Monthly Archives: December 2009

Points Based System Failing Britain and Applicants for UK Student Visas

Aimed at preventing terrorists from coming to the UK posing as students, the points based system has been criticised by a new report for delaying and even refusing genuine students a UK visa.

International students contribute £8.5 billion a year to the UK economy and the failings of the points based system could hurt Britain dearly, with tens of thousands of students put off the application process, according to the research. The report goes on to claim that it is the errors and obstructive behaviour of immigration officers themselves which is creating this problem.

The report presents direct evidence of immigration officials – working in embassies and high commissions worldwide – failing to properly understand the new rules and refusing student visas for genuine students wanting to come to the UK. It is as a direct experience of this obstructive behaviour by officials that genuine students have been put off from applying for a UK student visa and coming to study.

And the problem of refusing genuine students from getting their visa for the UK could hit Universities hardest; overseas fees represent 8% of UK universities’ income. Refusing genuine student visas for the UK could threaten the financial health of Britain’s tertiary education sector and even threaten Britain’s international reputation for excellence.

The study questioned 2,777 UK student visa applicants between July and September, finding that 40% had experienced serious “errors or obstructions”, putting them off studying in the UK altogether. Worryingly, 10% of respondents were refused a visa at the first application, but granted on their second points based system application.

Problems encountered include being refused a visa for stating your nationality as “Nigeria” and not “Nigerian”; passports lost by staff or sent to the wrong address; and the wrong nationality stamped on forms. With these kind of fundamental errors in the points based system, it is no surprise the Government recently admitted that in the past six months alone, 23,000 international students have had to apply two or three times to be granted their visa. This is clearly a huge cost and inconvenience for genuine students as well as undermining the UK’s reputation for education and teaching.

The cost of one, let alone two or three UK student visa applications is a real turn-off to students considering studying in the UK. Two years ago, a student visa for the UK cost £99 whereas today there has been a 47% increase to £145. In fact, 17% of all students even pay a further £200 to ensure that their paperwork is in order. Fundamentally and at the heart of these problems in the student points based system process, 59% of students questioned found difficulty with the applications forms and guidance notes provided.

One student quoted in the study said: “Nearly everyone got rejected the first time because we did not choose the correct drop-down box in the online application form.” Another said: “I had my bank statements all translated into English, but two words were not translated and they forced me to spend another £60 to re-translate the whole document.”

A further 49% of students had trouble showing that they had the required maintenance funds available, although when applying for UK student visas, you are allowed to show the required funds are available to your parents or a relative under the points based system.

However, one student in the report said: “I come from a working-class family in the United States. The need to demonstrate the total funding for the year all at once was an enormous hardship and required my parents to empty out a retirement savings fund.”

Despite all these problems, it does appear that the majority of students are being persistent and remaining patient, the study concludes. But these difficulties have already impacted on the education sector, with 24% of universities missing their international student targets for 2009.

The UK Border Agency’s response to the report was pretty typical: “Whilst there will always be people who will try to abuse our immigration rules, we have robust systems in place to ensure that only those students who are genuinely coming to the UK to study can do so. The points-based system ensures that only those colleges and schools who provide quality education and take responsibility for their students are licensed to bring in foreign students.”

IELTS Test Dates UK: December 2009 – January 2010

Basil Paterson College (Aberdeen)
Next Test Date: 05-Dec-2009

Aberystwyth University
Next Test Date: 14-Jan-2010

ELCOS Bangor University, Wales
Next Test Date: 12-Dec-2009

University of Bath
Next Test Date: 05-Dec-2009

Queen’s University Belfast
Next Test Date: 14-Jan-2010

Aston University
Next Test Date: 09-Jan-2010

Richard Language College (Bournemouth)
Next Test Date: 23-Jan-2010

Sussex Downs College (test venue in Brighton)
Next Test Date: 23-Jan-2010

Eurocentres Brighton (test venue)

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

Anglia Ruskin University
Next Test Date: 09-Jan-2010

Chaucer College Canterbury
Next Test Date: 20-Feb-2010

Cardiff University
Next Test Date: 23-Jan-2010

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

City College Coventry
Next Test Date: 14-Jan-2010

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

Basil Paterson College (Edinburgh)
Next Test Date: 19-Dec-2009

Exeter College ( Sub Centre of Mayflower College)
Next Test Date: 12-Dec-2009

University of Glasgow
Next Test Date: 23-Jan-2010

Guildford, Surrey
University of Surrey
Next Test Date: 23-Jan-2010

Harrogate Language Academy
Next Test Date: 05-Dec-2009

Harrogate Language Academy (Leeds)
Next Test Date: 03-Dec-2009

University of Liverpool
Next Test Date: 05-Dec-2009

University of Westminster
Next Test Date: 09-Jan-2010

International House London
Next Test Date: 09-Jan-2010

Eurocentres Lee Green
Next Test Date: 12-Dec-2009

Southwark College – London
Next Test Date: 05-Dec-2009

Middlesex University
Next Test Date: 09-Jan-2010

Wimbledon School of English
Next Test Date: 23-Jan-2010

Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College
Next Test Date: 05-Dec-2009

Eurocentres London Central (test venue)

British Institute of Technology and E-commerce, London
Next Test Date: 03-Dec-2009
University of Manchester – Language Centre
Next Test Date: 23-Jan-2010

Anglia Ruskin University (Norwich)
Next Test Date: 09-Jan-2010

University of Nottingham

King’s School Oxford
Next Test Date: 23-Jan-2010

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

Language Specialists International (Portsmouth)
Next Test Date: 14-Jan-2010

Warwickshire College
Next Test Date: 05-Dec-2009

Sheffield Hallam University
Next Test Date: 05-Dec-2009

University of Southampton
Next Test Date: 30-Jan-2010

City of Sunderland College
Next Test Date: 09-Jan-2010

Melton College York

IELTS Listening Preparation – Identifying Key Words

Major students who we’ve spoken with have struggled with the IELTS listening module in particular. In fact, most students will find the latter questions difficult, as they are designed to really test your understanding of the English language. A great concept to help you prepare for your IELTS listening test is that of key words. However, students beware, as there are some basic mistakes you could easily make when adopting this method.

To highlight the problems that can arise with a key word approach to your English listening test, consider the following:

What do you do during your listening test, before you hear the recorded questions? Hopefully, you’d read the question before hearing the abstract. And while your reading the question, do you already underline what you think are key words in the question? Most students do, but without really thinking about it. This is where the mistakes can arise.

The major problem is how can you accurately identify the relevant keywords in the question that you need to answer during your listening test? Consider this English listening test example:

For the speaker, what is the most impressive aspect of a solar eclipse?

If this was your question, what key words would you underline as part of your IELTS listening preparation I’d guess that most students would focus on the word ”eclipse” as it is a noun, unusual sounding and may be a good starting point for your answer. But, if you do that you will have made a big mistake which will make your answer completely wrong.

Read the whole question and listen for the meaning, not words.

Many students make many mistakes during the IELTS listening test by not reading the question properly. The problem with focusing deeply on key words during your listening preparation and forgetting about the meaning, you are much more likely to word match; that is, you read a word in the question which  you then hear in the recorded extract. Because you recognise it, you then wrongly assume it’s the answer.  Don’t just look at the words, but focus on the meaning.

Use key words to help you decide when to really listen carefully.

Identifying key words during your IELTS listening preparation is important and can help to pinpoint the answer in the recorded extract. But students must remember that they are not the answer themselves, they just help you to know when the answer may be coming in the audio you are listening to.

Harrow Diploma to Replace GCSEs at this Leading Public School

Harrow Diploma to replace ExamsFollowing the recent scathing attack on the GCSE exam system by the private education sector – referring to exams as “mindless” and schools as “exam factories” – Harrow School, a leading UK private school, has developed its own qualification to counter the narrowness of current programmes.

The school in North-West London announced it will require students to complete work experience, play competitive team sport, serve the local community and develop life skills. This new programme has won support in many places and the exam board Edexcel has already agreed to accredit it.

The feeling amongst many in the private school sector has been concern surrounding the ever-increasing focus on tests and league tables. It’s generally agreed that a culture of teaching to pass has developed, at the detriment of pupils’ education. And Harrow School is not alone: many other schools have taken action to reduce the emphasis on the traditional exam system.

This year, 2009, saw the first high school in the UK ever to scrap the GCSE system entirely. Wellington College in Berkshire has chosen to offer a much broader system of study with a more flexible syllabus. Whilst Harrow School hasn’t been as extreme as to scrap the system entirely, the School has called for students to site no more than six GCSEs so that they may have the time to focus on extra-curricular activities too.

The Headmaster of Harrow, Barnaby Lenon, said, “Independent schools and boarding schools in particular, place a great emphasis on the importance of extra-curricular activities in the curriculum. The Harrow Diploma is one way of recognising this.

“Not everything we do can be measured – the spiritual and moral dimensions of life for example – but many areas of achievement can be rewarded through our diploma.

“The diploma inspires our students to achieve across a wide range of activities. It gives them that extra nudge and it defines clearly what we mean by a broad education.”

Describing the Harrow Diploma as “tough” and with a fail rate of one-third, I wonder that given Harrow’s rich history – it was founded in 1572 – what would Harrow’s past pupils such as Sir Winston Churchill think of such a move. As part of the diploma, students will have to get excellent grades in nine GCSEs and four AS levels. Further, they will be scored in five other areas, such as undertaking cultural and physical activities and “mastering communication”.

Pupils will be required to serve their community and the Harrow Diploma will place emphasis on raising money for charity, develop life skills such as first aid, taking work experience and completing programmes such as the Duke of Edinburgh Award.

UK Indian Students Homeless and Hungry

Southall Station SignEvery year, thousands of students travel from India to study in the UK, often pursing courses at private colleges. It was reported today that many are simply unable to take care of themselves; unable to find part-time work, hundreds of students are now eating handouts from gurdwaras – Sikh temples – in Southall, West London.

Since April 2008, the number of Indian students applying to study in the UK has increased by more than three times, with many students reliant on finding part-time work to fund their maintenance costs while in the UK. A recent documentary conducted by BBC Radio 5 revealed that the situation is desperate for many students, who often refuse to return home for fear of the shame that would fall upon them and their families.

Sri Guru Singh Sabha Gurdwara, Havelock Road, SouthallSouthall in London is known locally as “little India” and with over 55% of the local population being Indian and Pakistani, there are many temples to be found in the area. As is common with many East Asian religions, help and charity can be sought from temples and many unfortunate students who’ve found themselves in this situation flock to Southall for free food and lodgings. A student interviewed for the BBC documentary highlighted the plight they face: “I can’t afford to rent a room, I’m borrowing money from relatives at home just to buy my bus fare to college. I will only be able to rent a room if I can find a job, if I can’t find one I will return to India.”

“But that will bring great shame. I don’t know how I will return the money I have borrowed.”

A brutal combination of the recession and a sharp increase in the number of South Asian students in the UK have been major contributors to the problem, according to Didar Sing Randhawa, President of Sri Guru Singh Sabha. He went on to say, “We see hundreds of students hanging out in the streets, but there could be thousands. Most come here every day for food. We are happy to provide food.”