Students whose language centres have closed unexpectedly are being placed on new courses for free by English UK staff.
This is because English UK member centres are covered by the Student Emergency Support Fund (SESF). If one of our members stops trading, accredited centres nearby will be asked to offer free places on a suitable course to affected students. Accommodation is also covered if was booked direct through the closed member centre. The scheme covers the remainder of the course or accommodation for which the student had paid in advance.
Vivianne Rodrigues, a student from Brazil who was left without classes when Regency College in Hove closed five weeks before her CAE exam, said: "I didn't know about this scheme when I booked my course, and it was a good surprise. We've been able to speak to people who have backed us up. I hope they are going to be able to arrange something for me as my exam is already booked."
The recent closures of Regency, Speak in Preston and Eden House in London have left English UK staff working flat out to find suitable courses for students like Vivianne as quickly as possible. More than 40 Regency students on student visitor visas were offered places at the nearby Languages Plus Sprachcaffe, whilst many T4 students are already getting tuition to complete their courses.
Tony Millns, English UK's Chief Executive, said that unplanned closures were very rare among member centres, and that the SESF had been used only 10 times in 15 years before now.
"It's very rare that we need to use the SESF, but we know it gives real peace of mind to students and their agents when they book courses with our member centres.
"It's not a good situation for students if their school has to close, but they're very pleased that they chose to book with one of our centres and are therefore covered by this scheme."
Alice Marcolin, English UK's membership manager and Laura Underwood, English UK's customer services officer, have been working long hours to arrange new placements and visas. Laura said: "The students have all been very calm, and the accredited centres nearby have been helpful and generous about offering places where they can."
"We spent six hours one day at Mayfair College meeting students affected by the closure of Eden House and trying to match them to suitable places which had been offered, and another whole day in Brighton at The English Language Centre going through the same process with the Regency students. Mayfair College and The English Language Centre, Brighton, were brilliant in looking after us all."
Susan de Jesus, international welfare officer at City College Brighton joined Alice and Laura to give expert advice on visas to the Regency students. She said: "I wasn't particularly aware of this scheme – it's all in the small print when you sign up to English UK. It's very reassuring for students to know that it's here."
The UK Border Agency has confirmed that students whose language centres close before their course has ended can use unexpired SELTs to move to a new course, and are free to begin their new course as soon as they have applied for a new T4 visa. They will need to show a receipt from the Post Office to show they have submitted an application.
English UK is also organising and funding SELT language level tests for those students who arrived in the UK before they became a condition of gaining a Tier 4 visa.
To find out more about the SESF please click here.