Monthly Archives: April 2013

Fun Helps Language Learning, Study Confirms

A new study recently published shows that playing word and picture games greatly helps language learners.

The study from researchers at The University of Nottingham and published in journal PLUS ONE, found that fun and informal ways of learning not only helped people new to language learning, but actually made traditional methods much more effective.

The study was led by several members of Nottingham University’s School of Psychology: PhD student Marie-Josée Bisson, and Drs Walter van Heuven, Kathy Conklin and Richard Tunney. Ms Bisson said, “The results of this study have implications not only for language learning and teaching, but also for anyone interested in improving their knowledge of a foreign language.

“They show that informal exposure can play an important role in foreign language word learning. Through informal exposure, learning can occur without intention, in a more effortless manner.

“Anyone attempting to learn another language would benefit from activities such as simple games using foreign language words and pictures, or foreign language films with subtitles where they can enjoy the activity without focusing on trying to learn the words. The results of this study suggest that these kinds of informal activities can facilitate language learning, even days afterwards.”

The advantages of learning a foreign language are numerous, allowing for better cultural understanding and awareness and better employment prospects. But, learning a second language can be a difficult and stressful process.

The idea of informal learning is not a new one – many language teachers and students have watched foreign language films, spent time immersed in a foreign country and have found these techniques to deliver great results. It is however, the first time that an academic study has been able to validate students’ and teachers’ long-held opinions on the matter.

The University of Nottingham study used spoken and written foreign language words along with pictures depicting their meaning to measure foreign vocabulary learning in complete novices.

Split in to two parts, the study aimed to see if informal exposure to foreign language vocabulary helped learning. The first part of the study involved English speakers who knew no Welsh. They were shown some Welsh words on a computer screen and asked whether a particular letter had appeared in each word. They also heard a recording of the pronunciation of the word whilst viewing it, as well as viewing a picture of the word’s meaning. The important point of part one of the study is that the pictures and words shown to the students were irrelevant to the task they were given and they specifically had not been asked to learn or memorise the Welsh words.

The second part of the study attempted to see what the students had passively retained during part one. The students were specifically directed to learn the English translations of Welsh words. Pairs of written English words and spoken Welsh words were presented to students and each then had to determine which was the correct translation. Whether they were correct or not was fed back to the students, enabling them to learn from their mistakes and ultimately to learn the vocabulary. Key to the study was the fact that half the Welsh words in part two were introduced in part one of the study.

The results showed that students performed better on the words that had been introduced informally earlier, than words that hadn’t. Further, this better performance was found to also be true some time after they were informally introduced to the words. The researchers found that participants retained knowledge unintentionally learnt during the informal phase even as much as a week later following further explicit learning of the Welsh words.

Indian Students to be Given Permission to Work for 6 Years After UK Graduation

British High Commissioner to India James Bevan goes on the charm offensive to show that the UK is open for business.

In an attempt to tackle the “myth” that Indian students can no longer work in the UK following completion of their studies, Mr Bevan spoke recently saying the situation is in fact quite the opposite.

Mr Bevan gave a speech in India, claiming Indian students could remain in the UK to work for up to six years as long as they get “graduate-level jobs” paying at least £25,000 per year.

His speech was in response to the large drop in the number of UK student visas being granted to Indian students. The numbers of Indian students being granted a student visa have dropped from 30,000 in 2011 to 20,000 in 2012. Mr Bevan did admit his belief was that the UK’s tougher student visa regulations were to blame, particularly the removal of the Post-Study Work route, which allowed students to remain in the UK and work for two years following their studies, at whatever level and salary.

Mr Bevan did reaffirm the UK Coalition Government’s aim of attracting more Pune and Indian students to the UK: “Eight of ten Indian students who applied for student visas got them. Any genuine student will get a visa. One of the reasons for the drop is also that for four to five years, many Indian students were getting enrolled in low quality or fake universities mainly for the purpose of working in the UK. Now, the number of students has reduced but the quality has gone up.”

However, on his second trip to Pune since becoming High Commissioner in May, Mr Bevan added that there was a real drive for UK educators to open overseas campuses in India, and Pune in particular, as it is often referred to as “the Oxford of the East.” He said, “The Northampton University and Lavasa are thinking of a tie-up, which should fructify in the near future.”

Bevan also stated he wanted to see more British investment in Pune and more Indian investment in Britain: “From a business perspective, we are keen on investing in sectors like automobiles, aerospace and information technology, in which Pune has a strong foothold.”

Little information was provided during his speech to backup his claim that Indian students would be able to work for a further six years after graduation. Your comments are most welcome.

UK Universities Unharmed by Tightened Visa System claims UK Immigration Minister

The UK’s Immigration Minister Mark Harper has recently accounted that the UK Higher Education sector has not been harmed by changes to Tier 4 of the Points Based System, and that British Universities continue to attract “the brightest and the best.”

Speaking to The Pie, an online education magazine, Mr Harper said, “We are not harming genuine students. More university students are coming here and bogus students are being kept out. There is no limit on the number of students who can come to the UK.”

On coming to power in 2010, the UK’s Coalition Government pledged to reduce net migration levels to the tens of thousands while stamping out abuse of the system. During his interview, Mr Haper did concede that the number of Tier 4 student visas granted has fallen by around 20% in 2012, but was adamant this drop came from non-university students. In other words, Mr Harper believes the tightening of the student visa system has adversely affected the Further Education sector, and not Higher Education. He went on to claim that there had actually been a 1% increase in the number of international student migrants studying at university in the UK in 2012.

Further, Mr Harper strongly suggested that UK Further Education colleges were guilty of selling immigration not education. He said that the fall in the number of student visa grants was because 500 Further Education colleges had lost of not renewed their Tier 4 sponsor licence, meaning they could no longer sponsor students from outside the European Economic Area (EEA). Stating that too many UK colleges had “sold immigration not education”, Mr Harper defended his government’s action to remove abuse from the student visa system.

Despite there being a sharp drop in the numbers of students from India and Pakistan – a drop of around 25% in 2012 – the Minister for Immigration was optimistic about the future. He cited a rise of 9.6% in non-EEA applications to study at UK Universities, figures derived from a report released by UCAS – the UK’s Universities admissions body – in January 2013.

Mr Harper concluded that, “Numbers from India and China have seen big increases. This shows that, despite stories to the contrary, [international] students continue to want to come to the UK to study at our world class universities…By protecting the reputation of the British education system, we will be able to compete in a global race.”

Tighter Control on Student Visas Costs Colleges £10 million

The UK Further Education industry warns Government that enough is enough, we’re at breaking point.

Following the tightening of the UK student visa system, government research has found that education providers in the UK have lost over £10 million of income in a single year, through tightening of recruiting international students migrants.

The survey, commissioned by the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, found that the number of non-EU students fell from 13,333 in 2010 – 11 to 10,601 in 2011 – 12, a drop of 2,732 or to put it more alarmingly, 20%. The drop was observed across Further Education providers and the drop in tuition fee income was sizeable: down from £52.6 million to £41.6 million.

The drop in numbers of students choosing the UK has come about following tougher restrictions imposed by the Home Office. Students’ right to work was heavily curtailed, allowing some students only 10 hours’ work per week. Students are also prevented from remaining the UK for study for more than three years. Students who study at Higher Education providers – universities – are not subject to the same restrictions.

Further, students who choose to study with an independent further education college are required to take a secure English language test. Prospective university students can be tested by the their university, or indeed have the English language requirement completely waived.

Some colleges have been hit harder than others, researchers found. Student numbers at Grimsby Insitite have fallen from 105 in 2010 to just seven – yes 7 – in 2012. This is had the college to closing one of its student residences, saying “we just haven’t got the students.” This drop in students has cost the college more than £1 million in income.

Even award winning colleges are not free from these pressures. Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College – who won a Queen’s Award for Enterprise – saw student numbers fall from 1,300 in 2010 to just 870 in 2012. International student recruitment provides 12% of the college’s income, a not insignificant amount.

“The government just doesn’t seem to get that it’s a massive decrease in the local economy,” said Rachel Gurney, international contract manager at the college.

The Home Office is continually reminding us of its strategy to reduce net migration levels whilst still welcome “the brightest and the best” students to the UK. Then-Immigration Minister Damian Green said in 2012: “It is vital that we continue to attract the brightest and the best international students but we have to be more selective about who can come here and how long they can stay.”

However, it seems that the UK’s Coalition Government just doesn’t want to listen. Ministers have repeatedly rejected calls by Members of Parliament and other industry groups to remove international student migrants from net migration figures, on the basis that the vast majority of students leave the UK once their studies are complete.

Staff have also been made redundant because of the loss of income to colleges. The requirement for potential language students to already have English language proficiency before they come to the UK, has seen colleges close language courses entirely. Chichester College just could not afford to continue offering English as a Foreign Language courses and had no choice but to make five staff members redundant.

The Department for Business, Innovation and Skills study found an alarming response to the problems faced by UK education providers: a new drive to set-up overseas campuses, removing the problem of the restrictive UK visa system. An example is the Association of Colleges’ India initiative.

John Mountford, international director of the Association of Colleges said, “You can’t argue with the figures that show the number of students coming to colleges has gone down since 2010, and you have to assume that the immigration legislation has affected that.”

A new barrier has been put in place since the research was concluded – face-to-face interviews as part of the student visa application process. These are interviews designed to assess credibility, are highly subjective and point to the fact that, “it will not become any easier to study in the UK in the short to medium term,” adds Mr Mountford.

The message is simple: further restrictions would be hugely damaging. “It would be disastrous. Disastrous,” said one principal.

Student Jailed Following Bribe Attempt

A struggling student who tried to turn his grades around with cash has been jailed for twelve months. He was also found to be carrying a loaded air pistol.

Yang Li, 26 from China, was studying an innovation and technology management masters programme at the University of Bath. The student was awarded a mark of 37% in his dissertation which was just short of the 40% required to pass. The student set-up a meeting with his professor on 23 November to discuss his options.

Li went to the meeting with £5,000 in cash and an air pistol, which fell from his pocket when told to leave.

Judge Michael Longman said the student had caused “fear” and “alarm” during sentencing at Bristol Crown Court,.

Li admitted the attempted bribery and the imitation firearm charge, and was also ordered to pay £4,800 in costs.

Li was actually given a range of options by Professor Andrew Graves – head of Bath’s School of Management – to resubmit the dissertation, to appeal to mark awarded or to withdraw from the course.

The Chinese student chose differently, instead deciding to declare to his Professor that “I am a businessman”, then placed the cash on the table.

Li was reported to say, “There is a fourth option, you can keep the money if you give me a pass mark and I won’t bother you again.”

Professor Graves asked Li to leave and as the student put the money away, the air pistol, loaded with six pellets, fell out the student’s pocket and onto the floor.

Judge Longman told the student: “You attempted to persuade a university professor to behave in such a way that if it had been successful you would have undermined the integrity of the universities in the UK and the legitimacy of degrees from universities here, the University of Bath in particular.

“Your bid to achieve a pass mark by offering what was a bribe to your professor was ill conceived to the point of being a spectacular mistake and one which was doomed to fail from the start.”

Li’s defence team argued that the student came from an “affluent family in China, where his father is a respected government official and businessman.”

The court also heard that Li was used to travelling with lots of cash and that he had the air pistol with him as he didn’t want to leave it in his car. He owned the pistol as he enjoyed target shooting.,

Mr James – part of Li’s defence team – went on to say: “…[he] is not [a] sham student…and had come to the UK in 2006 for a computer science degree at the University of Bath, which he passed.

“When he learned of the result of the dissertation it was a bitter blow to him.”

London Metropolitan University Finally Satisfies UK Border Agency

It’s been a long eight months (yes 8 months!) but finally, someone, somewhere within the UK Border Agency (UKBA) is satisfied that London Metropolitan University (London Met) has finally come up to scratch with its obligations as a Sponsor of international student migrants. London Met’s Tier 4 licence suspension nightmare is finally over. Well, almost.

The UKBA made the following announcement on its website:

“Following the revocation of London Metropolitan University’s licence, we undertook a series of detailed checks on their systems and processes for monitoring non-EEA students. As a result the university has made significant improvements, which is why we are now allowing the university to again sponsor students.

“The university now has appropriate checks and processes in place to monitor its international (non-EEA) students, which is why we have allowed the university to again sponsor students under the Tier 4 route.

“Over the next 12 months the university will have the opportunity to demonstrate that it can maintain these standards and work towards becoming a full Highly Trusted Sponsor. Over the past year our aim has been to support legitimate students choosing to study in the UK.

“It is in the interest of international students that all institutions take their immigration responsibilities seriously and demonstrate that they comply with the rules.”

In a statement from London Met, vice-chancellor Malcolm Gillies said:

“This is excellent news for our students and our university, which looks forward to welcoming students from around the world who want to study at one of London’s most diverse academic institutions.

“London Met has a long history of providing education to international students and we can now continue this long-term commitment to offer them quality education.

“Students can have total confidence that our processes are stronger than ever. I take this opportunity to thank all staff and students and, in particular, international students for their patience and support over the last nine months.”

London Met was previously a Highly Trusted Sponsor, and lost its status in August 2012. The right to remain and study in the UK was put at risk for some 2,600 students. The issue was temporarily sorted – giving a slight reprieve to the University’s students already in the UK – but London Met was still prevented from recruiting new students until their licence issue was fully resolved. As a result they could recruit no students for the January 2013 intake.

With the UK’s National Union of Students (NUS) joining what was an intense and fiery battle, London Metropolitan University took the case to the High Court last year. Despite the UKBA finding significant shortcomings within the University’s administration, Mr Justice Irwin – the Judge who heard the case – allowed London Met to seek a Judicial Review of the decision to revoke their licence, which will be heard in October 2013. Mr Justice Irwin refused, however, to quash the UKBA’s decision to withdraw.

The UKBA has subsequently confirmed that current students of London Metropolitan University who have leave to enter / remain in the UK will be allowed to finish their courses.

As expected, students of London Met are relieved with the news. Emmanuel Egwu, a final year student said:

“I am truly thrilled that London Met has finally got back its licence. I came from Nigeria, to study here in the UK and London Met has given me the opportunity to exercise and develop my academic knowledge.

“There isn’t another university who can give students a quality and affordable education, right here in the centre of London.

“My four years of studying at London Met have been fantastic and I encourage students to find a place here- it’s a great learning environment.”

The NUS responded to the news at its annual conference in Sheffield. President Liam Burns said:

“It is welcome news that students have greater stability and security now London Met is back on the road to regaining its HTS licence, and that existing students can finally have confidence that they can continue their studies at a university with a licence.

“We do however have some pressing concerns about restrictions on numbers, work placements, and re-sits in this transitional year and will be urgently seeking further clarification.”

The National Union of Students has joined other stakeholders in criticism of the UK’s Coalition Government over the way it treats international students, especially counting them in net migration figures. This argument has support from a wide-range of sources, including five parliamentary committees.

Burns went on to say:

“This whole saga has shown why the Home Office urgently needs to take responsibility for the damage it has caused to the reputation of the UK’s world class education system and change the way it treats international students to ensure full and proper protection for those studying in this country.

“It is deeply problematic for immigration policy to interfere with teaching and learning, both of which should be firmly in the hands of students and educators.”

A further statement surrounding the issue, from Professor Gillies, was made on London Met’s website:

“Many staff and students have been asking about the university’s progress in regaining its licence to sponsor international students.

“I am pleased to say that the University has now submitted its application for a Tier 4 licence to the UK Border Agency on 1 March 2013.

“We have recently learned that the dates for the High Court case with the UK Border Agency have been set for 17-18 October 2013.

“Although that might seem a long way away, the university and its lawyers Penningtons are already working hard on the case.”

Meanwhile, London Met is set for a bumper recruitment drive to recover from this sorry saga, with a planned four-month tour through 17 countries. Further, nearly 5,000 potential students have made applications for the September 2013.

I do not think that this will be the last we hear about London Metropolitan University and the UK Border Agency / Home Office.

Visa Rules Relaxed for Indian Students, Despite Past Dramas

We’ve previously looked at the UK’s tougher visa rules are a concern for business and it seems that action has swiftly been taken. However, all is not what it seems.

The UK’s Home Office recently announced that immigration rules would be eased for Indians who wish to study and work in the UK, as a continuation of the UK Coalition’s attempt to attract the brightest and the best globally.

The current Graduate Entrepreneur Programme will be tweaked to allow a total of 1,000 international student graduates in the UK to stay on to work for 12 months after their studies. Further, all PhD graduates will be allowed to remain in the UK to work or to start their own business.

The UK’s Immigration Minister Mark Harper said on the issue:

“We are building an immigration system which works in the national interest, supporting the UK economy by continuing to attract the brightest and the best global talent, at the same time as protecting our public services and taking a robust approach against those who want to come to the UK simply to exploit our welfare system”.

This apparent relaxing of the rules has followed constant criticism of tougher visa regulations brought in by the Coalition Government, amid fears that international students are being put off from studying in the UK.

Further, the number of international students in the UK has dropped considerably. UK net migration fell 84,000 from 2011 – 12 and the numbers of international students from India – the UK’s second largest source country of student migrants – have also fallen sharply, figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) show.

This drop in numbers and harsh criticism from the business sector, led to increased pressure on Mrs May, the UK Home Secretary, to work with colleagues and find a way to ease restrictions.

And this relaxation of the visa rules is quite funny when you consider that recent tightening was prompted by abuse from the Indian Subcontinent – indeed, the UK Border Agency had to temporarily suspended UK Tier 4 (General) Student Visa applications for the UK from Northern India, Nepal and Bangladesh.

Tough UK Student Visa Laws a Concern for Business

The UK’s current student visa regime is discouraging talented international students from coming to the UK, comments a Member of Parliament from the West Midlands, UK.

Adrian Bailey MP – Labour MP for West Bromwich West and chairman of the Business, Innovation and Skills committee – argued that this could be hurting the country in terms of investment. International student migrants from India fell by 23.5% in 2012 and more worryingly, there was a 28% drop in postgraduate students from India.

Mr Bailey also calls for universities to be central to regional growth plans across the UK.

The value of migration and investment from India to the UK is probably best known in the West Midlands: five years ago, Jaguar Land Rover was taken over by Indian firm Tata Motors, creating thousands of jobs in the area and boosting the local economy.

Mr Bailey explained his desire to see more done to encourage international student migrants to study in the UK during an interview with the Birmingham Post.

He said: “You are talking about £20,000 a year in spending coming into the country with each student, when you take in the multiplier effect.

“We are turning away the people who are the best of the best, and who may very well return to this country offering key economic partnerships.

“It is really a very dangerous strategy because a great deal of inward investment has resulted from contacts made at universities and students coming back to invest in the areas they studied in.

“This is one of the areas where Brand Britain is strong – we should be developing that.”

Earlier this year, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) released figures showing that student numbers from India were down 10,000 – 30,000 come to study in the UK in the period 2011 – 12, compared to 40,000 for 2010 – 11. Whilst India remains the second most common country of origin for student migrants in the UK, the drop is significant. China still leads the pack, with 79,000 international students in the UK last year.

It is believed most of the drop in numbers was driven by the closure of the the UK’s post-study visa route from April 2012. This closed the popular choice amongst international students of staying and working in the UK for two years following completion of their studies. Under the new rules, international students can stay to work in the UK after their studies, for three years, but it must be a graduate level position, determined by salary: £20,000 or more.

The HESA report also showed a drop of 13.4% in the number of Pakistani international students in the UK study at universities, including a larger drop of 19% at postgraduate level.

This is all against a worrying backdrop of falling numbers of international students coming to the UK from outside the EU – the first time this has happened in 16 years.

The Rise of Asia – a Threat to UK Education?

We recently looked at the issue of international students turning away from countries with highly restrictive visa regulations and now consider the rise of Asia as a study destination for international students.

The rise of language and further education providers within Asia is a hot topic. Singapore and Malaysia have already established themselves as further education hubs in the region, and the Philippines looks set to follow suit – they are developing their English language sector, soon opening a school in Manila for executive English language learners.

These are not the only examples of a growing trend to deliver English as a Foreign Language programmes at home in Asia. Activity in this sector is gathering pace. The global career specialist Disco Inc from Japan is to launch a new venture called GlobalStudyAsia, which seeks to promote English language learning throughout the Asian continent.

Further, anecdotal evidence form education agents in Korea already shows a growing preference for Korean students to search for an education provider within Asia. Cost has been a key issue highlighted, as well as visa issues. The difficulty of securing visas to study in the West, and the increased ease of securing visas within Asia once further ASEAN integration happens in 2015 will surely continue to drive growth in this sector.

Indeed, the West doesn’t want to miss out either. Opening overseas campuses has become increasingly popular among educators from the UK and US. Education UK offers support to UK Universities wishing to go this route.

Whilst the rise of English language and further education provision throughout Asia is an interesting prospect for Asian education agents, it should raise alarm bells for UK-based educators and subsidiary businesses. The landscape is changing and there will be increased competition to get students to the UK. An oppressive UK visa regime has already caused the number of international students to drop. The rise of a new Asian Tiger will surely bring greater pressure to bear in this area. Whilst it is true that all the traditional Western study destinations are likely to suffer, it is those countries with tough visa regulations that will surely suffer the most.

On a more positive note, one thing that will never change however, is the demand for English language skills and the respect that Western higher education commands. There is hope, but Western governments must take note of the new dangers of making their countries unattractive to international students.

Translation Website Launched for International Student Visa Applications

www.translatemydoc.co.uk Makes Buying Translations Easier And Cheaper For Students

Established translation company Talking Heads® has launched the UK’s first website designed specifically for students to get their visa applications translated.

At www.translatemydoc.co.uk, students can get a price for their documents (including a hefty student discount), upload their documents and pay – all online. There is even information in different languages to help the process go smoothly.

The UK Council for International Student Affairs reports that in the 2009-10 academic year, over 405,000 international students were studying in UK universities, an increase of 10% on the previous year.

Talking Heads® has been working with a variety of Universities across the UK for a number of years and identified that these students require excellent support when buying translations, as it is such a critical part of applying to the UKBA (UK Border Agency) for their study visa.

Partner at Talking Heads® and creator of translatemydoc, Laurianne Enos, says “We understand that international students are quite rightly concerned that they are following the correct procedures at this crucial time of applying for their visa. We provide this essential hands-on support but we’ve also made it much easier to do the practical stuff like uploading documents and paying online at translatemydoc.co.uk. We’re also happy to support the international student community in the UK by offering a healthy discount.

The development team behind translatemydoc.co.uk have taken time to make sure that they’ve really understood what it feels like to be a student in this position and created the website with them in mind. The customer service team is always at the end of the phone and email too.”

Laurianne adds, “We are looking forward to working closely with International Student and Welfare offices to support the University staff also.”

This post was submitted by Laurianne.