on October 1, and the Latin America Students Day on October 14 will receive an an additional boost from the White House as part of the 100,000 Strong in the Americas initiative.

“We are hopeful that thousands of students from around the world will take part in the fairs,” Meghann Curtis, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Academic Programmes at the Department of State, told The PIE News.

“A virtual fair is not limited by any space constraints, allowing thousands of international students and hundreds of US higher education representatives to interact at the same time,” she explained.

The success of previous fairs has been such that the State Department now considers them “equally important” as traditional events as a means to provide prospective international students with information about applying to US institutions, Curtis noted

The public-private partnership was formalised in May this year.

“Our official partnership with the US Department of State/EducationUSA will be expanding the reach of our events even further,” Marty Bennett, Manager of International Partnerships at CollegeWeekLive, told The PIE News.

As well as reducing overheads for institutions and enabling them to reach more students, virtual fairs also increase access and flexibility for students, for whom attendance is free. Curtis noted that around 40% of last year’s 83,000 international student attendees logged on using mobile devises, Bennett said.

CollegeWeekLive aims to reach nearly 90,000 international students through its seven fairs over the course of the 2014-15 academic year, and expects to hit one million sign-ups by the end of 2014, of which around 30% are international students.

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