Should I take a 2-year, accelerated bachelor’s degree?

Blogroll, UK Education Comments Off on Should I take a 2-year, accelerated bachelor’s degree?

by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia

 

Quite a number of UK universities have offered 2-year accelerated degree programmes for a while now, though they are not so well known. The workload is the same as a traditional 3-year degree but condensed by working through the traditional holiday periods in a 4 semester configuration. UK university holidays are quite generous and range from 20 to 28 weeks per year so over two years you can easily find an extra ‘academic year’ of study in this holiday time. The government is now close to approving a change to the annual tuition fee cap on domestic student funding which would allow more UK universities to offer a 2-year programme. This may mean an increase in the popularity of 2-year courses and so international students may start to consider them more as well. But they are causing controversy, so are they a good idea?

Fundamentally this comes back to the question we have addressed many times about what a university education is for. In my opinion there is no correct answer to this. Perhaps the answer is that it is for whatever your needs are. Some people need time to mature and develop academically, intellectually, emotionally and socially and they would ideally want a longer period at university – four or even five years. Others need to crack on for a variety of reasons – catching up years lost to illness or other obstacles which interrupted their education; jumping between academic systems; feeling a need to get on to work or training. In this group we might also put those for whom the outcome is the main reason for taking the course rather than the process. And then there is cost.

For many cost is the most important factor of all as it determines a) whether they can afford to do the course and b) whether they feel they get value for money (I write about this issue here). This is especially true for international students. A standard 3-year degree will mean annual outlay of approximately GBP20,000 to GBP30,000. [It can be much more but people spending 30k++ usually do not have financial constraints]. Saving 25-35% of this is a big deal. But that only works of you have the funds in place before you start. Students with financial constraints often use the “holiday period” to work to fund the next year so a 2-year programme will not allow this. Of course many students also take employment during term-time and this is still an option but you will still need funds in place as there are both legal and practical limits to how much employment you can undertake while studying.

One of the big arguments against 2-year degrees from traditionalists is that the long “summer holiday” is a time to reflect and revisit the year’s learning and that 2-year courses remove this time. In an ideal world, I would agree. However, in the real world I have never come across a student who actually does this. Most go on holiday, relax at home or work. There is nothing wrong with this and it is ideal for someone who needs the time to grow into their young adult skin, but for those who do not feel the need, why get in their way? In fact, a stronger argument is that the long break creates a disconnect which is hard to get back thus wasting the first few weeks each September and October. 2-year courses do not have this and students feel more engaged throughout the course. With so many newer degree subjects being more vocational, frankly there is also less need for reflection. We can no longer just lump every bachelor’s qualification into the same group. There are significant differences in the nature of various modern degree courses and the requirements for those following them.

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So if you like the idea of saving several thousand pounds and a year of your life while getting the same degree qualification and you feel it fits your personality, priorities and perception of what a degree is for, then go for it. Or if you feel a gap year of travel would help you grow up best but don’t want to lose time to your peer group then now you have a solution. These are just some of the wonderful outcomes we get from increased flexibility in the pathways that we can take in our learning careers.

 

ITS Education Asia offers flexible programmes that start the path to bachelor’s qualifications.

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Brexit benefits: British schooling more affordable for international students

Blogroll, UK Education Comments Off on Brexit benefits: British schooling more affordable for international students

by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia

TaxCredits.net

Through most of the 20th century, until about the 1980s, a private education became gradually more affordable in the UK as earning power of the middle classes grew faster than the fees charged by most independent schools. However, the last 30 years or so has seen these gains eroded as middle incomes have stagnated. The last 10 years in particular have seen the ratio of fees to incomes take a turn for the worst. It is no wonder that UK independent schools have ever more enthusiastically embraced international students who bring the double benefit of enriching the cultural life of the school while helping to balance the books.

At the same time, the growing wealth of the “emerging economies” has seen an exponential rise in middle-income earning families across the world, particularly in Asia, and an equally meteoric rise in the truly wealthy across these areas. Many newly wealthy families have opted for a UK boarding education for the children as an excellent way to build networks, develop their grasp of the global language, experience another culture and more easily access UK universities.

Now, with the incredible devaluing of sterling after the Brexit referendum decision even more people in Asia will be able to afford a private education in a British boarding school. Fees range from approximately GBP12,000 to over GBP30,000 per year in tuition. There are of course added extras, both at school and around being an international student – guardians, transport, insurance and such – but certainly for GBP20,000 per year, a child can have a comfortable existence at a private school. In May 2016, just before the referendum, this translated to about USD29,000. Today it translates to USD25,000. That is a sizeable discount thanks purely to currency changes. At the top end, where the cost is more like GBP50,000 per year, the discount is even greater – around GBP13,000 less per year.

It has never been better to access UK boarding schools. With these huge built-in discounts , the fact that school student visas are not under threat, and the reality that schools need to look further afield to keep their numbers up, means the possibility for getting to experience such a high quality education is an option for more and more people.

Remember though that you still need to make a careful choice – not every school is the same – and a certain amount of preparation is needed to be able to cope with this unique and quite foreign environment.

ITS Education Asia is an officially accredited IGCSE and A-level school organisation and has helped hundreds of students access UK qualifications and UK boarding schools over the years. We use expert partners in Hong Kong and the UK to help students choose schools and use our own schools to provide full preparation so that students arrive ready to fit into their new UK school. Email us at [email protected] for details of all our packages.

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UK government gives stronger indication on cutting student visas

Blogroll, ITS Educational Services, UK Education Comments Off on UK government gives stronger indication on cutting student visas

by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia

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As we reported back in October, the UK government is looking at making cuts to the number of student visas granted for university study as a means to make inroads to the total immigration figures. To recap, immigration has become a political “issue” over the past couple of years – the UK has a net immigration of some 300,000 people per year – and it was likely to have been one of the key ideas that led to so many people voting to leave the European Union.

Public opinion has the idea that growing the population by 300,000 migrants per year is somehow bad for the country. The same old tropes about “stealing” jobs and putting a “burden on resources” are wheeled out and seem to get the most attention in the media thus reinforcing them. Very little time is given to the productivity increases, the economic growth, the spending rather than saving of money, the enrichment of education, culture and the arts, the long-term network of economic and cultural links that are produced. The list goes on.

The lack of common sense being applied here just goes to show how politicised the debate has become. The government clearly feels it needs to “do something” to get public opinion on its side. It probably feels it is in a weak position right now and has one eye on up coming by-elections and the next general election which will all continue to be fought over Brexit – its key elements and its fallout. And as with so much these days, the whole thing is reduced to numbers, principally with a currency sign at the front.

So the Home Office has now made it clear it is looking at slashing 170,000 student visas per year from UK universities. That’s over half the current number. If you want to do economics, that’s 50% less money coming into the UK’s hard pressed higher education institutions from international students who pay much more for their courses as well. That’s 170,000 students who will go elsewhere to study and take not only their tuition fees to other countries but all the money they spend on rent, food, books, entertainment and so on. That’s a huge chunk of young, vibrant, clever, motivated people who will go on to jobs in other companies in other countries and stimulate their economies instead of the UK. That’s 50% fewer students to build economic, cultural and academic links between the UK and other countries in the future. And that’s 50% less of everything, 170,000 fewer people doing all these things every single year from now on.

The government has also confirmed its tier system of institution licences to recruit from overseas. Under this policy, institutions which have greater than a 10% visa refusal rate on the students it admits [some say it may be as low as 7%] will have their licence to give places to overseas students revoked. Given the government holds absolute discretionary powers over the award of visas, this means that by extension they now have de facto control of academia through the ability to cut off what is often a crucial funding lifeline for many institutions. This is a shockingly bad step. In a modern democracy, government simply cannot hold such a threat over education

It seems the politicians never learn. The UK refused Hong Kongers full passports in the years leading up to the handover back to China and so the the wealthiest and brightest went to Canada which welcomed them and modern Vancouver was created [simplifies I know, but that’s the gist]. If these plans are implemented, the same mistake will be the UK’s loss and somewhere else’s gain at a much larger scale. It is incredibly sad, especially when UK qualifications remain so well respected and desired all over the world.

Have you had visa problems for university study in the UK? ITS Education Asia can help. Our online BTEC provides years 1 & 2 of a UK degree and leads on to a final 3rd year for a full bachelors. All at a fraction of the price. Classes are live with expert lecturers and the BTEC has the advantage of being course assessed instead of exams. See here for details.

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UK student visa update

Blogroll, UK Education Comments Off on UK student visa update

by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia
UK student visa update

The latest message coming from the UK government is that overseas students will continue to be included in the immigration figures and that as it makes efforts to reduce the net migration total, students will be part of those efforts. The BBC has reported that despite a hint from Chancellor Philip Hammond that students may be made exempt, the Prime Minister has now stated that this is not the case.

In short, this seems to mean that fewer student visas are going to be issued in the foreseeable future. In the first instance the main target is likely to continue to be shorter term English language study courses but this group has already borne the brunt of the immigration reduction efforts to date and there cannot be much left in that sector. There is currently a pilot scheme to create a two-tier system in higher education whereby favoured institutions [likely to be the top of the Russell group i.e. the UK’s top ten universities] can continue to admit overseas students at will and everyone else will be subject to quotas.

I won’t go into the rights and wrongs of this in any detail. It seems madness to me to restrict immigration in a sector that not only brings a net inflow of money to the UK via course fees and living costs, but, in my mind more importantly, brings a flow of bright young adults to the country who can contribute to both the educational and work landscape as well as establish crucial overseas networks when they return to their home countries or indeed locate elsewhere. The UK’s shutting off is a ludicrously backward-looking policy. But the immigration ‘debate’ has become toxic now to the point where it is no longer a debate but an emotionally charge shouting match. Common sense has long since departed the room.

What does this mean for students in Asia? Younger students are currently fine. Boarding schools continue to accept new students and have not been told that they will face any restrictions other than the fact they now have to make firm decisions to get visas processed properly. Conditional offers are almost impossible to give so you need to be sure about your applications. For older students there is much more uncertainty. Unless you are applying to a very high-end university you may need to get detailed feedback from your local agent or local British Council. It is a time consuming and expensive process to apply for a visa and you do not want to fail.

One option for overcoming the visa issue is to look at local options for gaining UK qualifications and definitely looking at the increasing number of online options. Two main points to note are:

  1. Is your priority gaining a UK qualification or experiencing life in the UK? If you mainly want the qualification then online and distance learning options are well worth looking at.
  2. Do you work well independently or do you prefer teacher-led? When looking at online you find different models. Some are distance learning so you have to do all the work on your own. Others, like our own ITS Online School, have high proportions of live lessons in their courses which is just the same as being in a physical classroom.




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Overcoming stigma with online study

Blogroll, Hong Kong Education, ITS Tutorial School, UK Education Comments Off on Overcoming stigma with online study

by Danny Harrington, Founder & Director, ITS Education Asia

Overcoming stigma with online study
One of the advantages of online study we have always highlighted is that is provides access for students with disabilities. But studies in the US have added to this by finding that students with disabilities are also turning to online learning to avoid stigmatisation they experience when they do attend bricks-and-mortar schools. In fact, for many this is the main reason for their choice of online.

The researchers – Susana Verdinelli of Walden University and Debbi Kutner of the University of Phoenix – writing in the Journal of Diversity in Higher Education in 2015 and widely reported, including by the Times Educational Supplement, say that their findings indicate “ableism assumptions” in traditional classroom-based higher education and institutions.
Respondents to the survey, from a wide range of higher education providers across the US, made it clear they had found physical lessons “draining” and “awkward” whereas their online lessons made them “invisible” and therefore “offered the freedom to be viewed as a student without limitations”. Read more: Students with disabilities enrol online ‘to avoid stigmatisation’

The main disadvantage the students reported was that of isolation from face-to-face interaction alongside slow response times from staff. These are exactly the problems we have been highlighting since we launched our online school in 2012. The key problem is that most online courses are still actually distance learning models delivered electronically, with some having a “blended” approach which means some form of direct teacher communication at intervals across the year.

At ITS, all our online courses have a very high percentage of live, real-time lessons in a virtual classroom. Students see and hear each other as well as the teacher. At a minimum, an ITS course would have one live lesson per week. Many courses have up to four ours of live lessons per week. Students can never feel isolated, left-behind or wonder whether their queries are being answered and can therefore get the best of both worlds.

If you are a student with a disability who is struggling at a traditional school, or you know someone who is, please contact us to find out how online education the ITS way could help you achieve your educational goals.




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