UK Visa Regulation

There is no doubt that the UK education sector has noticed the difference made by the tightening of UK visa regulations in recent years. As part of the Government’s strategy to reduce immigration, rules regarding student visas have become more strict and schools, colleges and universities have been forced to reduce their ability to sponsor students and undergo new accreditations to maintain their sponsorship status. This is mainly due to the government’s inclusion of non-EU students in their migration figures.

Edinburgh School of English, as a highly trusted sponsor, naturally applied to undergo these new inspections and this was completed recently by Education Scotland, the regulatory body for Scottish state and independent schools. Provisionally, we have passed! This should mean that we will still be able to sponsor students to come to study with us on the Tier 4 general student visa, in addition to the existing Student Visitor Visa (SVV) or Extended Student Visitor Visa.

In many ways we as a school are quite lucky. We focus on intensive language courses – which inherently means that many of our students stay for just a few weeks and therefore only require an SVV. But, we, like many other English language schools, receive students who either wish to study for longer, or students going on to Higher Education and need to be on a Tier 4 to be sponsored by us and then by their chosen university. Currently, students on an SVV must leave the country if they wish to alter the the status of their visa, which is inconvenient and expensive should they be coming back to do a university/college course – and this is putting off many foreign students from coming to the UK in the first place.

Therefore, I welcome the recent push by Damian Green to counteract the negative perceptions of the Visa tightening, insisting that non-EU nationals are welcome in the UK (BBC, 26th June). Mr. Green is correct, the UK has some of the best universities in the world and to remain great, they must continue to attract a global audience of the best students and it is wholly correct that we should do all we can to attract the best international talent.

However, as pointed out in forum groups focused on EFL, the main focus of this drive seems to be on universities – forgetting about FE colleges and language schools.

What is interesting is that FE Colleges and Language schools actually act as feeders into Universities – either helping students obtain a Level 3 or 4 Foundation diploma, or perhaps gaining IELTS at 5.5 or above to ensure their conditional offer to University is accepted. I feel, as do many others, that the Government should not overlook this when considering the bigger picture. Universities may mean more to the UK economy – but they will not maintain this level of revenue if the feeder colleges and schools are not able to suitably prepare students – as they no longer have students to prepare!

It has been reported by the PIE news, that David Cameron is considering a U-Turn by stopping the inclusion of students in his net Migration statistics – no doubt as a result of pressure from Universities, who say that this inclusion could cost the UK economy £2.4 billion.

It would be great to see this U-Turn happen. But, I would hope that Mr. Cameron realises that the £2.4 billion loss is contributed to by other sectors in education and not just Universities and will thus reconsider his stance for the whole International Education Industry in the UK.

I think it will be costly if he does not!

– Jerry

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English Speaking Universities

I have read with interest the recent news, reported by the BBC that the Politecnico di Milano, one of Italy’s leading Universities is now switching the majority of its Undergraduate courses and all of it’s Graduate courses from Italian Language to English.

The University’s rector, Giovanni Azzone states that if the University wishes to remain visible on the world stage, then it simply must adopt the English language.

Citing that English is now the language of higher education, particularly in science and engineering internationally, and with it being the international language for business, graduates will become more employable, research will be more widely shared and the best international students and professors will be attracted to the University.

Thus, I presume, ensuring the continued success of the University.

Additionally, pointing out the increased competition from wealthy American and Asian universities, Mr. Azzone suggests that to effectively compete with these, students must use English.

I believe it to be a shrewd move by the the University and, to me, this all makes perfect sense. I see it as the University simply reacting to the increasingly globalised world that we all now live in.

Like any good business, they are adapting to fit the new needs that are fast emerging, ensuring that they stay ahead of the game – and being the first Italian University to do this, they should be well ahead in 5 or 10 years time compared to their Italian counterparts.

Many Northern European universities already teach in English and enjoy excellent Erasmus schemes with other Universities and don’t distinguish based on language. Thus, they already receive top talent and are able to be ranked higher for research as this is in English.

This realisation of the global language is something that Edinburgh School of English has advocated for a long time. The communication skills workshops we run are specifically designed to help students use English in international teams and build confidence in English, focusing on performance, fluency and accuracy. Furthermore, incorporating student interests and focuses, we keep classes topical and relevant to the student, leading to a higher level of applied skill when outwith the classroom.

We aim to to help our students perform to the best of their ability on the world stage!

It is my thought that as more Universities and businesses enforce an English Language requirement, communication focused English courses such as ours will become ever more in demand as parents and students alike realise the opportunities this opens to them and the need to remain competitive in ever increasing competition.

We’ll see what happens in 5-10 years time…!

Jerry