Uncertainty order of the day for post-Brexit Britain

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That is the only certainty anyone can currently see in Britain as a whole today and education is no different from any other part of UK life.

In amongst all the various changes, potential changes and many unknowns, the new Secretary of State for Education, Justine Greening, has been given a mandate for both schools and higher education and the media are flinging about all kinds of suggestions about what ideas she may have and what policies the government may follow. This needs to be watched closely. With parliamentary opposition in disarray, another decade of Tory government is quite possible, some may say probable, so policies formed now may well be seen through.

Most of what she does will impact on “home” students. At school level, the usual political footballs are school “type”, curriculum content & structure, and how students are examined/accredited. For international students, the last couple of years have seen the consolidation of international versions of UK school qualifications and it seems they are now unlikely to change very much, at least for the next five years. The rest of it is irrelevant to international students.

In higher education there are two big ideas being floated by government and they are linked. The first is to allow more providers  to teach higher level qualifications. Effectively, make it easier to become a degree awarding institution. The other is to allow fee increases beyond the current GBP9,000/year cap. Allowing the second will encourage the first, so goes typical market-oriented thinking. The fees of course do not impact international students who already pay considerably more. What will be of interest is what impact this may have on the availability of courses and their quality. International students thinking of going to the UK for higher education should watch both the rule changes and market changes carefully. It is unfortunate that immigration has been such a strong part of the current debate and the Brexit decision. It has made it all but impossible to do anything about international student visa numbers and conditions. In my opinion, the UK made a terrible mistake removing the right to work after completing a degree and that advantage is now lost, for a good while at least, to other countries across the world which retain it.

There will be an interesting battle then between the government and the vested interests of the universities, not least because the universities are divided on which policies they back and which they do not. With the status of European students and research agreements now unknown, universities face great uncertainty in their budgets. Some see Brexit as positive, some negative. There is a real mix of opinion and approach – poor planning has meant many who assumed a Remain vote have not thought through the other scenarios, the situation is fluid and unknown for those that have, and anyway universities are very different from each other.

One silver lining for international students may be that UK universities value them even more and make more of an effort to reach out to them with enhanced local learning options, teacher support, access to services and the like. Watch this space.


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What can the Government do to improve Private Housing Affordability for Hong Kong Citizens?

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By: Janae Wai

This is the 2nd of two excellent IB Economics Extended Essays that students have allowed ITS to published on our website.

Janae was an IB student who sat her exams in May 2016. Janae received a 45/45 overall grade for her IB. This is the extended essay she did on the significant and topical issue of the lack of affordable housing in Hong Kong. This problem was viewed in HK as a contributing factor to the ‘Occupy Central‘ movement of late 2014. This in my view is an excellent economics extended essay on the topic of market failure.

I would like to thank Janae personally for allowing ITS to display this EE on our website.

Gary Hadler
ITS Education Asia



High housing prices are a very significant issue in Hong Kong (HK). The lack of housing affordability in HK is among the most severe in the world. In addition to those who currently cannot afford housing, there are also worries among HK youth that they will not be able to afford their own home in the future. Private home ownership is a merit good that has high amounts of positive externalities. Therefore the government should do more to address the lack of affordable housing for HK residents. This leads to the research question: What can the Government do to improve Private Housing Affordability for Hong Kong Citizens?”

Secondary research was gathered to demonstrate the types of market failure apparent in the HK housing market and to obtain information concerning the effectiveness of policies that have been used in both HK and elsewhere to deal with the problem. This secondary research was analysed in relation to the primary data collected. The primary research includes interviews with relevant experts and a survey of the HK public to ascertain: a) whether they believe that this is a major social problem b) whether the policies undertaken by the current government are effective, and c) what additional actions can be recommended to reduce the problem.

The investigation showed that market failure was indeed present in the HK housing market. Several solutions were also recommended based on the primary and secondary research. The most supported solutions were those aimed at increasing the supply of affordable housing in HK. Recommendations include that the government should build more low cost housing, establish new towns outside the central business area and reduce government regulations and restrictions that increase the cost of developing new affordable housing. There were fewer consensuses on measures to reduce demand.

To read the full article: http://www.itseducation.asia/HK-Housing.htm


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Newsflash: Initial IB Diploma results

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The IB Diploma results day was 5th July this year and over 140,000 students worldwide now know how they did and therefore what options they have for the coming year. Of these about 70,000 will be awarded a Diploma and most of these will use it to access higher education of some kind. The IB continues to grow year by year as its broad curriculum approach appeals to modern pedagogy and as the growth in international schools and schools with an international demographic and/or outlook continues to increase. The IB Dip is a rigorous programme which does a good job of preparing students for university, particularly those who are academically strong.

At ITS we have a long history of supporting students from IB schools with their studies, both for the exams they take in academic subjects and in supervising preparation for their extended essay and theory of knowledge presentations. Students coming to ITS for support find their grades improve markedly. Many of our teachers have experience of teaching previously in IB schools and we have three teachers on staff who are registered IB examiners. Many of our staff undergo IB training with the IBO as we take our approach to supporting students very seriously. We also very often have our teachers seconded to IB schools where they cannot find suitable staff of their own.

We are very pleased to announce some outstanding results this year.

Of the more than 140,000 candidates worldwide, about 200 or so will get top scores of 45/45 points. This year in Hong Kong, 18 students gained the perfect score. Of these 18 students 2 supported their studies with ITS.

Our congratulations to them for their outstanding commitment to hard work and great all round performance.


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If you take one English test, take this one

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by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia


The battle is over, and, for most uses, one English proficiency exam has been left standing- the IELTS exam. Not only has it become the de facto market leader over the last 10 years or so, but the decision by the UK government in 2015 to drop all other tests as valid for visa applications has given it an added boost. For immigration and/or study in English-speaking countries, as well as being increasingly considered by many multi-national corporations as an indicator of a job applicants’ language ability, the IELTS exam is recognized as the gold standard.

Success in the IELTS exam (meaning reaching a required “band,” or score) is not up to luck, or out of the reach of most properly-prepared test takers. For the most part, it takes a familiarity of the exam-taking process and the ability to apply knowledge correctly within the exam format.

First, the standard information: there are two main versions of the IELTS exam – the Academic version and the General Training version. General Training is usually taken by those who are sitting the exam for immigration purposes only. The majority of IELTS candidates sit the Academic version to access study or employment. While the different versions offer different papers and at different levels, the speaking and listening test is the same for both Academic and General training candidates.

In addition to Academic and General Training, a brand new version of the exam has just been launched – IELTS Life Skills. This exam is to meet the requirements of UK Visas and Immigration for certain visa categories and other immigration purposes, and only assesses a candidates’ listening and speaking skills. It’s important to remember that, for all of the exams, an IELTS score is only valid for two years. After the two year period, the score is said to be stale and candidates need to take the exam again in order to have a valid score.

So what is an IELTS exam taker to do to maximize the chances to get the best score possible? Familiarize yourself with the test format, first and foremost. Practice your English, every day. There is, of course, a variety of freely-available preparation material on the internet (often of poor quality, unfortunately). Or, you can take an exam preparation course.

Availability, cost and quality are big factors in choosing a preparation course. Often learners are in a remote area and simply don’t have access to courses such as these, or the cost is prohibitive. This is changing, however, and now anyone with an internet connection can access courses that were simply unavailable even a few short years ago.

At ITS Education Asia, we have launched an IELTS Exam Preparation course offered fully online and thus available anywhere in the world. Live sessions with a real teacher, teacher-guided self-study, exam tips and strategies, and assignments and practice papers/tasks marked with full tutor feedback and returned to the student are a cost effective, high-quality option for students around the world looking for an IELTS course. It runs on a rolling schedule so each week uses a different theme to cover the IELTS skills areas and students can therefore join at any time and complete 6 weeks to get the full course.

For more information, visit our IELTS page

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ITS launches BTEC HND in Business

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by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia

One of the things we have always tried to do at ITS is to open opportunities by providing alternative educational pathways. From day one, one of our main aims has been to allow students to access traditional qualifications in non-traditional ways and to bring new, 21st Century learning options to all, breaking down the barriers to opportunity that rigid mainstream schools often impose.

In 2016, we are taking the next step towards this goal by introducing a fully online BTEC HND in Business. The BTEC has been around since 1984 and has become a very well established ‘alternative’ route in England and Wales. It covers a number of levels which roughly translate to student ages 14 through 22 years old and the equivalent academic benchmarks they may expect to achieve in the UK system at each. Thus a BTEC Level 3 is roughly the same as A-levels and a Level 6 is roughly a bachelor degree. BTECs can be used both to enter and progress through employment or as a way back to an academic outcome – many universities accept BTEC levels 4 and 5 as entry to years 2 and 3 of a bachelor programme respectively.

The BTEC is different because: it is assessed by ongoing project and assignment work and classroom performance, not examinations; there is generally more flexibility in the time taken to complete; the subject range is more ‘vocational’, although that term is becoming a little dated; and it provides a single system which can cover all the key levels of assessment we demand from formal education.

The BTEC HND in Business is a two year course leading to the Higher National Diploma [HND] qualification which is a Level 5 or equivalent to the second year of a degree. Hundreds of courses are then accessible either in the UK or at partner institutions globally to do a final top up year to complete a Bachelor qualification. Graduates of the HND can therefore either enter a job or a degree programme.

We have chosen the Business qualification as it provides a platform for a range of other degrees, including popular Business degrees of course, and is very useful in its own right for young people wanting to enter or progress in the modern business world. It is particularly useful for modern entrepreneurs to get a foundation in business before they take those first risks. It is also ideal for students outside the UK who wish to gain a UK qualification but cannot afford the high cost of studying there. These students also do not have any travel costs, accommodation worries or visa issues.

We achieved BTEC centre accreditation in early 2016 and the first intake will start in September 2016. The course is also a world first, being entirely online using a combination of live classes, guided learning and self study. This contributes further to the flexibility the course has to offer and keeps the cost down. The tuition fees for the first intake are approximately USD15,000 for the entire two years – about half the price of attending a traditional university.

For more information please visit our BTEC page.

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