Category Archives: International Students

Universities ‘over-reliant’ on Chinese students: HEFCE

Universities ‘over-reliant’ on Chinese students: HEFCE

Brendan O’Malley, 26 February 2015 University World News Global Edition Issue 356

English universities have become over-reliant on growth in recruitment of full-time postgraduate students from China and have developed a risky dependence on scholars funded by their own governments, according to new analysis by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, or HEFCE. English universities have become over-reliant on growth in recruitment of full-time postgraduate students from China and have developed a risky dependence on scholars funded by their own governments, according to new analysis by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, or HEFCE.

This will be challenged by a fast decline in China’s youth population, as well as China’s own efforts to become a study destination country, the paper warned. China’s 20-year-old population is expected to decline by 40 per cent in the period from 2015 to 2020, compared with 2005 to 2010.

English universities have also developed a risky dependence on additionally attracting more and more postgraduate students from countries with strong state-funded scholarship programmes that are dependent on government funding priorities – such as Malaysia, Iraq and Libya.

“While this demonstrates the excellent value of an English postgraduate degree for overseas national governments, this may be an area of vulnerability if these countries shift their funding priorities,” the HEFCE report says.

The paper, Global Demand for English Higher Education: Latest shifts and trends, also warned that although total international student numbers have recovered in England, the growth rate of these enrolments remain low compared with English-speaking competitor destinations.

The growth rate in the United States in 2013 compared to 2012 was 8%, double that of the international student enrolment in England (4%), the analysis found.

“There is an indication that US universities are increasingly using agency recruitment and third parties’ pathway programmes, which is likely to present an additional challenge to English higher education institutions in their recruitment efforts overseas,” HEFCE warns.

Currently, full-time international entrants constitute 18% of total entrants in England, compared to 4.2% in the United States, according to the analysis of 2013 figures.

Challenged by Asian hubs

The long-term sustainability of growth in postgraduate demand outside China will be further challenged if privately funded demand for postgraduate education continues to decline.

The paper warned that in the medium to long term, the dependency on China and Malaysia for growth at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels will be challenged by their desire to become international education hubs.

Growth rates in the numbers of international students studying in the two countries are already high and “growing domestic capacity and continued investments in education systems may create an attractive and economically viable proposition for some of the students in the East Asia region seeking overseas education”, the HEFCE report says.

Unemployment driving recruitment

The HEFCE analysis compares statistics for 2012-13 with those for 2013-14.

In England, at undergraduate level, Italy and Spain drove growth in demand for undergraduate and postgraduate education.

“They were among the countries with the highest youth unemployment and declines in the volume of economic output, which highlights the counter-cyclical nature of demand for English higher education in these two countries,” the report says.

Overall, there was a 4% rise in EU entrants to full-time higher education in England in 2013, compared with the previous year, taking the total to 38,140, up by 1,395. But the number of entrants remained 12% below 2010 levels, according to the paper published on 18 February.

Non-EU international entrants to full-time higher education rose by a healthier 7% during the same period to 138,865, up by 9,020, says the paper.

Although there was a 7% recovery in EU undergraduate entrants in 2013, compared with the year before, this is still 16% below 2010 entry levels.

Two factors negatively affecting recruitment of EU students are the hike in tuition fees in England in 2012 – mostly involving a tripling of the cost – and the EU’s demographics. Apart from the Netherlands and tiny Luxembourg, EU member states have seen significant declines in the population of 18 year-olds since 2010.

England has been hit most by a decline from some of the largest EU countries of origin, such as Germany and France. Since 2010, first-degree entrants from those two countries dropped by 42% and 30% respectively.

By contrast the EU countries with the largest growth in first-degree entrants in 2013 compared with 2010 are Italy (365 entrants), Hungary (140), Portugal (135) and Spain (100). Other than Hungary, for which data are not available, these are all among the countries with the highest levels of unemployment, the report says.

Improving employability

“Improving their employability prospects with an English degree may be among the key decision-making factors students from these countries consider when weighing their study options,” HEFCE says.

Spain, Portugal and Italy, along with Greece and Cyprus, have experienced the largest declines in their real gross domestic product, or GDP, in the past two years.

“Spain and Italy were also among the countries with the largest absolute declines in their 18-year-old populations since 2010, which suggests that the economic drivers towards studying in England are overriding the demographic ones,” HEFCE says.

Non-EU international entrants to full-time undergraduate courses grew by 8% in 2013 compared with the previous year, reaching 54,250, up by 3,960.

“Students from East Asia continued to drive undergraduate entry to England,” the report says.

Malaysia had the strongest growth, with 35% (1,040 entrants). Hong Kong and Singapore continued their rate of growth from previous years, with 13% and 21% growth respectively.

There was a slowdown in the rate of growth in entrants from China to 3%. But entry from Nigeria grew by 17%, the report says.

Impact of transnational education

This suggests that growth in undergraduate entrants is concentrated in “countries which are strong in transnational education delivered by English higher education institutions”, the HEFCE says. It noted that more than half of the students from China and Malaysia, the two countries driving growth at undergraduate and postgraduate level, commenced their undergraduate degree through courses delivered by British institutions overseas.

The decline in Indian students’ entry levelled off in 2013, remaining almost unchanged compared with the previous year. Saudi Arabia continued to decline, falling by 18%. Its numbers have more than halved compared with 2010.

The non-EU student share of the full-time undergraduate entrants rose from 8% in 2005 to 13% in 2013. But the EU student share of the same population was the same in 2013 as 2005, at 5%.

Overall the percentage of full-time undergraduate entrants who were foreign students rose from 13% in 2005 to 18% in 2013, the HEFCE paper says.

Increasing Chinese postgraduate entrants

The number of international and EU entrants to postgraduate education rose by 6% and 1% respectively from 2012 to 2013, to a combined total of 103,680.

Nearly half the growth was driven by increasing numbers of Chinese entrants, rising by 9% to 31,195 entrants, up 2,615. The fastest rise was among Malaysian students, which increased by 30% to 2,180 entrants, up 500, the report says.

HEFCE has previously reported that China has a very high progression rate (56%) of students who started their undergraduate education in England through a transnational education course and progressed to postgraduate studies.

The entry rate from Indonesia and Iraq grew by 41% and 21% respectively. There was recovery in demand from Saudi Arabia, up 19 %, and Libya, up 81%, but their numbers remained lower than in 2010.

Fall in entrants from India

While China’s share of full-time non-EU postgraduates has risen from 25% in 2010 to 37% in 2013, India’s share has fallen sharply in the same period from 18% to 8%.

This is in contrast to student flows from India to other English-speaking countries: overall enrolments from India increased by 6% in the US (3,650 students) and 33% in Australia (4,105 students) in 2013, with growth concentrated in postgraduate studies, the report says.

The fall in entrants from India seems to have hit science, technology, engineering and mathematics – STEM – subjects and business related subjects particularly badly, with a 66 % decline in Indian entrants to STEM subjects between 2010 and 2013.

England’s postgraduate sector is now heavily dependent on one country, China. Among full-time postgraduate entrants, the leading countries of origin are: China (37%), India (8%), Nigeria (6%), United States (6%), Pakistan (2%), Saudi Arabia (3%).

“The long term sustainability of growth in postgraduate entry is uncertain,” the HEFCE says.

Foreign students dominate taught masters

England’s full-time postgraduate taught masters courses are now heavily dominated by foreign students, who make up 74% of entrants, with 12% of those coming from the EU and 62% from non-EU countries. There are now almost as many Chinese full-time masters students as home students.

Entrants to full-time postgraduate research degrees by EU students rose by 11% while international entrants rose by 10% between 2012 and 2013. The increasing demand was driven by Italy and Spain among EU students and by China (up 12%), Iraq (up 99%), Malaysia (up 23%) and Libya (up 37%) among international students.

The governments of Iraq and Malaysia funded more than half their new entrants in postgraduate research, while the Libyan government sponsored more than three-quarters of its entrants.

University World News

Changes to Sex Assault Bill

Changes to Sex Assault Bill

February 27, 2015


WASHINGTON -- The bipartisan group of U.S. senators thathas been pushing legislation to curb campus sexual assaults is making some changes to their proposal as they look to advance the measure in the new Congress.

The sponsors of the legislation, who now include five Democrats and five Republicans, on Thursday unveiled a newversion of their bill aimed at holding colleges more accountable for addressing sexual violence.

Those lawmakers said at a press conference that the revised proposal was a response to feedback from victims of sexual assault, advocates for the rights of accused students, law enforcement and college and university administrators.

“We have listened,” said Senator Claire McCaskill, the Missouri Democrat who is leading the effort. “Today’s bill is much stronger for it. We have improved it. We have made changesbased on suggestions we have heard.”

McCaskill said the legislation would strengthen the rights of accused students, which critics have said are undermined by the bill.

“We are very focused on making sure there’s also due process,” she said.

A new provision in the bill would require colleges to notify both the victim and accused student within 24 hours of a college’s decision to move ahead with a disciplinary hearing for an allegation of sexual misconduct. The legislation also now describes students accused of sexual assault as “accused students” instead of “assailants.”

Joe Cohn, the legislative policy director at the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education, called some of those changes "an incremental step in the right direction."

But, he said, the proposal "still doesn't come anywhere close to striking a balance" between the rights of the complainant and the rights of the accused.

Elsewhere in the legislation are tweaks that appear to address some of the concerns colleges and universities have expressed about the bill.

The new draft, for instance, clarifies which law enforcement agencies colleges must sign an agreement to combat sexual assault with, as well as the role of the adviser that colleges would have to assign to a student making a complaint of sexual assault.

The legislation would now require colleges to anonymously survey their students about the prevalence of sexual assault once every two years instead of annually. The results of those surveys at each institution would be published online.

But much of the legislation, including requiring more sexual assault training on campuses, remains unchanged from when it was first announced last summer.

Colleges would still face stiffer financial penalties for mishandling sexual violence cases under the Clery Act and the gender equity law known as Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972. The bill would allow the Department of Education to impose a fine as high as 1 percent of a college’s operating budget.

However, the proposal now calls for the revenue collected from those enhanced penalties to be used for a new grant program to help colleges to combat sexual assault rather than flowing back to the Department of Education office responsible for enforcement.

Some colleges and universities had argued that allowing revenue from penalties to flow directly back to the Department of Education might create a “bounty mind-set.”

Since the legislation was first unveiled last summer, some universities, like the State University of New York System, have embraced the proposal and adopted procedures that, in some cases, mirror the legislation. Other groups, such as the American Council on Education, said they were concerned that the proposal was too “heavy-handed” toward institutions.

Governors, state legislatures and individual institutions have also proposed and enacted new policies to deal with sexual assault in recent months.

Senator Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, a Democrat, said that colleges and universities have been “taking some steps in the right direction” to address sexual assaults.

“There have been some reforms,” he said. “But there is so much work still to be done.”

Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, Democrat of New York, though, continued to take a harsher tone against how colleges are performing on the issue.

“The reason why schools are failing is that they do not take this crime seriously,” she said, adding that one-third of students found responsible for sexual violence by a college are not expelled from the institution.

The Senators cosponsoring the legislation said Thursday that they were optimistic they would be able to pass a version of the bill in the new Congress.

Senator Dean Heller of Nevada, the leading Republican cosponsor of the bill, said he discussed the bill with Senator Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chairs the Senate education committee and was interested in bringing the bill before that panel.

“This may not be the perfect piece of legislation that he may agree to,” Heller said, adding that “at the end of the day it may look a little different than what we have.”

McCaskill said in an interview that she, too, had spoken with Alexander about advancing the bill, and, in particular, the added requirements on colleges.

“We are open to his suggestions on how we can make it less burdensome,” she said.

In a statement provided by his office, Alexander said that he wanted to “ensure that regulations on colleges are effective for students.” He has made reducing federal requirements on colleges a priority as he works on a rewrite of the Higher Education Act.

“I look forward to working with Senators McCaskill, Heller and others to examine the best steps the federal government and our colleges and universities can take to help create a safe environment for students,” he said.

Completing the ‘Student Life Cycle’

Completing the 'Student Life Cycle'

February 23, 2015


Student success company Hobsons on Monday acquired Starfish Retention Solutions, bringing both companies closer to the goal of building college and career planning tools that track students as they move through elementary school, high school, college and beyond.

“We’re trying to address what we think is one of the biggest issues facing education today, which is that students are getting to higher education and they’re not necessarily sure why,” said Stephen M. Smith, president of advising and admissions solutions at Hobsons. “When you have a world where almost 40 percent of four-year college students don’t actually complete their degree after six years, we feel like we want to address that issue of retention.... We think we can do that by starting early.”

Hobsons is already a well-known player in the K-12 space. Overall, the company serves about 12 million students across 2,000 postsecondary institutions and 8,500 schools and school districts in 100 different countries, CEO Craig Heldman said.

The company is perhaps best known for Naviance, the software tool used by high school students to determine their chances of being accepted to colleges and universities based on how their grade point averages and standardized test scores compare to previously accepted students from their high schools.

Naviance is only one part of Hobsons’ broader interest in "student life cycle" management. Generally speaking, its software offerings help students find colleges and universities suitable to their interests and career plans. Adding Starfish’s software to the lineup “completes that student life cycle story,” Smith said.

Hobsons has a history of using acquisitions to gain a foothold in different sectors of higher education. For example, the company previously boosted its standing in the graduate and continuing education markets by acquiring Beat the GMATand Intelliworks.

Starfish, while smaller, has also established its presence in higher education, particularly among two-year institutions. Its student success software helps colleges and universities with academic planning, advising and identifying students who are at risk of not meeting their goals -- but also those making good progress toward them.

For the next 18 months, Hobsons will sell Starfish’s software. Meanwhile, Hobsons will work to integrate the two systems and the data collected from them.

“Longer term, what we want to do is ensure that -- as students start to think about their education and build a plan -- they can start doing that without an artificial divide between high school studies and postsecondary studies,” Smith said. In one example, he mentioned that students could grant advisers access to results from career exploration or personality assessments they completed as high school students. “That way it’s not a blank screen, but it’s something [the advisers] have as a starting point.”

David Yaskin, CEO and founder of Starfish, said the company’s roughly 250 clients have pushed for products that target prospective students -- in other words, “a bunch of things we want to do that we don’t have the resources for.” To address that demand, he said, the company either had to invest a significant amount of time and effort into building its own services or find a company already offering products in that market.

Yaskin first talked to Hobsons in April, and described the connection “like love at first sight.”

“There’s so much that we want to do in higher education, and Hobsons helps us get there,” Yaskin said. Addressing the broader issue of retention across all of K-12 and postsecondary education, he said, is “too much for a smaller company to do.”

Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed, but Heldman described it as the largest in Hobsons history. Starfish’s team of roughly 70 employees will join Hobsons, bringing the size of the company up to about 900 worldwide. While Starfish only has a handful of clients located outside the U.S., Hobsons already has offices in Australia, India, Malaysia and the U.K.

DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants Seeking Employment-Based Lawful Permanent Residence

DHS Extends Eligibility for Employment Authorization to Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses of H-1B Nonimmigrants Seeking Employment-Based Lawful Permanent Residence
Release Date: February 24, 2015

WASHINGTON – U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) Director León Rodríguez announced today that, effective May 26, 2015, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who are seeking employment-based lawful permanent resident (LPR) status. DHS amended the regulations to allow these H-4 dependent spouses to accept employment in the United States.

Finalizing the H-4 employment eligibility was an important element of the immigration executive actions President Obama announced in November 2014. Extending eligibility for employment authorization to certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants is one of several initiatives underway to modernize, improve and clarify visa programs to grow the U.S. economy and create jobs.

“Allowing the spouses of these visa holders to legally work in the United States makes perfect sense,” Rodríguez said. “It helps U.S. businesses keep their highly skilled workers by increasing the chances these workers will choose to stay in this country during the transition from temporary workers to permanent residents. It also provides more economic stability and better quality of life for the affected families.”

Eligible individuals include certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants who:

  • Are the principal beneficiaries of an approved Form I-140, Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker; or
  • Have been granted H-1B status under sections 106(a) and (b) of the American Competitiveness in the Twenty-first Century Act of 2000 as amended by the 21st Century Department of Justice Appropriations Authorization Act. The Act permits H-1B nonimmigrants seeking lawful permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit on their H-1B status.

DHS expects this change will reduce the economic burdens and personal stresses H-1B nonimmigrants and their families may experience during the transition from nonimmigrant to lawful permanent resident status, and facilitate their integration into American society. As such, the change should reduce certain disincentives that currently lead H-1B nonimmigrants to abandon efforts to remain in the United States while seeking lawful permanent residence, which will minimize disruptions to U.S. businesses employing them. The change should also support the U.S. economy because the contributions H-1B nonimmigrants make to entrepreneurship and science help promote economic growth and job creation. The rule also will bring U.S. immigration policies more in line with those laws of other countries that compete to attract similar highly skilled workers.

Under the rule, eligible H-4 dependent spouses must file Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization, with supporting evidence and the required $380 fee in order to obtain employment authorization and receive a Form I-766, Employment Authorization Document (EAD). USCIS will begin accepting applications on May 26, 2015. Once USCIS approves the Form I-765 and the H-4 dependent spouse receives an EAD, he or she may begin working in the United States.

USCIS estimates the number of individuals eligible to apply for employment authorization under this rule could be as high as 179,600 in the first year and 55,000 annually in subsequent years. USCIS reminds those potentially eligible that this rule is not considered effective until May 26, 2015. Individuals should not submit an application to USCIS before the effective date, and should avoid anyone who offers to assist in submitting an application to USCIS before the effective date.

For more information on USCIS and its programs or about this rule and filing procedures, please visit or follow us on Facebook (/uscis), Twitter (@uscis), YouTube (/uscis) and the USCIS blog The Beacon.

Last Reviewed/Updated: 02/24/2015


The Cost of Agents

The Cost of Agents
February 20, 2015

Data obtained by Times Higher Education from 158 higher education institutions under Britain's Freedom of Information Act reveal that all but 19 elite or specialist institutions now use agents to enroll non-European Union students.

Spending by 106 institutions that provided details of commission payments totaled £86.7 million ($133.7 million) in 2013-14. This is a 16.5 percent increase from the figure two years earlier.

It appears that the increase is driven as much by rising commission rates as by expanding recruitment.

Across the 124 institutions that provided information on admissions, the number of international students enrolled using agents totaled 58,257 in 2013-14. This was up 6.4 percent on the 2011-12 figure of 54,752.

The data suggest that agents were used to recruit a significant proportion of all non-E.U. learners studying at British universities.

According to the Higher Education Statistics Agency, 179,390 non-E.U. students started courses at all levels of study in the U.K. during 2013-14. The students listed in responses to THE alone account for 32.5 percent of this total.

Commission payments may vary by institution, by agent and by market, but, based on figures from 101 institutions that provided information on both recruitment and spending, the average agent fee paid per student in 2013-14 was £1,767 ($2,725).

That still left substantial income for institutions, with average overseas undergraduate tuition fees for that year standing at £11,289 ($17,419) for classroom subjects and £13,425 ($20,715) for laboratory-based courses.

Vincenzo Raimo, pro vice chancellor for global engagement at the University of Reading, said that the figures demonstrated how British higher education institutions remained “incredibly reliant” on agents.

“I think in part this is due to increased competition both from within the U.K. but also elsewhere in the world. We have now seen U.S. universities formally starting to work with agents and being aggressive in the market, and U.K. universities are having to respond in order to meet ever more ambitious recruitment targets,” said Raimo. “I think also the constant changes to the visa regime have forced more potential applicants into the hands of agents in order to help them through what they perceive to be a complicated and difficult process of applying for a student visa.”

The biggest spender, according to the responses to Times Higher Education's request, was Coventry University, which paid out £10.2 million ($15.7 million) in commission fees and taxes over the past three years. However, the university included fees paid to progression partners, such as providers of predegree courses, in its response.

The biggest spender that provided answers for spending on recruitment agents alone was the University of Bedfordshire, which spent £9.5 million ($14.7 million).

Twenty-seven institutions that use agents refused to reveal details of their commission payments, citing commercial confidentiality.

Coventry recruited the largest number of students using recruitment agents over the three-year period (5,634) -- with those recruited via progression partners excluded for this answer.

Newcastle University was the second most active, recruiting 5,085 students using agents between 2011-12 and 2013-14.

Liz Reisberg, formerly of the Center for International Higher Education at Boston College and now an independent consultant (and a blogger for Inside Higher Ed), described the amounts of money being spent on agents as “staggering." Reisberg said that universities could ensure higher standards by employing staff directly overseas.

“When you are spending so much money, why not spend it wisely.... It would be better to invest in your own university and in your institutional capacity,” she added.

But Kevin Van-Cauter, higher education adviser at the British Council, said that agents played a useful role for institutions and students. “For most universities, this is the most cost-effective way of recruiting, particularly where they may not have the staff or the budgets to cover certain countries, or to maintain a continued presence in that market in a way that will deliver the numbers for that institution,” he said.

“Agents play a crucial role in counseling and converting interest from students and their parents into placements with institutions.”

Although there was little obvious correlation between entry tariffs and the use of agents, the universities that said they did not use agents included some of the Britain's most selective, such as the Universities of Oxford and Cambridge and Imperial College London.

Among the 15 remaining Russell Group institutions that disclosed details of their commission payments, 8 were among the biggest 20 spenders overall.