Youth around the world need higher education for a bright future, including refugees

“Working in a refugee camp requires addressing basic needs in addition to providing programs that allow for flexibility while holding students accountable to high standards.”

A graduate of Kepler, a program that works in partnership with Southern New Hampshire University to offer US accredited degrees to students in East Africa, Landry Sugira is an advisor in the Kepler Kiziba refugee camp.

When I was growing up, my parents used to ask me, “what do you want to be in the future and what does it require in terms of education to reach there?” I thought that this question was a bit ridiculous because I did not fully understand how important education can be. Since obtaining my degree and now working as an advisor in a higher education program, I understand why they asked that question.

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How will English language exams change in the next five years?

“As specific IELTS and Trinity exams are linked to visa applications it is unlikely a fully online provision will be deemed secure enough in the next five years. However, this doesn’t mean that for other purposes, English Language provision and exams will change significantly.”

With online English language courses gaining in popularity, Pat Moores, director and co-founder of UK Education Guide, looks at whether English tests will increasingly be offered online. Specific exams are linked to visa applications, but does that mean provisions cannot change significantly for other purposes?

The appetite for learning English shows no signs of slowing up. According to latest figures from the British Council there are over 1 billion people currently learning English worldwide.

There is also deepening interest in online delivery of English language courses. For example in May 2015, FutureLearn launched its free course ‘Understanding IELTS: Techniques for English Language tests’.

Over 2 million learners have now signed up for the IELTS course across multiple runs.

But what is the broader picture?

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Broadening access to education across the globe

“The number of 18-year-olds from disadvantaged backgrounds embarking on full-time undergraduate courses has increased 52% since 2006”

Across the world, over 159 million children have no access to pre-primary education, and 57 million remain out of school at primary school age. A staggering 103 million youth worldwide lack basic literacy skills, with more than 60% of these being female. Though global efforts are being made to redress these problems, UK HE has a vital part to play in advancing worldwide education, writes Sean de Lacey, head of sales at Diversity Travel.

The growth of online education and university expansion through branch campuses have helped to broaden learning possibilities for some, particularly in developing countries, whose access to traditional education routes may be restricted or in some cases shut off entirely.

“As popular as their uptake may be, the completion rates for MOOCs remain stubbornly low”

Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) provider Coursera, which works with some of the world’s leading universities and prides itself on offering top-quality education to anyone, has in excess of 24 million users worldwide. A huge 45% of these users are from developing countries.

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How to encourage students to pursue a career in the international education sector

“Let students know that the opportunities for professional development are vast in the international education sector”

For those already working in the international education sector, you know what a rewarding career lies in store for those just starting out, writes Laura Slingo of CV-Library. But for the vast majority of students currently studying, they are unaware of the opportunities that could be waiting for them. You can find more advice 

To share your knowledge and encourage more students to pursue a career in the international education sector, here are our five tips:

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Best practice for welcoming international students

“There has never been a greater need to welcome and support international students so their experiences are happy ones”

In a time of far-right movements in Europe, Trump in the US and Brexit in the UK, international students need to be welcomed more than ever, argues Pat Moores, director and co-founder of UK Education Guide. She digs into recent best practice studies that ensure international students feel welcomed and supported.

Across the globe there are, at best, ‘mixed messages’ from national governments about how welcome international students are, making the complex marketing exercise of attracting and then welcoming international students even more challenging.

Therefore, there has never been a greater need to welcome and support international students so their experiences are happy ones and they then become advocates, promoting study in the UK and other host countries.

Historically, universities felt it was most helpful to have separate fresher’s weeks for international and domestic students, but some are now feeling that this separation right at the start of the student experience is not helpful.

As the Guardian has reported, Bournemouth University made a conscious decision to bring home and international students together during fresher’s week.

“We used to have a separate induction programme for these students, but we felt that it was isolating them,” explains Mandi Barron, Bournemouth’s head of student services. “Now we just badge some events that we think would be particularly useful for international students, but non-international students are welcome to attend if they want.”

The university also runs pre-arrival webinars on topics such as visas and UK culture for students, and trains staff to be aware of the different cultural needs they may encounter. But it is also wary of treating international students differently.

“We try not to focus on a homogenous group and more on individual needs,” says Barron. “Rather than having an international students department, we have a one-stop-shop service for all students, because if you’ve got an accommodation problem you’ve got an accommodation problem, and a complaint is a complaint, whether you’re international or British.”

Whilst Bournemouth is approaching the task of welcoming international students from the perspective of focusing on similarities, rather than differences, between students from different nations, Nottingham Trent University is taking a different approach.

The university is trialling a new scheme that helps international students celebrate their differences in background and culture. A project funded through a UKCISA grant sees international students lecture other students on aspects of their home culture, helping them gain academic confidence while educating others.

“It’s very small scale because it’s the first year they’ve run it,” UKCISA director of policy and services Julie Allen explains. “But this is a really good example of recognising the resources that these students are bringing rather than thinking that students who’ve come from outside the UK are in deficit or need additional support.”

The focus of celebrating differences to help educate the whole student body is backed up by research in the US. Contact between domestic and international students has also shown significant benefit to domestic students, as recent studies of US alumni have found, a significantly larger proportion of highly interactive (in terms of international student engagement) U.S. students in one cohort not only seriously questioned their political beliefs, but also challenged their beliefs about other religions, other races or ethnicities, and people with other sexual orientations, than did their non-interactive peers.

These initiatives highlighted have an important aspect in common – they are clear that forcing ‘integration’ is not a good way forward. Bournemouth’s initiatives are aimed at treating each student on their specific needs, regardless of country of origin and Trent is celebrating the individual experiences of overseas students to help benefit the whole student body.

Further afield, in Canada, the Université Laval in Quebec, which came top in the 2014 International Student Barometer for its welcome experience, focuses on a broad program to help its international students adapt to student life in Canada. The program focuses on practical issues like support in setting up a bank account and links to local families to experience Quebec culture.

Alongside helping international students understand local practical and cultural differences, there is also a requirement to be immediately ready to help international students who need additional learning support.

While US and UK pedagogy is more interactive, a recent US study* has once again highlighted that some international students simply don’t understand what is expected of them within the learning environment. For example, many are surprised that they are expected to answer questions and offer viewpoints in class or seminars.

A final note is a recent study completed by igraduate that shows that the challenges faced by international students on arrival are somewhat different from the fears prior to departure. Therefore, improving online sources of information and online interaction with a university and other students prior to arrival can arguably help address some of these concerns.

“Universities can produce their own closed MOOCs designed specifically to educate their foreign students about life on campus including insights about cultural norms. These could be offered as part of the recruitment process as part of a ‘no surprises’ approach,” suggests Simon Nelson CEO from FutureLearn, a social learning platform that offers free and paid-for online courses and degrees from over 150 leading universities and organisations across the world.

*The findings are from the survey Policies and Practices in Enrollment and Student Affairs, which was conducted in March 2017 by Maguire Associates of Concord, MA, for the ETS TOEFL Program. The results are based on the responses of 556 recruitment and admissions officers at two- and four-year, public and private institutions, including both undergraduate and graduate programs.

Five tips for agents looking to expand into the UK

“Make sure that you deliver on your promise. Reputation can be your best asset, or your Achilles heel”

The British Council recognises the usefulness of education agents and consultants, and as well as compiling a database of trustworthy agents for students’ use, it trains agents on best practice and how to operate in the UK. A new tool is now running online to guide professionals through the UK education landscape. 

The Study UK: a Guide for Education Agents, Advisors and Counsellors MOOC, currently open for registration, is free and designed for people interested in starting out in the sector or consolidating their current skills.

Helen Obaje has worked with the British Council for ten years and specialises in the training of agents in the international education sector. She is the designer of a new online course for agents, advisors and counsellors launched by the British Council.

Here are Helen’s top five tips for agents thinking of expanding their business in the UK: 

1.         Keep up to date

Education is not static, nor is it consistent across the UK with different education systems in the country’s different nations. The best agents are those who are consistently in touch with the changes within the areas they operate.

There are a variety of resources from different bodies that can help you keep on top of new regulations and new products: the UK Council for International Student Affairs, StudyUK:Discover You and visa and immigration information from UKVI are among them.

Be sure to stay on top of changes within the institutions that you represent, don’t just assume that because they are your client that you know them inside out. Take advantage of all the support and training that UK institutions provide and keep an eye out for fam trips. These are a great opportunity to get information on the ground so take advantage whenever possible.

2.         Relationships

So much of this job relies on relationships: the ones you have with students, their families and institutions. You need to think long term about what is it that you can do to help build and develop your relationship with the institution you are working with. 

Think about how regularly you keep in touch with people and by what means. There is no replacing quality face to face time, but equally you cannot be everywhere at once, so a balance needs to be struck.

3.         Do you fit?

We are all clear on the importance of matching the student to the right institution and course, but this also applies to agencies. Why should an institution work with you and what do you bring to the table? You need to be able to help the institution meet its goals and ensure that students are happy and successful. A large part of this involves making sure that you and what you offer are properly suited to the organisations with which you are working. Losing track of this is of no benefit to you or your clients. 

4.         Reputation

Make sure that you deliver on what you promise. Your reputation can be your best asset or your Achilles heel. Word gets around the industry swiftly and it is far easier and quicker to lose a good reputation than to rebuild one. Make sure you stay realistic in what you can achieve and never feel pressured into making plans or promising figures that may seem impressive but will never be reached.

5.         Believe in the UK

It is the home of the English language with a reputation for academic excellence and cultural diversity, but don’t just take our word for it. Students are the proof of the quality of a UK education. UUK International reports that satisfaction rates in their 2015/2016 cohort were 91 per cent for undergrads and 90 per cent for postgrads. This is higher than the satisfaction ratings for the USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, as well as major European countries.

And on top of the quality of education there are plenty of other factors drawing people to study here such as the culture, society history and infrastructure.

Beyond the classroom walls: Reimagining the education paradigm

“While technology is not the answer to all challenges, it certainly is one solution”

The need to deliver education online is growing in popularity around the world, and this growth is not set to slow down anytime soon, writes Stéphanie Durand, ‎Head of Enterprise, EMEA at Coursera.

Technology is undoubtedly playing a vital role in the attitude shift toward breaking down traditional barriers of access. This means learning is no longer solely available to a reduced group of people. Opportunities for convenience, cost-effectiveness, and personal enrichment are just some of the variables that have contributed to online learning’s monumental growth.

Education for all – a case in point

Education is no longer off limits to anyone. Take Hadi Althib, one of Coursera’s learners, who fled his home country of Syria to escape military service in 2016.

“Online courses are boundless”

Hadi, now 23 years old, arrived in Turkey with dreams of starting a new life. He had no possessions and no plan. He settled near the Syrian border and focused on finding work and a place to live. Nearly 18 months after his arrival, like thousands of refugees across the world, Hadi turned to the internet for help and started to complete online courses to push himself back into education.

In the midst of conflict and instability, harnessing technology to reach disadvantaged communities and bridge gaps in traditional education systems can pave the way for refugees or anyone seeking to rebuild their lives and communities. Stories such as Hadi’s are evidence that this is working.

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MOOCs: Still Big News for International Learners

“We shouldn’t underestimate how important MOOCs can still be for global students”

 

Clarissa Shen, vice president of Udacity, recently declared MOOCs dead, “a failed product,” sparking yet another round of commentary in the blogosphere. While it is true that MOOCs have neither saved nor destroyed higher education as we know it (as was predicted early on), they are far from dead, writes Laurie Pickard, author of “Don’t pay for your MBA” and nopaymba.com.

The number of online courses continues to grow, and the number of students registering for and completing them continues to tick upward. More than 23 million people registered for a MOOC in 2016. 2017’s numbers haven’t yet been published, but data from the MOOC search engine Class Central suggests that more than 80 million people have taken at least one MOOC. Importantly, people around the world are still learning that MOOCs exist. For these new learners, MOOCs aren’t old news. They are still exciting, new, and full of potential.

I still remember my own excitement when I first learned that top-tier universities were offering free versions of their classes. I felt I needed a business education to further my career, but I wasn’t interested in getting into debt to fund an MBA.

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A new Golden Age for Internationalisation. But can we get it right this time?

“The challenges this time round, in a much more competitive environment, are to learn from the mistakes made last time, and build sustainable financial models “

Who could have predicted, even just a year ago, that internationalisation would need to be back at the top of university agendas in the way that it was in many institutions throughout the 2000s? So asks Vincenzo Raimo, pro-vice-chancellor (Global Engagement) at the University of Reading. 

Full-degree, on-shore, international students were the growth engine of UK universities in the 2000s.

If HEIs wanted to grow and prosper there were limited opportunities to do so at home: student numbers were highly regulated and growth capped; so by definition university income was also effectively capped. Surpluses were almost non-existent.

By the start of this decade, international was starting to look a little less attractive and its dominant position as our universities’ growth engine was waning.

“But we didn’t  predict the changes: Brexit and the potential losses it could incur; and the burgeoning debate around fees and growth among UK politicians”

 

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How can UK boarding schools help smooth the transition to university for international students?

“One excellent example of specific support for international students is putting final year students in touch with alumni who are currently at the universities the student might be considering”

As parents know, selecting a university is about more than accessing the latest subject and university rankings. The challenge is even harder for parents who may be several thousand miles away, writes Pat Moores, director and co-founder of UK Education Guide.

Therefore, the responsibility for helping international students find the right university often relies on the diligence of boarding schools.

Some schools offer the same support for international students as they do for UK students, but it is hard not to think that they need more, recognising the lack of direct parental input.

As Caroline Nixon, General Secretary of BAISIS comments: “International students need greater support than UK pupils, not the same…parents don’t understand the process and are remote.”

“University websites make it quite difficult to find basic information, as the focus is on a detailed examination of facilities themselves”

Some schools argue that if their pupils are prepared properly, it is right that they lead the process, not the school or parents.

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