Monthly Archives: September 2009

Colleges Week 2009: Fantastic Competition

Colleges Week 2009, part of the Association of Colleges. The week long event takes place from the 9 – 15th November and is designed to celebrate the opportunities colleges create for individuals, businesses and Britain.

As part of the Colleges Week celebration, a nationwide competition is being launched called ‘I’m running the show’. The competition is calling on students to submit a video, up to 2 minutes, of what they would do if they were ‘running the show’ for a day. Students are invited to answer the question in any way and as creatively as they’d like, from a simple speech or presentation to a song and dance routine; from an animation to a practical demonstration of the skills you are learning. Winning students will get the chance to talk tactics with Sven-Göran Eriksson, go behind the scenes of the British Space Industry or learn how a national magazine is put together.

Students can submit their video up until 31st October via the Colleges Week website.  The competition is calling on students to submit a video, up to 2 minutes, of what they would do if they were ‘running the show’ for a day. Students are invited to answer the question in any way and as creatively as they’d like, from a simple speech or presentation to a song and dance routine; from an animation to a practical demonstration of the skills you are learning. Winning students will get the chance to talk tactics with Sven-Göran Eriksson, go behind the scenes of the British Space Industry or learn how a national magazine is put together.

How-To Video

Prizes include:

  • Heading on set – Hollyoaks is one of Channel 4’s most popular TV programmes. Gain the chance to go on set and meet cast and crew to find out what it takes to be part of the UK’s hardworking media industry.
  • Shadowing Sven-Göran Eriksson – Sven-Göran Eriksson is the director of football at Notts County and former manager of England. Spend a match day getting the inside track on what it takes to work in the football industry.
  • Exploring the UK space industry – chat with an astronaut and take a tour with the British National Space Centre to see space equipment being built.
  • Going behind the scenes of a theatre – find out what it takes to be at the cutting edge of UK theatre with Shared Experience theatre company as they build up to the opening of ‘The Caucasian Chalk Circle’.
  • Reading between the lines at a top magazine – Top Santé is one of the UK’s most popular health and beauty magazines. Find out how an issue of the publication is put together, from photo shoot to page layout.
  • Reaching for the skies – spend a day with the chief executive of BAA Airports and find out what life is like at the top of a leading airport company.
  • Treading the corridors of power – find out how the decisions are made that affect our everyday lives with an in-depth visit to the UK Parliament.
  • Mighty oaks from little acorns grow – The 5,000 acres of historic royal parkland provide unparalleled opportunities for enjoyment, exploration and healthy living in the heart of the capital. Spend the day with the Chief Executive exploring how they combine culture and conservation.
  • This is not just any prize… – spend a day with Sir Stuart Rose, Chief Executive of Marks & Spencer.

Update on Student Tier 4 Applications

Student Tier 4 applications – maintenance funds must be in bank accounts for at least 28 days.

From 1 October 2009, for all points-based system Tier 4 applications made outside the UK, the amounts required to meet the maintenance criteria must be held in your personal or your parent(s)/ legal guardian(s) bank account for a minimum period of 28 days prior to making your visa application. The end of the 28 day period must not be more than 1 month before the date of your application, for which you must show bank statements/other evidence. The transitional arrangements that were in place allowing funds to be held on the date of application only will no longer apply to applications made outside the UK, on or after 1 October 2009.

Student Tier 4 applications – maintenance funds must be in bank accounts for at least 28 days. From 1 October 2009, for all points-based system Tier 4 applications made outside the UK, the amounts required to meet the maintenance criteria must be held in your personal or your parent(s)/ legal guardian(s) bank account for a minimum period of 28 days prior to making your visa application. The end of the 28 day period must not be more than 1 month before the date of your application, for which you must show bank statements/other evidence. The transitional arrangements that were in place allowing funds to be held on the date of application only will no longer apply to applications made outside the UK, on or after 1 October 2009.

English the Most Common Language in EU

The findings of a Eurostat study conducted in 2007 have just been released showing that English is the most common language across the European Union (EU).

Of the 21 EU Member States, there are 6 states in which no data collected and of the remaining 15 states, English was spoken in 14 of them.

In fact, English is the most common language in the EU to be studied too. Exceptions to this are Luxembourg, where English, French and German are studied equally and Ireland and the UK, where French is the most commonly studied language.

English as the most common language across the EU is also represented in the data collected on citizens who speak a minimum of 2 languages: 28% of all EU citizens, the study reports. In fact, in Slovenia, 72% of 25 – 64 year olds spoke 2 or more languages, Slovakia and Finland 68%, Lithuania 66%, Estonia 56% and Latvia 55%.

As one would expect if English were to be the most common language across the EU, the UK has the highest proportion of people who stated they only spoke one language, 65%. This was also the case for Cyprus 59%, Austria 50% and Greece and Sweden, both with 45%.

The analysis from this study was released just ahead of The European Day of Languages. The day itself is “to alert the public to the importance of language learning, to promote the rich linguistic and cultural diversity of Europe and to encourage lifelong language learning in and out of school.”

“The EU recognised improving language learning in the EU as a key factor in the Lisbon strategy and the Barcelona European Council in 2002 set the objective of ensuring that all pupils study at least two foreign languages from an early age.”

Newcastle University Receives Royal Seal of Approval

PRINCESS Eugenie gave the region’s best-known party city the Royal seal of approval as she started her student life yesterday.

The Queen’s granddaughter joined thousands of fellow freshers for their first day at Newcastle University, where she has chosen to study her three-year degree.

Asked why she had chosen to study there, the 19-year-old princess told reporters: “It’s a great city.”

Her Royal Highness arrived with a friend at the university’s Armstrong Building for a student induction session.

The sixth in line to the throne joined fellow undergraduates to be offered advice on accommodation, finance and welfare, and information about swine flu.

During her first year, the Princess will live in £96-aweek halls of residence alongside other undergraduates.

Unlike fellow students, she will be followed everywhere by royal protection officers.

Newcastle University has proved popular with students from public school backgrounds in recent years.

Dan Coverdale, editor of the Courier student newspaper, said: “Maybe she has come up with quite a few friends from her school. I think the attraction is that it’s a good city up north and it is something different, but you do get quite a lot of southern students.

There is a great social life here, but the academic side of it is good too.”

Eugenie will study English literature, the history of art and politics.

She gained A grades in English and art, and a B in art history in her A-levels last year at Marlborough College, in Wiltshire, before she spent a gap year travelling with friends.

A student survey last year named Newcastle as the best city to live in, and it is widely known for its lively nightlife with hundreds of pubs, clubs and bars.

International Students in UK Double

The number of non-European foreign students studying at UK universities has almost doubled in less than ten years, research has found.

International students provided a bigger source of income for UK universities in 2007/08 than government grants for research, according to an annual trends report, published by Universities UK.

Students from outside the EU pay more for courses at UK universities than their European counterparts.

The report shows that one in ten enrolments in 2007/08, some 229,640 students were from outside the EU. This is compared to 117,290 students in 1998/99, an increase of 96%.

In total, £1.88 billion of UK universities income came from non-EU students in 2007/08, compared to £1.76 billion from government research grants.

China provides the most students to UK universities, with 19,385 enrolments for first degrees, and 21,990 enrolments for all post-graduate degrees.

The Patterns of Higher Education Institutions in the UK report also reveals a 3.7% drop in the number of part-time undergraduate students between 2006/07 and 2007/08.

It says: “This may be a cause for concern, as part-time study plays an increasingly important role in meeting the higher level skills agenda and to lifelong learning.

“Amongst the various factors that explain this decline may be the different systems for student support now available to full-time and part-time students.”

Professor Geoffrey Crossick, chair of Universities UK’s Longer Term Strategy Group, said: “This year’s Patterns highlights the success of UK universities in challenging their counterparts in Europe, particularly in research and development and in attracting international students.”

Is the UK’s University System Becoming Elitist Once Again?

It was announced this week by the CBI – the Confederation of British Industry – that UK domestic university students should pay more in tuition fees and student loan interest. Is this a measure that’s really needed, or one simply to bring back the elitist nature of higher education in the UK?

The Director General of the CBI, Richard Lambert, commented that the increase in tuition fees was justified to, “preserve the quality of university teaching and research”. He goes on to add that the report published by the CBI has found that if Government spending cuts are to be made, then they should be aimed at already generous levels of student support funding.

Or as one of my colleagues aptly translates: Penalise those who are most in need and ensure that an already elitist system further discriminates against those who need it most.

For the rich, who have historically been the majority of students attending university in the UK, cuts in Government funding would not affect them in the slightest; they need worry about neither tuition fee funding nor student loans. Regardless of their academic ability, they are often – quite unofficially of course – certain of a place at a top university by rights.

The CBI has been quite adamant to publicly state that they are not in favour of denying help to those that need it. Indeed, their argument relies heavily on giving more emphasis to means testing. However, it is the very fact that means-testing be given more weight which demonstrates exactly who will be hurt by this proposed change.

The proposals put forward by the CBI will make it so much harder for children of low income families to better themselves through education. University should be for the brightest and most able students, hungry for success, irrespective of class or wealth. The increased burden of higher tuition fees and more crippling, commercial rates of interest on student loans really will make university too expensive for some. This will only increase the gap between the haves and the have-nots in society, ensuring that success and wealth remains in the hands of few. Call me a cynic, but isn’t that exactly what the upper-classes want anyway?

Learning English Tools – Electronic Devices

English Language Learning Tools

There are so many English language learning tools out there and with the sometimes daily advances in technology, you are sure to find new and ground-breaking techniques and devices which make great tools for learning English. Here we provide you with a quick run-down on some of today’s learning English tools and electronic devices.

But before we look at the devices themselves, here are two great and increasingly traditional and often free English learning tools that you can get started with:

MP3 English lessons: There are a wide range of places you can download English lessons from and store on your MP3 player, such as an iPod. As most people now have iPods and they’re portable, you really can listen and learn wherever you are and whatever you are doing.

Audio tapes and CDs. These are great tools for learning English. All you need do is dust-off your cassette player, Walkman or CD player and you can listen and learn wherever you are. Audio CDs are great to keep in the car, so the next time you hit a traffic jam pop on your English language learning CD of choice and passively better your English skills.

Another great English language learning tool, which helps with reading, writing and speaking English is an electronic translator or dictionary. Again, as they are portable, they can be used in a variety of situations, from travelling on holiday, downtime on a business trip or even while talking with people in English. These devices have come on leaps and bounds since I first saw the international students at my school use them and the majority of the models on the market today will include fantastically accurate text-to-speech and voice recognition software. In fact, you can easily find many models which have vocabularies of more than 1 million words! I bet that’s more than you know in your own language and it’s certainly more English words than I know!

The great thing about these devices that make them fantastic English language learning tools is the fact that they come pre-programmed with numerous common expressions, phrases and grammatical constructs. This makes them great English learning tools and the two most popular models currently on the market are the Talking Electronic English Dictionary and the Audio Phrasebook. Both are handheld, include hundreds of thousands of words, definitions and thesaurus entries, let you view the word onscreen and can even read the word aloud to you.

For those that want devices which function strictly as English learning tools, there are devices which come pre-populated with the popular SAT exam word list and ones which come with grammar guides, exercises, tests and even English language learning games and quizzes!

If portability is not a key feature you require or you are looking for potentially free English learning tools, you could consider downloading English language software to your computer. You could in fact make this semi-portable by installing it on your laptop. The majority of this software will allow you to do advanced English translation inside the programmes you use day-to-day. For example, you will be able to translate English language websites, emails and documents. Many free-to-try English learning tools will have interactive language learning tools, study materials and even speaking and non-speaking dictionaries too. With the advancement in technology of mobile phones and PDAs, there is much development of English language learning tools for Smartphones such as the iPhone and Blackberries, Pocket PC and Palm OS, to name but a few.

By far the best free English learning tools may well also be the most fun: TV and radio! Sounds like every students dream right? Watching TV and learning English. In fact, watching and listening to English TV shows is a fantastic way to learn English. And once you’ve studied enough for the day, why not watch your favourite TV shows in your own language, but with the subtitles on; a great free English learning tool.

In summary, you will be able to find many great English language learning tools on the market and many free English learning tools too. Before you buy, make sure you research each device to ensure it fits with you and your lifestyle.

UKBA Removes Institutions from the Tier 4 Sponsor Register

The UK Border Agency (UKBA) has recently revised the tier 4 sponsor register and has removed several institutions from the list. UKBA announced on the 25th August that all applicants should ensure that the institution they are applying to is on the tier 4 Sponsor Register when they apply for a UK student visa. You should check before submitting your application that your chosen institutions have not been suspended or withdrawn from the list. If your chosen institution is not on the list, the embassy will not be able to grant you a student visa.  If you have a visa letter that you got before your approved education provider’s licence was suspended, and you have already been granted permission to enter the United Kingdom, but you have not yet traveled, you are advised not to travel until your educational institution’s status has been resolved.
Check that your institutions are listed in UK BA sponsor list please follow this link and feel free to contact us with any questions you may have.

Good luck with your visa application.

Read our follow up to this post, an Update on Suspended Colleges From Tier 4.

The Tier 4 Register of Sponsors is being regularly updated by this website. You can view it here: Tier 4 Sponsors Register.

Update 31 January 2010: All Student Visa applications from Northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh are currently on hold due to a sudden rise in numbers. Every Tier 4 applicant from these countries will be affected. This will compound issues surrounding the suspension of colleges from the Tie 4 Register of Sponsors.

This post has received a massive amount of discussion in the comments. Why not subscribe to the comments feed here.

Navigate the comments easily:

IELTS Test Dates UK: September and October 2009

Liverpool
University of Liverpool
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

Aberdeen
Basil Paterson College (Aberdeen)
Next Test Date: 24-Oct-2009

Aberystwyth
Aberystwyth University
Next Test Date: 17-Sep-2009

Bangor
ELCOS Bangor University, Wales
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

Bath
University of Bath
Next Test Date: 24-Oct-2009

Belfast
Queen’s University Belfast

Birmingham
Aston University
Next Test Date: 10-Oct-2009

Bournemouth
Richard Language College (Bournemouth)
Next Test Date: 10-Oct-2009

Brighton
Sussex Downs College (test venue in Brighton)
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

Brighton
Eurocentres Brighton (test venue)
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

Bristol
University of Bristol
Next Test Date: 05-Sep-2009

Cambridge
Anglia Ruskin University
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

Canterbury
Chaucer College Canterbury
Next Test Date: 10-Oct-2009

Cardiff
Cardiff University
Next Test Date: 24-Oct-2009

Colchester
Colchester English Study Centre
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

Coventry
City College Coventry
Next Test Date: 17-Sep-2009

Eastbourne
Sussex Downs College (Eastbourne)
Next Test Date: 05-Sep-2009

Edinburgh
Basil Paterson College (Edinburgh)
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

Exeter
Exeter College ( Sub Centre of Mayflower College)
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

Glasgow
University of Glasgow
Next Test Date: 10-Oct-2009

Guildford, Surrey
University of Surrey
Next Test Date: 07-Nov-2009

Harrogate
Harrogate Language Academy
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

Leeds
Harrogate Language Academy (Leeds)
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

London
International House London
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

London
Eurocentres Lee Green
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

London
Southwark College – London
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

London
University of Westminster
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

London
Middlesex University
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

London
Wimbledon School of English
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

London
Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

London
Eurocentres London Central (test venue)
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

London
British Institute of Technology and E-commerce, London
Next Test Date: 17-Sep-2009

Manchester
University of Manchester – Language Centre
Next Test Date: 24-Oct-2009

Norwich
Anglia Ruskin University (Norwich)
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

Nottingham
University of Nottingham
Next Test Date: 24-Oct-2009

Oxford
King’s School Oxford
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

Plymouth
Mayflower College of English (Plymouth)
Next Test Date: 05-Sep-2009

Portsmouth
Language Specialists International (Portsmouth)
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009

Rugby
Warwickshire College
Next Test Date: 12-Sep-2009

Sheffield
Sheffield Hallam University
Next Test Date: 10-Oct-2009

Southampton
University of Southampton
Next Test Date: 10-Oct-2009

Sunderland
City of Sunderland College
Next Test Date: 26-Sep-2009