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Lifting the Vale on Wales

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Cardiff and Vale College was named as ‘best in Wales’ in the EL Gazette rankings, but Jim Shields believes international students will be charmed by the whole country.

Tell us a bit about what is special about Cardiff and Vale College in terms of the English language programmes that you offer.

Cardiff and Vale College (CAVC) has been welcoming international students from all over the world for over 30 years. We have a highly-qualified and experienced staff team here who thrive on working with such interesting students and helping them to progress into their futures.

Our English language programmes are designed for just that – to support students to learn the language and take their next steps forward, whether that’s into courses here at the college, with our university partners and wider higher education or into the workplace. The fact that the majority of our students come to us through recommendations from our student alumni speaks volumes.

Why do you think international students choose Wales over other parts of the UK?
To be honest, they don’t! International students have traditionally gone to London, Oxford, Cambridge and places they have heard of but without realising everything Wales has to offer.

This is changing fast and Britain’s best kept secret is rapidly becoming more popular. Cardiff was named as one of the top ten cities in the world to visit in the Rough Guide 2016, it has more green space per person than any UK core city and is one of the safest cities in the UK.

We have three universities here and a vibrant student population, sports, art and foodie scene.

Wonderfully, one of the most consistent points of positive feedback we receive from students is how fresh the Welsh air is!

What was the secret to becoming the best language centre in Wales, according to the EL Gazette rankings?
Whilst we are proud to be ranked as the ‘Best in Wales’ we actually believe ‘Wales is best’ and are sure our partner schools in English UK Wales and Learn English in Wales would agree with us!

Together, we represent a country of stunning natural beauty, warm and welcoming people, vibrant and modern cities – all in a very safe and affordable environment.

Our students get to experience the best of Wales through our year-round social events programmes and summer school activities, while they are able to stay with local homestay families or in purpose built student accommodation.

What is the outlook for the FE sector in terms of ELT and ESOL and welcoming international students?
The outlook for the further education sector is actually very strong.

Vocational education is experiencing huge interest and CAVC are able to offer courses in so many areas from aircraft engineering to welding.

We have campuses dedicated to sports, construction and engineering, mechanics, aerospace engineering as well as facilities for beauty and holistic therapies, creative design, theatrical studies and dance.

When you combine this with academic provision for GCSEs and A levels right up to foundation degrees and post-graduate teacher training, it’s easy to see that we have a lot to offer. Tuition fees are much lower than universities while actual teaching hours are much higher – and some say quality standards are too.

What could the government do to make life easier for the college, in terms of its English language and international provision?
The government seems to have forgotten the value of international students in terms of the sharing of culture, creativity, innovation and understanding (we are at a time when the importance of this should not be underestimated), let alone their financial impact. We are very unsure why students on Tier 4 visas can stay a maximum of two years at an FE college or why Tier 4 students in HE can work while those in FE can’t – some rationale for these would be good. Recently, we have had reports that some rejection letters for short term study visas have stated that ‘it is cheaper for students to study English in their own countries’ which rather defeats the point, doesn’t it?! And finally, it would be good if further education (and the EFL sector in general) were acknowledged in any of the government’s speeches on international education, not just the universities.