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Overseas programs assess enrollment, effects of Beijing language waiver

While the Bing Overseas Study Program (BOSP) waived its language requirement last February to boost enrollment for its fall 2010 and spring 2011 programs in Beijing, program officials say they do not anticipate doing the same for other programs this year.

Though the Beijing program had not been among the most popular in the past few years, applications to participate in the upcoming spring quarter program have resurged.

According to BOSP student relations specialist Lee Dukes, full enrollment may have been caused by the waived language requirement and the addition of Stanford faculty member Thomas Fingar M.A. ’69 Ph.D. ’77, a former U.S. State Department official, to the program.

When it decided to waive the Beijing language requirement, BOSP consulted faculty on campus, staff stationed in Beijing and students to factor in their interests. The feedback of students participating in the program without the language requirement this fall will be key in determining the effectiveness of the new format.

Meanwhile, the most popular overseas programs for Stanford students have traditionally been in Australia, Kyoto and Oxford. The first round applications for the Oxford program for the fall 2010 quarter exceeded those of any other program, receiving 75 applications for 47 spots. These programs constantly see high application numbers, but the new programs in Cape Town and Madrid have received much interest from students recently.

“Cape Town has a service learning component that is attractive to students and it is also our only program in Africa,” Dukes said. And many students meet the language requirement for the Madrid program before they enter Stanford for their freshman year.

In the past year, Florence has also seen a decline in enrollment, filling 32 spots in fall 2010 and 28 spots in winter 2011 for a program with a 40-student capacity.

“Many students come to Stanford with Spanish or French so it is easier to go to Madrid, Paris or Santiago, but not many students come to Stanford with Italian,” Dukes said in an e-mail to The Daily.

BOSP’s one-quarter programs use a two-round system for applications. According to the BOSP website, students are encouraged to apply to their first choice program during the first round of applications as they are only allowed to apply to one program. Results from the first round are announced two weeks after each specific program’s deadline.

Students who do not receive their first round choice may apply to an additional program during the second round provided all vacancies were not filled during the first round of selection.      Capacity for enrollment differs between programs but usually ranges from 24 openings in Cape Town to 48 in Australia. For fall and winter 2010-11, BOSP accepted nearly 80 percent of applicants.

According to Dukes, BOSP would prefer enrollment to be at capacity for the programs it offers but recognizes constraints that prevent students from applying.

“We understand that students have other commitments and other goals while they are here at Stanford,” he said. “BOSP as a group needs to continue to adapt our programs to the needs of students while maintaining the academic excellence they receive at home.”