Schools.com has created an infographic on universities’ use of social media. While social media is the fastest growing media of all time, with 200 million Facebook users in one year (compared to 50 million users in 38 years users for radio!), academia has been slow to embrace the new technology.
In terms of international education, the infographic shows that there is a significant potential recruitment market online. With low to no costs involved and an almost global reach (some countries, such as China, have banned certain sites), social media could become one of the greatest marketing tools for institutions.
A number of top study destination countries have faced serious visa issues over the past month, as reports regarding visa rorts, exploitation, drawbacks and concerns circulate in New Zealand, Australia, the US and the UK.
New Zealand’s Ministry of Business, Innovation & Employment issued a media release earlier this month saying that fraudulent student visa applications had been uncovered during a routine random sampling of Immigration New Zealand's Beijing office. The fraud predominantly consisted of fake qualifications and falsified bank statements.
Of those sampled, 279 applications were confirmed to have contained some form of fraud, with 231 of those obtaining a visa and currently residing in New Zealand. The other 48 people have either already left or been prevented from entering the country. Head of Immigration, Steve Stuart: "Of the 231 individuals who are in New Zealand, 60 are unlawful as their visas have expired and they are liable for deportation... The remaining 171 are on valid visas and they may become liable for deportation depending on their individual circumstances."
The media release also said that a full investigation was underway and would take several weeks. Preliminary findings, however, linked the majority of the fraud to two agents.
In spite of the findings, TVNZ reported that the New Zealand Government would look to outsource more of its visa processing. Immigration Minister Nathan Guy said "We'll look to outsource some of these lower-level applications with third parties. We'll look to increase online access - currently working very well with our student visas in Palmerston North, where they are processing half of those in a turnaround of about 48 hours."
Opposition industrial relations spokeswoman Darien Fenton said further outsourcing was a "huge worry."
As if the findings of fraud in Immigration NZ’s Beijing office weren’t bad enough, however, The New Zealand Herald reported that systemic student visa rorts on top of those already found were prevalent throughout New Zealand’s fruit picking industry. According to former kiwi fruit worker, Ken Heng, many overseas pickers had obtained student visas to keep their under-the-table jobs once their holiday visas had run out. Many enrolled in private training schools in Auckland, returning to farms to work.
"It's very organised ... There's a lot of them that would drive up... to Auckland once a fortnight to the school, just to mark attendance, sign off on work that they haven't even done and it just keeps them going."
Earlier reports from The New Zealand Herald indicated that these students were being exploited, paid as little as $8 per hour.
At least 8 of the 231 students currently in New Zealand on fraudulent visas have been confirmed as working in a vineyard.
Journal Express carried an article on a report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) that found the US Government had unknowingly permitted "sham" colleges and universities to award visas to international students. The GAO report found that a "significant number" of schools certified to provide visas for international students were not certified to operate in the first place. The report comes after a highly publicized case in 2011 of a college providing visas to students who openly admitted to having no intention of attending classes.
The UK continues to struggle to contain a backlash after tightening student visa requirements. University World News reported that the changes were driving Indian students away.
"The number of students going to study in the UK has declined sharply following the changes to the post-student work visa regulations," said Naresh Gulati, CEO of Oceanic Consultants, a leading overseas education agency. "The number is likely to go down further if corrective action is not taken in the immediate future.
"Other countries such as Australia have gained after making some significant changes to visa regulations that seem to appeal to the Indian student."
The article also highlights the lack of post-study work rights as a major deterrent for students. In a similar article, International Business Times looked at the flip side of the argument, running a story on how the UK’s skills shortage coupled with immigration restrictions would damage the UK's economy.
Meanwhile, in Australia, The PIE News reported that the new post-study work rights alone are not enough to attract international students. The article quotes a survey of 130 nursing, accounting and engineering students, which found that international work experience, while increasingly important, was severely lacking for international students in Australia.
Co-author, Jill Blackmore, said "Students come with certain expectations that they will get employment, particularly if they come in a skill shortage area, but that is often not the case." It has also been found that employers often deter from employing foreign students due to concerns on retention or lack of citizenship.
Will the new post-study work rights attract more international students to Australia?
In Issue 13 of the IEU, PIER asked whether you thought the coming post-study work rights would attract more students to study in Australia. Respondents overwhelming agreed, with only a handful stating they were unsure. Several respondents questioned why only universities had been granted the latest change, with one saying:
"...the question is to which sector will these students be attracted? If it is to higher education, as anticipated, will there be a trickle down effect to English language studies?"
During the CISA Annual Conference, PIER also surveyed students on their thoughts of the new post-study work rights. While students overwhelmingly agreed that they made Australia a more attractive study destination, the mood throughout the conference was of displeasure. As the new post-study work rights will only be applied to students who have applied for a visa after 5 November 2011, the majority of students currently studying in Australia are ineligible.
Who should take responsibility for ensuring international students are capable of studying in Australia?
During agent workshops in Korea and China, PIER asked agents to complete a survey on their views of the recent student visa changes. Over the coming months, we will release the results of the survey through both the IEU and our sister publication, the Education Agent Bulletin (EAB).
During the workshop, we asked agents if they agreed with the following statement:
"The education provider should certify that prospective students have an appropriate level of English language and evidence of suitable education qualifications rather than DIAC assessing this part of the visa application process"
Agents overwhelmingly agreed with this statement, with 82.2% of agents in Korea and 84.3% of agents in China believing that this was best practice. Interestingly, contrary to their responses, during discussions agents were less than confident in the judgement of education providers, partly due to a view that education providers were requesting very little details of academic performance.
We also asked agents worldwide the same question through the EAB. Like the results in China and Korea, 89% of agents agreed that the institution should take responsibility for ensuring students have appropriate English and Academic skills for study in Australia.
We would like to know what the other side thinks. As a professional working in international education in Australia, do you believe that the responsibility for assessing students' ability prior to studying overseas lies with the education provider, or do you think that DIAC should take a more hands on approach when granting visas to ensure that prospective students have both the academic and English language skills required to study in Australia?
The International Student Leadership Program (ISLP) is an online course that develops leadership skills for Australian and international students. The program has been designed to develop leadership, advising and support skills and provide students with a working knowledge of the Australian international education industry and an understanding of the regulatory framework.
The ISLP develops the skills and knowledge to effectively lead and support international students studying in Australia.
Upon completion of the program, students receive an online certificate. Students who have completed the program have used it to springboard into leadership positions in their institution’s student body.
The ISLP is a free online course developed in association between the Council of International Students Australia (CISA) and PIER.
To access the ISLP, visit cisa.edu.au, click the International Student Leadership Program logo and follow the prompts to register.
A Denmark politician has recommended non-EU foreign students receive green cards to assist in finding post-study work, reports The Copenhagen Post.
ICEF Monitor reports foreign applications to Hong Kong universities have significantly increased, up 42% from 2011-2012.
Malaysia will tighten entry requirements for foreign students, according to The Star Online.
The Telegraph published "10 Things I Wish I Had Known About Getting a Student Visa."
The Philippines will strengthen its ELICOS sector by combining education and tourism, reports Saudi Gazette.
Applications for the Tony Adams Fund are now open. Grants are available for professional development and research in international education. Click here to download the application form.