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Accreditation and visas

August 23, 2007

Hello again,

I was recently reading and interesting article in Language Travel magazine. For convenience, I have summarised the...

...the gist of it here with some comments of my own. Accreditation is an issue that has always given rise to opposing views. While most schools recognise that a properly run system is a hallmark of quality for accredited schools, others feel such schemes are too expensive or perhaps impose unnecessary standardisation and some mistrust the accrediting bodies. I think accreditation is a necessary protection for vulnerable students but I admit that all schemes have their shortcomings.

Now, however, the issuing of visas for students to enter such countries as the USA, Australia and the UK is forcing schools to become properly certified before their potential students will be issued visas to study. The UK is currently working towards a similar system to that used in Australia and the USA, and Canada is considering a similar approach. The UK already has a register of language schools eligible to accept international students requiring a visa, which is administered by the Department for Innovation, Universities and Skills (DIUS). The introduction of the register resulted in a spurt of new applications, both for British Council (BC) and ABLS accreditation. Some 377 schools had BC recognition in 2004 compared with 411 today.

However, while accreditation has largely been a voluntary process, the likelihood is that more countries will make it mandatory. Unfortunately bogus schools and bogus students have been a recurrent problem and, as fears of crime and terrorism increase, the need to vet student visas becomes more pressing. Governments are likely to see this as a strong reason for making accreditation compulsory.

I can well understand the reasons for this seeming necessary but I am also wary of too much central control over market activities. Many people apply for visas to visit other countries: as tourists, as essential workers, as tourists. I think schools might feel justifiably aggrieved if they felt that the system of control was being more rigorously applied to their sector than to others.

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