Education providers have a long way to go to meet students’ needs – Navitas 2019

Education providers still have a long way to go in meeting the needs of international and domestic students, and political, employment and marketing trends change at a rapid pace, delegates at the 2019 Navitas Business Partners Conference were told.

Navitas chief executive Scott Jones addresses delegates at the 2019 Navitas Business Partners Conference. Photo The PIENavitas chief executive Scott Jones addresses delegates at the 2019 Navitas Business Partners Conference. Photo The PIE
“For students, the number one priority now is how do I save the earth”

The conference, held in Kuala Lumpur, attracted almost 200 delegates from Navitas’ agencies and providers to discuss how the international education industry is helping to build global citizens.

“You cannot have force in the market unless you have your message right”

In her opening plenary, vice-chancellor of Western Australia’s Curtin University Deborah Terry said all education providers had a responsibility to adapt and prepare graduates not only for jobs but also for life-long learning.

“One of my very clear views is we’re not preparing graduates for a job, we’re preparing them for a career, and during that career, they will change their jobs many, many times,” she said.

“We have a responsibility as universities to play our role in helping to drive economic and social prosperity.”

Terry, who is also the chair of Universities Australia, added tertiary education is becoming increasingly more vital in the future of work, as figures indicate 80% of all new jobs in the next decade will require “knowledge workers”.

“From where we sit, that is vitally important, really important to understand that and therefore, we all have a responsibility to support the pathways of students all over the world to have access to the education they need to be successful into the future.”

As prospective and current students contemplate how institutions can help them meet future jobs needs, Publisher’s International chief executive Charlton D’Silva students were also changing their desired learning outcomes.

“For students, the number one priority now is how do I save the earth, how does my education make a difference,” he said.

“[But] just because they are conscious of the earth does not mean that they do not want lifestyle of prosperity.”

According to D’Silva, this shift in students’ desires meant providers were in danger of wasting advertising resources by not changing to meet those expectations.

In wanting their prospective institution to help them make a difference, he added students were seeking institutions that had an underlying value or stance, over traditional branding around the quality of tuition.

“I think as global citizens, we need to balance whatever we’re doing”

“What does your university stand for?” he challenged delegates.

“Until you have these…parts of the equation right, you should not spend a dollar. You cannot have force in the market unless you have your message right, and you’ll drive your companies broke if you do that.”

The annual conference also challenged HEI’s role in geopolitics, with Paul Boyle, vice-chancellor of the UK’s Swansea University, questioning how universities’ pedagogy is evolving alongside changing political rhetoric.

“What does the term global citizen really mean? We throw that term around a lot; we assume that a global citizen is what people should aspire to be,” he said.

“How much have we actually changed in the past few years from what universities have been doing for hundreds of years?”

Speaking at the closing plenary, Boyle said politics had changed from left and right, to those with and those without, and universities were increasingly being seen as part of an elite with limited and potentially detrimental impacts on political discourse and the rise of “fake news”.

While the conference reflected on how universities needed to change, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth and Navitas alumna Nneoma Ugwu said more needed to be done in understanding global citizenry.

“We all have a responsibility to support the pathways of students all over the world”

“I think as global citizens, we need to balance whatever we’re doing,” she said, pointing to the rise in mental health issues and bullying through social media.

“We need to be aware of this and make sure we’re mitigating all of these issues that some of your international and global citizens are going through, and going along a good path.”

Ugwu added institutions and students should work together in developing their understanding and tackling global issues.

“We’re all inter-dependent, you need me, I need you, and so we need to support each other,” she said.

“If we’re going to accept the global solutions, they’re greater than me, and they may be greater than you, but they are not greater than all of us combined together.”


Australia: One in four prospective students experience ‘extreme’ pressure

Prospective international students are twice as likely to experience depression than Australia. Photo: Sage Friedman/Unsplash

A quarter of international students considering studying in Australia experience extreme pressure to succeed despite having not made a final decision on their study destination, a new report into mental health indicators has found.

Prospective international students are twice as likely to experience depression than Australia. Photo: Sage Friedman/UnsplashProspective international students are twice as likely to experience depression than Australia. Photo: Sage Friedman/Unsplash
Level of study and age saw all traits diminish but pressure remained high

The ‘Mental Wellbeing Survey of Prospective International and Overseas Students’ report, released by insurance provider Bupa and QS Enrolments Solutions, found the more than 12,000 respondents were twice as likely to experience very low life satisfaction and are at a higher risk or suffering from depression than Australian adults.

“It’s taking an at-risk [group] and putting them in a pressure cooker situation”

“There was a real lack of evidence-based published data available for this group of people, which is surprising given how important international students,” explained Bupa Australia’s national manager, research & analytics Adrian Tomyn.

“There is some evidence, particularly anecdotal evidence, that they are a risk group. We need to come from an evidence-base; if you don’t understand a group of people, what those needs are, and the quantity of those needs, you’re in trouble.”

Based on QS Enrolment Solutions’ pre-departure International Student Survey, the report particularly identified prospective students as twice as vulnerable to depression.

Tomyn said international students were likely to be at a higher risk than Australians due to less fortunate socio-economic circumstances in their home countries.

“The socio-demographic and political circumstances can pre-dispose people and citizens within those countries to a greater level of challenge than what we experience here in Australia,” he said.

“When a group of people experience challenge and adversity in higher numbers, then we naturally expect to see a greater incidence of mental health problems.”

Speaking with The PIE News, Tomyn added depression and mental health concerns often carry a stigma in many countries, which had implications for lowered ability to identify potential risk factors or to allow students to discuss and seek assistance.

The report measured trait negative affects, normal human emotions such as loneliness, stress, anxiety and pressure to succeed, finding significant proportions scored high in each category, which Tomyn said contributed to depression and low life satisfaction risks.

“If you take a group of people that are scoring high on trait negative affects and put them in a challenging circumstance, such as studying and living in another country, then we can expect that these risks will manifest even more poorly,” he said.

“It’s taking an at-risk [group], putting them in a pressure cooker situation, stripping them of their social resources and other resources such as familiarity.

“That’s why we’re seeing and having a lot of conversations with our educational partners about high proportions of students on campus that are really struggling.”

“There was a real lack of evidence-based published data available for this group of people”

Level of study and age saw all traits diminish, dropping more than 15 points in some cases from ages 16-18 to those aged over 36 years, and nine points from foundation programs to postgraduate research.

Tomyn said the drops likely indicated older students and more qualified students more had strong personal relationships and had already established their career, noting other studies showed money and relationships as the two most important buffers for mental wellbeing.

While trait negative effects subsided, pressure to succeed remained the most significant factor across ages and levels of study, with one in three indicating high or extreme levels of pressure before even choosing were they to study.

The findings are an important reminder for universities and institutions to be mindful of their international student cohorts and the mental health risks they experience, Tomyn said, pointing to their impact on attrition rates and other academic issues.

Among its recommendations, the report suggested boosting students understanding and use of mental health services, a greater focus on interventionist techniques, a mental health first aid certificate for teaching staff, and further research into mental wellbeing.

Mental wellbeing has become a talking point within international education, with the release of several apps and programs to address the issue, including NauMai NZ from Education New Zealand recently.


Former Navitas execs launch new company

Former Navitas execs launch new company

There is a new company entering the pathway sector, and the executives behind the new brand have over 200 years of experience in that business.

“The sector is so exhilarating and exciting and it does change people’s lives”

Camino Global Education is being led by John Wood, former CEO of university partnerships at Navitas, and Peter Larsen, who co-founded Navitas (then known as IBT) with Rod Jones in 1994.

“We’re in negotiations with a number of [university] partners globally, but we’re in no rush,” Wood told The PIE News.

“We want to ensure that the partners that choose us and that we choose them, that we actually do deliver for both of us.”

With a seasoned leadership team of six, Camino is planning on making an impact in what is already a fairly competitive field of private companies partnering with universities for specific services tailored towards international students.

“I think a key feature of what we will do is that powerful link, with the partner university, of the academic outcomes, and also joined at the hip with them in the [student] recruitment exercise.

“But yes, it will be, as you say, classic “pathway” in that form with the one difference: total exclusivity with that partner,” Wood relayed.

Rod Jones, co-founder of Navitas, also re-entered the fray in the pathway sector after being part of a takeover bid with BGH. His son, Scott Jones, is now CEO at Navitas.

“The sector is so exhilarating and exciting and it does change people’s lives,” said Wood.

He added, “We don’t need any private equity. It is personal investors, personal investments of the board. We have very deep financial backing from our group.”

The Australia-based board of Camino comprises Wood, Larsen, John Duncan (ex-Monash), Andrew Dawkins (most recently with Study Group Australia), Malcolm Raedel (ex-Navitas) and consultant Julian Mills.


Newsflash: UK to reintroduce two year post-graduation work visa

Two-year work rights for international students in UK reinstated for 2020/21

The UK education sector is elated that post-study work rights are set to be offered to international students for two years post-graduation, with enrolments from the 2020/21 academic year set to benefit from this new immigration rule.

Work rights for international students in the UK will be rolled out for all – the welcome mat is out again, say stakeholders.
“The economy, universities and students will all benefit from a more sensible approach”

In the midst of a political meltdown, the government revealed the policy change as part of an announcement about the world’s largest genetics research project also being launched, with the emphasis on the UK’s need for expertise – notably in STEM fields – made apparent.

“This will put the UK back where we ought to be”

“International students make up half of all full-time postgraduate students in Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths subjects. The new immigration route… will mean international graduates in any subject, including STEM, will be able to stay in the UK for two years to find work,” read the statement.

UUKi director Vivienne Stern, just back from a trade delegation to India, welcomed the change.

She told The PIE News, “This will put the UK back where we ought to be – a first-choice destination for international students. We lost ground in the last few years, particularly in South Asia.”

It was a rule that the sector had been campaigning hard for, particularly in the last few years, since the same two-year work rights were rescinded in 2012.

Indian student enrolments were particularly impacted by the post-study restrictions, with corresponding huge growth in Indian enrolments in Canada.

“In India last week, there was huge press and student interest in the likelihood of this change so I feel very confident that the announcement will result in a real bounce in interest in the UK,” noted Stern.

“This is very positive news,” echoed UUK chief executive Alastair Jarvis.

“Evidence shows that international students bring significant positive social outcomes to the UK as well as £26 billion in economic contributions, but for too long the lack of post-study work opportunities in the UK has put us at a competitive disadvantage in attracting those students.”

According to a government statement, the new PSW visa will be available to students who have successfully completed a degree at undergraduate level or above at a UK HEI which has a “proven track record” in upholding immigration checks.

There will be no cap on the number of applications.

The new immigration route will enable eligible students to work or job hunt at any skill level, and they will be able to switch to the Skilled Work route if they find a job which meets its requirements.

Asked which cohort of students will be the first to benefit from the new regulations, a Home Office spokesperson told The PIE: “Plans will be revealed in due course. Universities will be able to recruit on the basis that students of 2020/2021 will benefit. The government is currently working on a timeline.”

The sector has enthusiastically welcomed the news. “At last. Godot has finally arrived,” HEPI director Nick Hillman told The PIE.

“All the evidence suggests we need a better regime. We’ve been slipping behind our competitors because our offer has been so uncompetitive. The economy, universities and students will all benefit from a more sensible approach.”

The new regulations are good news for the ELT sector as well, English UK commented, highlighting the sector’s role as a pipeline for HEIs and expressing hope the news will enhance its competitiveness on the global stage.

“This announcement makes the UK a more attractive place to study,” English UK marketing director Annie Wright told The PIE.

“It is likely to mean that more young people and their families will choose the UK’s ELT sector to start their educational journeys or prepare for university study, in the knowledge that they can get a valuable two extra years of experience and using their skills in the workplace.

“We can also hope that this is only the start of making the UK more attractive to all international students through the visa system and positive messaging, so that the ELT sector can compete effectively with other destinations.”

The policy change has “been a really long time coming”, as Stern noted, with many sector stakeholders actively engaged in lobbying for the past few years.

“We felt we had won the policy argument some time ago, but it really took some dogged persistence to make sure that minister after minister pressed for the change in government,” she explained.

“At last. Godot has finally arrived”

Stern said particular credit should go to outgoing universities minister Jo Johnson (who resigned last week), but also to his predecessor Chris Skidmore, and to Paul Blomfield, Lord Hannay and Lord Karan Bilimoria who have “pressed and pressed for years to get the government to make the visa system welcoming, rather than off-putting, to international students.”

Hillman agreed. “I shall forever think of it as the Jo Johnson memorial policy, given the excellent work he did on this in and out of office,” he added.