[EDLING:1558] EducationGuardian.co.uk: Unite to conquer

Thu May 11 01:14:02 UTC 2006

Francis spotted this on the EducationGuardian.co.uk site and thought you should see it.

Note from Francis:

To ensure quality in the ELT sector, language centres need to back a single accreditation body, argues Tony Millns 

To see this story with its related links on the EducationGuardian.co.uk site, go to http://education.guardian.co.uk

Unite to conquer
To ensure quality in the ELT sector, language centres need to back a single accreditation body, argues Tony Millns
Wednesday May 10 2006
The Guardian

The piece by Mian Ridge, Un petit problème on accreditation of English language centres yesterday was timely. 

English UK is the world's leading language teaching association, and we work in partnership with the British Council to run Accreditation UK, which is recognised as the global benchmark for language centre accreditation. 

We strongly support the government proposal to require accreditation under a robust and rigorous accreditation scheme as a condition for language centres to be able to enrol international students who need visas to come to study in the UK. 

There are two basic reasons for this. First, there is significant evidence that many non-accredited colleges are, or were, effectively bogus, with students not required to attend classes. Independent inspection would help deter or detect these operators. Second, the UK's key selling point is the reputation for quality of its education system, and non-accredited colleges tend to undermine international trust in that quality, thus damaging all UK education providers by diminishing our reputation.

We believe that for reasons of international credibility and visibility, there should be only one accreditation scheme for language centres, judged to the same standards, by the same inspectors and by the same processes. It would send disastrous messages about the UK's commitment to consistent quality standards if, for example, a centre was judged inadequate by Accreditation UK, but was passed by the Association of British Language Schools (ABLS).

The ABLS objections, referred to in this piece, are without merit.

The Accreditation UK scheme accommodates language centres of all sizes. There are some 60 centres accredited under the scheme (double the number of members that ABLS has) that teach fewer than 2,000 student weeks a year, and we have one accredited centre in membership that teaches only 250 student weeks a year. So size and affordability of the Accreditation UK scheme is clearly not an issue.

ABLS argues that members' interests are best served by a small scheme. Actually the package of benefits offered by the British Council through the Accreditation UK scheme to its 400 members have been significantly enhanced this year and are way ahead of those that ABLS could possibly offer to its 30 members, for not much more a year in terms of costs.

The risks of a small scheme, however, were not mentioned: there is clearly a danger that the relationship between inspectors and the inspected will grow over-close, and independence will be compromised with a detrimental impact on standards and judgments.

In an era when international competition has never been fiercer, there is an urgent need for all bona fide UK language centres to back a single organisation with the clout to promote the UK as a place to study and a leader in high quality education effectively throughout the world. We would call on all UK language centres to sink their differences and work together to that end.

· Tony Millns is chief executive of English UK

Copyright Guardian Newspapers Limited

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