Category: UK

How can universities enhance the experience of their international students?

“International students spend most of their time outside the classroom. We can’t leave that experience to chance”

What are the challenges and what are universities doing to make sure they meet the needs of their overseas cohort? These were some of the questions asked at Universities UK’s conference on Enhancing the International Student Experience.

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Beckie Smith is senior reporter at The PIE News and manages The PIE Blog. To get in touch, email beckie[@]thepienews.com.

“Perhaps the scales are tipping”: women in UK HE senior leadership – a personal perspective

“I firmly believe that if I had stayed in India, I would not have achieved what I have managed to here in the UK”

Sonal Minocha, pro-vice chancellor for global engagement at Bournemouth University, writes about her experience of being a woman in a senior leadership position, and how her experience might be different if she’d stayed in India.

This tweet, the data it highlights, and the very persuasively presented blog, together made me think – perhaps consciously for the first time – of how privileged I am to be a product of UK Higher Education. My career, both as a student and a staff member, has thankfully defied the allegations and statistics that this article summarises.

So let me give you my personal context – I am Indian by origin – born and brought up in Delhi, and my first time away from India was as an international student to Newcastle in 2001. I am (or at least was then) very much a migrant, a foreigner, an ethnic minority!
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Sonal Minocha is Pro-Vice Chancellor for Global Engagement at Bournemouth University.

Brexit might not deter students, but it could devastate global faculty and research

“The lifting of the cap has inadvertently made international strategies more real – at least when it comes to student diversity. Would a so-called Brexit end all of that? I don’t think so”

The lifting of the cap on student numbers at UK universities led many institutions to rethink their recruitment and internationalisation policies, with many putting greater efforts into recruiting students from within the EU than before, writes Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading. Here he looks at how this has led to growth in European student numbers, and asks: how would this change if the UK were to leave the EU?

The focus of the majority of UK university international strategies for the past 20 years or so has been fee income growth. Constrained within a highly regulated system with strict limits on domestic students, the only way universities could grow was to recruit (unregulated) international fee paying students. As well as adding to the diversity of our universities and the quality of student experience, these international students brought income which allowed our universities to grow and develop, appoint new faculty and build new and better facilities.
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.

Is it time for Gilligan II?

“The target for the UK’s market share proposed by the British Council in 2000 was 25% by 2005 – a fantasy figure which just didn’t see the competition coming”

Universities’ international marketing strategies have no doubt grown smarter in the 15 years since an influential report on the subject was published, writes Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading – but as competition stiffens and the challenges facing UK HE change, is it time for a new one?

It’s been 15 years since Professor Colin Gilligan published his report for the British Council on international marketing and student recruitment practices within UK universities. The Gilligan Report challenged UK universities to professionalise their marketing activity and to meet the opportunity of growing international student intakes.
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.

I was a rookie teacher and had no confidence – so I came to London

“I was told I’d love it here and no account to book a return flight. Of course I didn’t listen and had to cancel it a few weeks later!”

Kimberley Poon, a supply teacher in London with Prospero Teaching, writes about making the big move from Australia to England to teach, and why braving the journey to the other side of the world – despite dubious encouragement from some of her friends – was worth it.

“Wow, you’re going to London!”

“If you can teach in London. you can teach anywhere.”

What would a translation app have made of my colleagues’ good wishes? “You’re crazy! You’ll be eaten alive by British kids.” Thanks, guys!

It was a fair point, though. Why was I leaving Australia straight after graduation to put myself at the mercy of the English education system – something I knew almost nothing about?

My last term at university in Melbourne had been a tough one for personal reasons. And in the education faculty, our heads had been filled with warnings about the near-impossibility of achieving a work-life balance in teaching. Burn-out was the risk, we were repeatedly warned: “Sixty per cent of you won’t make it beyond five years in teaching.”

Encouraging. Not.

I’d dreamed of being teacher since I was 13; it was all I had ever wanted to do. And I just knew that I was a prime candidate for burn-out. I would give it my all because, temperamentally, I didn’t know how not to.

I was in line for two full-time teaching jobs back home but decided half-way through my interviews that the right way into the profession for me was to work part-time as a supply teacher.

I needed to take it gently and start by boosting my confidence so I had more faith in my own abilities before I took the plunge in a full-time post.

By chance, I found a flier for a British-based teacher recruitment agency and got in touch. And I know I simply wouldn’t have come to the UK without Paddy, the recruitment consultant they teamed me up with in London.

I can get pretty anxious and at this point I was still dithering about whether or not it was a good idea to come to Britain.

Eventually, with much encouragement and calming of nerves from Patrick, I decided to come over – for three months. Patrick said I’d love it here and told me on no account to book a return flight. Of course I didn’t listen and had to cancel it a few weeks later!

So here I was in London, faced with the prospect of my first teaching post. I was still not feeling at all confident in my abilities – I had only just finished my teacher training, after all, and my final school placement in my last term hadn’t gone particularly well and had shaken what self-belief I had.

But straight away in London, I was already experiencing a new sense of independence and personal growth. Back home I lived with my family; here I was an adult building a new life in an unfamiliar city.

And I think London schools are incredible. It’s quite a shock being in such a complex culture, with so many accents to get used to. At home, the area I come from is not very diverse, so this is a new – and exciting – experience for me.

“At home, the area I come from is not very diverse, so this is a new – and exciting – experience for me”

And the range of school types in Britain is so different to Australia. I have taught in public schools (which are actually fee-paying and not free at all), free schools (part of the state sector but free of local authority control), academies (similar to free schools) and Church of England schools. It has been so interesting to see all the different ways teachers plan their classes and the approaches they take.

And as I acquired so much new experience in such contrasting types of school in a very short space of time, I began to find my feet.

Gradually, I began to feel I was missing out on the continuity of seeing the kids through the learning process. So for the last half term I’ve been doing a job share at a school where I’ve been doing supply cover for a while. And I’m working the rest of the week, too, in supply roles.

With the teacher over-supply situation at home getting worse, a lot of my friends have still not got jobs whereas here there’s as much work as I want.

Some of my friends in Australia are doing supply teaching. But, unlike me, their work isn’t guaranteed. In London, once I’ve said which days I’m available, the agency finds me work – or pays me off. It’s a win-win situation.

I’ve made life-long friends among other Aussies in London working for the same agency. We hang out together a lot. The agency let five of us take time off together to do a tour of the Baltic and Russia. It was fantastic.

So, having cancelled my flight home, I’ve been in the UK for two years. And I want more of it. I’m now looking for ways to stay on here. Any ideas?

Hopes and aspirations: upholding the UK’s education brand

“Even my own mother called me to check that I’d not been working for what effectively had been depicted as a student battery farm”

Alex Causton-Ronaldson, Marketing & Communications Manager at the London School of Business and Management, writes on the importance of upholding the UK education sector’s reputation in the wake of the recent exam fraud scandal.

I started my life in Higher Education, like many others, as a Student Union Officer. With strong morals, ethics and ideals, I had plans to change the world from my glorified broom cupboard at the back of the campus wedged between the toilet and the canteen. Although my working situation has changed somewhat, my ideals have not.

After having spent time on the National Executive Council of NUS, you may be surprised to learn that I am now working for a private education provider. However for those of you that have yet to work outside of the public education sector, I can promise you, it’s not all that you may have thought it was. Or at least it’s not at London School of Business and Management.

“When the news broke, there seemed to be some confusion that the whole private HE sector had been abusing the ‘UK Higher Education’ brand for their own commercial ends”

With all of the current media coverage surrounding the alleged admissions malpractice of a number of private education providers, I thought I’d try and dispel the fear of impending doom that seems to come as such a comfortable bed partner to mention of private HE providers. When the news broke, there seemed to be some confusion that the whole private HE sector had been abusing the ‘UK Higher Education’ brand for their own commercial ends. Even my own mother called me to check that I’d not been working for what effectively had been depicted as a student battery farm.

The London School of Business and Management is far from that. The institution that I have recently joined is filled with staff passionate about raising aspirations of people across not only London, but the world. We are all committed not only to our students and applicants, but to the UK Higher Education brand and the thousands of professionals it represents across the sector. Not unlike countless others, regardless of the subsection of the sector you work in.

“This is a brand that is recognised the world over; the perception of a UK education being that of quality, honesty and integrity”

Across the sector, from the smallest private provider to the largest redbrick university, we have all worked tirelessly for many years (admittedly, for some more than others) to shape and deliver this incredible, inspirational and aspirational sector and ultimately; brand. This is a brand that is recognised the world over; the perception of a UK education being that of quality, honesty and integrity.

Therefore, for those of us working in marketing, recruitment and international offices, it is our responsibility to uphold the brand that so many have worked so hard to create. We therefore must, as a sector, seek to condemn those who work to capitalise from this hard work. At the end of the day, they are effectively destroying the hopes and aspirations of those who look to better themselves and their lives through higher education.

Why less student mobility from China may not be the end of the world for UK education

“UK higher education institutions and their international student populations stand to lose less from the coming slowdown in Chinese outbound mobility than many may presume”

The following is an extract from the British Council’s Education in East Asia – By the Numbers report entitled ‘Why less student mobility from China may not be the end of the world for UK education’. British Council’s Services for International Education Marketing (SIEM) team helps UK institutions refine their internationalisation strategies to succeed in East Asia and around the globe. The full report is available to registered members of the British Council website here.

A recent report from the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE) on global demand for English higher education has generated a great deal of attention among education practitioners and media outlets in the UK. Most coverage focused rightfully on the first net drop in international enrolment in English higher education in 29 years, as well as discussion of the various causes of this decline. With a touch of hyperbole, the Economist claimed that England’s higher education institutions were showing the world “how to ruin a global brand.”

“With a touch of hyperbole, the Economist claimed that England’s higher education institutions were showing the world ‘how to ruin a global brand'”

Given the particularly precipitous decline in new enrolments from south Asia – by upwards of 50 per cent in two years – some commenters have latched onto any good news that they can find, especially the continued rise in the number of students from China, as a bright spot for the UK sector[1]. One even proclaimed UK higher education to be “an industry winning an important share of the huge and growing Chinese market.”

But this way of thinking about China may already be outdated, as growth in China’s outbound student market has rapidly slowed. In fact, by focusing on the modest rise in overall enrolments from China, commentators overlook the surprising halt in growth at undergraduate levels in the UK in 2012/13. With students from China making up not only the largest sending market to the UK, but also the fastest growing one in recent years, this slowdown in Chinese enrolments would appear to foreshadow crisis for the UK higher education sector.

Somewhat strangely, however, UK higher education institutions and their international student populations stand to lose less from the coming slowdown in Chinese outbound mobility than many may presume. What’s more, the UK education sector is better prepared to weather a fallow period from China than any other major English speaking destination country.

Slowing dragon

There is no doubting the outsized importance of China’s student market to the UK. China enrolled 32,000 more students in UK higher education in 2012/13 than it did only five years prior, accounting for fully 60 per cent of growth in total new enrolments of international students over this time period. Today, more than one in five international students comes from China, up from one in eight as recently as 2007/08.

“There is no doubting the outsized importance of China’s student market to the UK”

What’s more, China’s outbound student market appears at first glance to be in fine health.  New enrolments in UK higher education increased by more than six per cent in 2012/13 from the year before, even as international enrolments from other countries declined[2].

The good news: New enrolments from China in UK higher education, by level of study
The good news: New enrolments from China in UK higher education, by level of study

Appearances can be deceiving though.  The seemingly healthy bump in first-year enrolments from China in UK higher education in 2012/13 masked the slowest rate of expansion since 2007/08. Moreover, all of this growth was concentrated in postgraduate courses, with new enrolments at both undergraduate levels registering net declines. In particular, new enrolments in first-degree courses came to a halt in 2012/13 after averaging 18 per cent annual growth over the period from 2007 to 2012.

In other words, if China was the engine of growth for the UK sector from 2007/08 until 2011/12, it downshifted quite dramatically in 2012/13. And if current trends in undergraduate enrolments in the UK are a harbinger of things to come, total new enrolments could stall by as early as 2014/15, weighed down by a shrinking youth population and slowing economic growth. This will only put further pressure on UK institutions to seek new sources of international students.

But there is light at the end of the tunnel for the UK.

The tipping point

For one thing, the UK education sector is still far less dependent on Chinese enrolments than other major English language speaking countries, particularly Australia, where nearly two fifths of all international students in higher education come from China. Even when excluding EU enrolments from the international student population, the UK is less dependent on China for international enrolments than Australia, Canada or the US, meaning that the UK sector will feel the effects of a slowdown in new Chinese enrolments less than other education markets might.

While UK higher education is less reliant on China’s student market overall, some UK institutions have grown worryingly dependent on China for international enrolments in recent years. To wit, in 2002/03, there were 11 UK institutions at which first-year students from China comprised more than 30 per cent of all new international enrolments; by 2012/13, fully 30 institutions fit this profile, and two universities enrolled more Chinese students than all other international students combined… [Continue reading]

[1]While HEFCE’s report focused solely on English higher education institutions, the picture is largely the same for the entire UK sector.  

[2]All statistics for UK higher education institutions come from Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).

The UK does not have a God-given right in the international student recruitment market

“Our bellicose rhetoric and criticism of UK immigration policy is simply picked up and repeated in the press overseas as criticism of the UK and of our universities”

Vincenzo Raimo, director of the international office at The University of Nottingham, writes about how poor lobbying tactics can damage the UK’s reputation abroad, and the complex factors impacting on Indian students’ decision to study in the UK.

Thank goodness the University of East Anglia’s Edward Acton, who said that Home Office rhetoric on immigration was having “a horrible, negative effect” on international student recruitment, is on his way out. But how do we stop other Vice-Chancellors going on about visas as if they’re the only reason numbers are down from India?
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.

100 per cent commission, a few extras and no questions asked!

..One agency owner shares his opinion on the fallout of the Apple Languages collapse:

As The PIE News reported at the end of last year, Apple Language Courses Abroad went bust, owing a million euro of unpaid debts to language course providers.

Was this a shock? Does it matter to the international education industry?

The quick answers are: NO and YES.

No, it was not a shock because people in the industry, myself included, as Managing Director of LANACOS, started getting feedback from clients, early in 2011/2012, that there were hundreds of non-payment of invoices from this one agency and this was affecting such basic services as tuition and accommodation not only for the agency clients but other students too. Remember, our clients talk in many languages…

There was a definite lack of money in the system and standards were falling

As an agent with 20 years experience in the industry, I have always been wary of rumours and false alarms but I knew this was more serious because of the reaction of the language centres.

There was a definite lack of money in the system and standards were falling, cost cutting was ubiquitous. Accounts departments were nervous. They were defensive when you asked them simple questions about transparency and investment dropped.

Then, speaking to other agents and directors of  language centres, the truth came out. Although Apple Languages was a “trusted partner agency of IALC”, they had serious financial problems and they owed a substantial amount to their friends. The exact amount varied but a reasonable amount has been reported now as 1 million Euro (+/-).

There was a mention of “moral obligation” to pay but these are words not actions

The next story was that no-one in their right mind wanted to buy the business but an agency was prepared to save the business for the “sake of the industry” yet was very careful to highlight they had no responsibility to pay the one million Euro debts. There was a meaningless mention of “moral obligation” to pay but these are words not actions. It is only worth the paper (or email) it’s written on.

So what are the implications for the rest of us solvent companies in international education who pay invoices and send clients to these language centres?

  1. Our education partners, by not recouping the debts, are essentially giving Apple Languages a 100% commission on courses as well as giving free accommodation and superb terms and conditions, unheard of in any other industry. As we say in English it’s not cricket or fair play. Is it fair to give such favourable terms to an agency that has already benefited from naïve and poor judgement?
  1. This will affect future contracts and negotiations with other agencies, because…

A)   other agencies will not get such favourable terms or commission rates

B)   staff numbers at language centres will fall to cut costs

C)   investment will suffer through lack of funds and concerns about this happening in the future with other agencies. Result: the end product will deteriorate.

Ultimately, Trust and Transparency will suffer because the market has not been allowed to take its proper course. Some players will believe that they control the market and believe (or delude themselves) that they will get their money back.

Unfortunately, this is an international market and competition is rife on the Internet, some companies, in the end will have to pay for these generous 100% commissions.

 

 

Dr Martin Pickett is Managing Director of LANACOS, based in the UK. www.lanacos.com

 All opinions are the views of the attributed author.

A Skilled Migrant writes….

Arundati Dandapani, graduated international student in the UK, shares her experience of seeking permanent employment in the UK..

“Life as a foreign student in the UK can be challenging to say the least.  I have encapsulated my experiences over the past year as a Publishing graduate on a tier 4 student visa in a format that I hope is both interesting and useful to readers of the PIE:

The end of a worker-friendly era: backed by a simple liberal arts degree from America and with four years of working at writing and editing jobs in India, I applied for a Masters in the UK, fully intending to work there after studies. At the time of application, I was entitled to two years of Post Study work, as well as qualify for Fresh Talent Scotland, but then an angry bout of youth riots wrecked the streets causing panic in the British parliament and in homes. Quickly in April 2012, the Post Study work permit that earlier allowed non-EEA students to stay on for two years on the condition of a job offer (from any company) was repealed, leaving me with a small fistful of potential employers or publishers to approach. These were what I memorised to be 1500 pages of licensed sponsors as approved by the UKBA.

“I had to apply to 105 places to actually get called in to 10 interviews”

Education is a purely commercial enterprise:  and one has to demand value for it. Professors will limit availability, answer emails rarely, and restrict office hours. They will wax and wane about being more academic than insightful, and, you have to customise your degree to suit your own good priorities: be it a job offer, professional networks, grades, or leisure holidays. I focussed on a job priority, and failed, although I did gain a few good professional experiences in the bargain.

People won’t mix with you: It is a close-knit society, but if you find a group of like-minded or other professionals with whom you can share simple working hours with, CLING until it blossoms into something. A year is not enough to make friends in Great Britain, but at least some good working relationships are a goldmine.

The Job market is suspicious of you: I had to apply to 105 places to actually get called in to 10 interviews. They all declared my CV impressive and predicted I’d “go far.” How much farther! I would protest. By the time my dream job opening came up in the middle of December, I had already booked my tickets back to India, as I neared the expiry date on my visa.

Internships are contentious: You don’t have a national insurance number and nobody asks for it at your internship, they may not even look at your passport. Employers are not paying you a minimum wage, and yet the more interning you do, the better you get a chance at actual employment. Six internships got me a fixed term employment as an ebooks assistant.

“A year is not enough to make friends in Great Britain, but some good working relationships are a goldmine”

Cold Calls to Every Employer on the Register of Sponsors! On tele-calling every publisher featured on the UKBA’s register of sponsors, some claimed unaware of their UKBA status, and when I explained, they said upfront that they had no “quota” left, and would not consider my application if I did not have an existing work permit.  I replied that although  I had a student visa that allowed me to work fulltime until January, I could only apply for a proper work visa after I had a job offer in hand, so couldn’t I still apply? The response was negative.

Nobody wants you: Graduation drew near, and classmates who barely talked to me opened their mouths only to ask me, “When are you going home?!” When the annual London Book Fair happened, I knew London was it. People were actually interested in my skills, ideas and were actually having conversations about publishing. Internships took shape, and I narrowed the longer term prospects, focussing my job search to publishing alone (although I did approach a bakery and some advertising agencies who were licensed sponsors), because only a handful of international publishers were eligible to sponsor a tier 2 non-EEA migrant.

Talk to Everybody: I applied to 105 places, got called to 10. Interviewers called me interesting, adventurous and a lot of other adjectives that I quickly realised were not helping my case. They were perhaps referring to the geographic diversity I was used to. After learning the lingo of career centres and speaking with recruitment consultants and insiders from the industry at publishing events, I took a few more hints.

“Increase the extent of student visas issued to migrant labour, to offer time for job search”

Failure makes you stronger: Only about three publishers were actually explicit about an open and willing policy to hire, but by the time I qualified for any eligible positions within these companies and by the time their vacancies opened, it was the middle of December. After having completed over six internships alongside my degree studies and a fixed term employment within a hot market function of publishing, I had lost eventually.

Office Gossip (not love) makes the world go round: Towards the rundown to Christmas and near the end of my fixed term at a publishing house, colleagues took turns commenting, “What a pity they did not renew your contract.” They knew I was on a fixed term contract, my nationality was different, my length of stay would be limited to the duration of tasks, and so, short term, etc..

Three weeks into my job, another candidate was taken on to fill the same duties towards what immediately struck me as eventual permanence at a lower salary than if they had decided to sponsor me. Colleagues delighted in this set-up for rivalry. By the end of my tenure I was itching to depart, the daily six-hour round trip commute only got longer as we nudged sub-zero temperatures, and constant delays caused by flooding and regular suicides on the railway tracks. The only things that got me through those months were my persistence and positivity.

Is Britain unprepared for a diverse workforce? Britain is a tiny country that cannot sustain its own recession, but Norway is not bigger than Britain, and yet offers more diversity in the workplace and by about 2050 about half its population will be taxpaying migrants/immigrants. If UK businesses do not take initiative to look outwards, the government will not make it its business. UK’s businesses are built around individuals whose mindsets and openness towards skilled migrants will only determine how dynamic or multicultural the UK workplace actually is.

Going by the passionate words of London Mayor Boris Johnson or Scottish Cabinet Secretary of Education Mike Russell, one would be inclined to believe that UK desires foreign students and flexible work rules for non-EEA migrants. But if the UK is actually serious about increasing its intake of foreign students and not losing out to Canada or Australia — destinations with an edge of more flexi work rules, then I can propose the following two ways in which to rectify the current situation:

  1. Increase the extent of student visas issued to migrant labour, to offer time for job search (My American fellow students enjoyed a longer term visa than myself).
  2. Allow non-EEA students who have graduated from the UK to apply for a tier 2 visa even after they return to their home country without complications. Let there be some incentive to studying in the UK.

When skilled foreign graduates from UK universities are not viewed with the same professional parity as Europeans or migrants from other privileged economies in the Great British workplace, it signals both mistrust and xenophobia. In a world where everyone is looking for collaborations and looking outwards, it is a pity that the UK is not encouraging of foreign workers and ensuring a dynamic or diverse workplace.

Arundati Dandapani is very shortly returning to India after completing her Masters at the University of Stirling, UK. arundatid@gmail.com