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English UK explains UK ELT to the new Parliament

Published on Saturday, January 11, 2020

English UK ELT Parliament

MPs, members of the House of Lords, and government officials all attended a packed briefing about the value of ELT and FE international students to the UK.

New MPs were among those who attended the All-Party Parliamentary Group for International Students’ roundtable meeting, organised by English UK and the Association of Colleges. Panellists included Steve Phillips of British Study Centres, Jane Dancaster of the Wimbledon School of English and Spencer Fordham of the Capital School of English in Bournemouth. The AoC team were International Director Emma Meredith with Mark Allen of East Sussex College, Sarah Gore of Edinburgh College and Shelagh Legrave of Chichester College.

Both English UK Chair Steve Phillips and chief executive Sarah Cooper were positive about the session. “We jointly got the message across and it was good to have the DIT here,” said Steve while Sarah said she was encouraged by an extremely positive discussion. “We brought a lot of points to the attention of the officers of the APPG, showed the deep potential of the ELT and FE sectors to contribute to the growth target in the international education strategy and explored how we could overcome potential barriers to that.”

Chairing the meeting in the House of Lords, Glasgow MP Alison Thewlis said the contribution of the two sectors to the UK economy was “vital but overlooked” and that an estimated 40 per cent of international students at our universities had previously studied in ELT centres.

Sarah Cooper said the Government’s International Education Strategy had been “a fantastic beginning” with its support for growth. She was encouraged by recent Home Office policy showing “deep recognition of the complexity and contribution of the education sector.”

“The challenges are because most strategy is focused on higher education - which isn’t surprising because it brings in the big bucks - but our sector is at the heart of the industry. People come into an ELT centre or FE college at the start of their journey and it used to be a seamless transition to the next stage.  You came in to study English and you chose what to do next – the FE college in which I worked employed teachers as UCAS advisors for students who came for a year, immersed themselves in the language, went to a university of their choice for a degree and maybe a master’s and then went home. That scene has changed but ELT is still at the heart of the industry and we’re looking for more support for small businesses which make up most of the ELT industry to help them make the most of the opportunities out there.”

Issues raised during the session included the need for GREAT funding to be used to market the UK in Europe after we leave the EU, the effects of losing ID card travel and difficulties around visas in some newer markets. Others highlighted by panellists to peers and MPs in more detail were the requirement for students to return home to apply for visas for further study, Turkish visa problems, the inadequacy of short-term study visas for students in FE colleges and encouraging EU students after Brexit.

Officials from the DIT and Home Office attended the session and responded to some of the points made, including the need to extend the GREAT campaign to the EU and the future of the International Education Strategy.

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