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Brexit bonus for ELT, but on a budget

In the run-up to Brexit, the British government has launched a series of initiatives designed to attract more international students to the UK, and improve the English language provision for the 770,000 British residents without a good command of the language.

February saw the launch of a £50 million ‘integrated communities plan’ to include language support for non-English speaking residents. Even if the entire budget was spent on language teaching, however, it would only come £65 per person. One reason, perhaps that the seventy actions listed in the National Strategy for English includes networks of conversation clubs.

The same month a review of English language requirements for UK visas was announced. There are no details yet on how these proficiency requirements

might change, but the Gazette understands that plans for a new system of Secure English Language Tests is also being planned.

On March 15th, another strategy, this time for international education, was released, outlining government plans to increase the value of educational imports by almost 50 per cent, to £35 billion by 2020, and raise the total umber of international students in higher education to 600,000.

The UK EFL industry welcomed the strategy, which included plans to promote the UK as a destination and to support the export of UK ELT expertise. “We are excited by the opportunities this bold strategy outlines,” commented Sarah Copper, CEO of schools’ association English UK.

Industry sources, however, expressed disappointment that there were no plans to reintroduce work visas for language students, putting the UK at a disadvantage to competitor destination such as Ireland and Australia.

Higher education experts also expressed concern that the increase in the time international graduates can stay in the country to look for a job was only increased from three to six months under the new initiative.

A recent study from the Higher Education Policy Institute found that international students staying on to work in Britain contribute £3.5 billion in tax over a decade, with government restrictions on post-study work rights currently costing the country £150 million in lost taxes.

Image courtesy of Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
Matt Salusbury
MATT SALUSBURY, news editor and journalist, has worked for EL Gazette since 2007. He is also joint Chair of the London Freelance Branch of the National Union of Journalists and co-edits its newsletter, the Freelance. He taught English language for 15 years in the Netherlands, in Turkey, in a North London further education college and now as an English for Academic Purposes tutor, most recently at the London School of Economics. He is a native English speaker and is also fluent in Dutch.
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