English UK outlines ELT kickstart initiative after visa victory

The short-term study visa route will end in December, English UK said, meaning those wanting to study in the UK with accredited providers for six months or less can enter the country on a standard visitor visa.

“We expect this to make the system much simpler for students”

“This is really positive news for our industry and follows extensive lobbying by English UK and other sector bodies,” said Jodie Gray, English UK interim chief executive.

“The Home Office sees this as a concession to support the ELT industry at this challenging time while acknowledging that ELT students often behave like other tourists.

“We expect this to make the system much simpler for students who get a taste for taking more courses and for the member centres which teach them,” she added.

The UK government announced the move when it released further details on its Points-Based Immigration System on July 13.

The six to 11-month short-term English language study route will remain open and requires applicants from all countries to obtain entry clearance in advance of travel.

“It is specifically for people taking English language courses, does not require sponsorship and does not permit work,” the government outlined.

However, permitting work for adult ELT students is one area of focus as English UK continues its lobbying effort outlining initiatives the government can utilise to “kickstart UK ELT after Covid-19”.

The organisation added support is necessary, warning that its 400 English language teaching centre members expect to lose over 80% of 2020 business to Covid-19.

An English UK survey – expected to be released next week – reveals that 145 centres lost £257m in the first three quarters of 2020.

Extrapolated to the entire English UK membership, this equates to a loss of more than half a billion pounds, the organisation estimated.

Only 7% of the sector’s workers have continued working as usual, according to English UK, with almost all seasonal staff – 46% of ELT centre employees – being released, 37% employees furloughed and a further 10% put on reduced hours or pay.

The recovery roadmap paper will be put in the hands of senior politicians and party leaders in a bid to continue English UK campaigns for short and medium-term business support – including extending Business Rates Relief to all UK ELT and widening the furlough scheme for ELT staff until March 2021.

Earlier in July, UK parliamentarians called for increased government support for the sector.

Exports minister and ELT advocate, Graham Stuart, is also penning an open letter to ELT students, urging them to return to UK classrooms.

English UK has requested that the government u-turn on its plans to remove ID-card travel for young learners from the EU and not provide a seasonal worker route to allow ELT providers hire trained, seasonal staff from the continent, which the organisation labels “particularly damaging”.

Additionally, English UK members worry the end of free movement in January may limit Covid-19 recovery – 75% of English UK members estimate that they will only see 40-60% market recovery in 2021.

By restoring work right of up to 20 hours a week for adult ELT students at accredited providers, the UK would be brought “in line with the major English language competitor nations”.

“Since March, English UK has been fighting for our industry’s survival”

The government should also extend visa validity periods for those unable to travel during the pandemic, and allow students already in the UK to apply for new visas without having to leave the country, it said.

According to English UK, ambitious growth targets for ELT should be set as has been done for the higher education sector in the 2019 International Education Strategy.

Additionally, the government is urged to extend support for the Study UK campaign to more countries and offer financial support via GREAT funding in key ELT source markets, increased support for education exporters and offer innovation and enterprise grants to providers.

“Since March, English UK has been fighting for our industry’s survival, lobbying on several different fronts for business rates relief and support with immigration rules,” continued Gray.

“Now we are unifying those campaigns, urging the government to work with us in several different ways to kickstart our great industry so that it can achieve its potential once more.”

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