Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine
Opinion... from the News Editor

I suppose politics is never too far away from the international education industry, but I must say it has been a particularly political week on the StudyTravel news desk!

This morning I write on the latest diplomatic spat, one that has seen the issuance of non-immigrant (including student) visas mutually halted by the USA and Turkey. The move comes in response to the arrest of a Turkish citizen working for the US mission, which local media reports suggest is in relation to last year's failed coup.


One would assume that this issue will be resolved fairly soon, and that was certainly the feeling from Turkish agency association UED, but the consequences of it not being resolved could be pretty hefty.


Travel bans for Syria and North Korea are one thing; Turkey is at an entirely different level in terms of student mobility. The USA was the second-most popular destination in StudyTravel Magazine's most recent Turkey agency survey (29 per cent share); it takes a sizeable share of the higher education market in UED's annual reports; and as UED advise, some 5,000 Turkish students per year participate in the J-1 summer work and travel programme.


Surely there is a better way to resolve this than the blunt instrument of halting visas on both sides? I hope the issue has passed by the time I write to you next week.


In the UK, the international education sector has been pushed a little higher up the agenda by recent events. English UK Chief Executive, Sarah Cooper, has been flying the flag for ELT at the annual party conferences of both the ruling Conservative Party and the currently buoyant opposition Labour Party.


The imposition of a post-Brexit visa regime for short-term European students is a nightmare scenario for a UK English language schools that have long enjoyed bureaucracy-free access to their main recruitment markets, but Sarah received assurances from the Immigration Minister that no such plans were afoot.


And this week I was invited to a Department for International Trade launch event, where two new initiatives to support UK education exports were unveiled. While these weren't ground-breaking developments, the government engaging actively with all aspects of the industry can only be a good thing.


An elephant in the room was the UK's immigration policy towards non-EU students and the vexed issue of migration statistics, but after commissioning a review of the sector recently it does seem as if the government has moved closer to the industry than at any point in the last five years, so cautious optimism on that score. It would be a further positive if the newly announced Education Advisory Group is a cross-government body, similar to the Australian model.


Over the pond, I also had the pleasure of being invited to the highly enjoyable EnglishUSA Stakeholders' Conference.


This is a sector that is certainly facing some battles at the moment after a couple of years of declines, an historically high dollar and, yes, a lively political landscape.


What I found was a sector in resilient mood. I heard of new location openings, stable association membership, an acceptance that the industry can be cyclical, exploration of growth in the young learner segment, increasing usage of agents for recruitment, and working together for the general good.


On the political front, there was much talk of advocacy and lobbying, with members encouraged to utilise a range of techniques to contact local politicians, constituents and influencers. Delegates were reminded that the international education sector has a decent degree of cross-party support in the USA - as evidenced by recent bipartisan congress letters in support of the threatened J-1 scheme.


Well that is probably enough politics for one week. Don't forget to check out our weekly news videos for a handy round-up of the week's stories.  



Matthew Knott

News Editor