The 4th annual two-day Gulf Education Conference Exhibition (GECE) took place in London earlier this week. Its theme, “Higher Education in 2020,” centered around the findings in the Horizon Scanning report, a report commissioned by the Leadership Foundation and International Unit, which looks at what current higher education trends would look like in six years.
Noodle spoke with one of the key speakers, James Pitman, managing director for Study Group’s Higher Education Division throughout the U.K. and Europe. He is responsible for exclusive international study partnerships with over 15 universities in the U.K. and across Europe. Pitman shared his thoughts on the current education trend: partnership programs for international students.
Partnerships Help International Students Get Into Top Ranked Schools
During the conference, Pitman served on the “Internationalisation: Opportunities and Achieving Excellence through Partnerships” panel. He spoke on the importance and success of partnerships in education between the private sector and public sector. He believes that continuing and establishing partnerships between pathway companies like Study Group and individual universities is the most important element to continuing the success and growth of international students in 2020. The goal of partnerships is to help international students successfully prepare to get accepted into the top universities in the U.K.
How Do These Partnerships Work?
Private sector companies, like U.K.’s Study Group, serve as a stable link for international students and universities. They work to recruit international students and then prepare them for university education and success, said Pitman.
Study Group, for example, works with Bellerbys College, an exclusively international student college, to prepare recruited students to study at one of its partner universities. Pitman proudly shared that 50 percent of Bellerbys College A level students graduate to top 15 U.K. universities.
Why We Need Partnerships
One of the main findings of the Horizon Scanning report was regarding international student mobility — students moving to study outside their home country. According to the report, student mobility is still the main driver behind internationalization. Data showed that the number of international mobile students rose from 2.1 million in 2000 to 4.1 million in 2010 with an annual growth rate of 7.1 percent. By 2020, the report says, there will be even more mobile students around the world.
“Partnerships are very much a way forward,” Pitman said. With millions of students outside their home countries already and many more planning on following their footsteps, “partnerships have to exist between the private sector and public sector for international students to have success,” he said.
Partnerships Offer What No One Else Offers
Put simply, access. “We provide resources and study skills that students would not have access to,” Pitman said. Study Group’s international students have access to its Virtual Learning Environment (VLE) platform based on Moodle, a learning platform designed to provide educators, administrators, and learners with a secure and integrated system to create personalized learning environments, Pitman said.
Study Group ensures that students who are accepted into a university that offers a VLE get acquainted with this platform prior to enrollment. The VLE is also used for “flipped learning,” he added, which is where the students have access to the content prior to their classes. “This is particularly powerful for international students who may need to go over material several times in order to understand the content."
Challenges International Students Face
A challenge often faced by students and the Study Group is government policy on international student visas, Pitman said.
U.K. has one of the toughest visa application policies, and it got tougher in 2012 when they infiltrated a more rigorous application process for international students.
“It’s all tied into politics,” Pitman said. “We just work around it.”
With so many students considering international study, Pitman refers to right now and the coming time as the “golden age of opportunity for partnerships” and continues to support international students and recruit them to study in the U.K.
Ahmed, M., Angulo, T., Axel-Berg, A., Burrows, A., Lawton, W., Katsomitros, A. (2013, Sept 09). Horizon scanning: What will higher education look like in 2020? Retrieved from The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education.
Pitman, James (2014, April 01). Retrieved from telephone interview.
Photo courtesy of Reinoud Kaasschieter