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Oceangoing Programs for International Students

I'm Steve Ember with the VOA Special English Education Report.

In January, we talked about the Semester at Sea program and its move to a new home at the University of Virginia. For years the program has taken college students around the world on a ship where they live and study.

The University of Pittsburgh, in Pennsylvania, had been home to the Semester at Sea program since nineteen eighty. But the school withdrew its support last year. There were growing tensions with the Institute for Shipboard Education. The non-profit institute operates the Semester at Sea program.

University officials noted, for example, that the ship visited Kenya when the State Department had warned against it.

A bus accident in India in nineteen ninety-six killed four students in the program and resulted in big legal claims.

And in January of last year, a fifteen-meter wave damaged the ship during a storm in the Pacific.

The University of Pittsburgh said it was not questioning the safety of future trips. Instead, it said the institute was not providing schools and individuals with enough information to weigh the risks involved.

The Institute for Shipboard Education says both sides decided to end ties as a result of a disagreement.

At the University of Virginia, a group of professors questioned the quality of the classes that would be offered on the ship. University officials defended the program and named an expert in Spanish literature to lead it.

Professor David Gies said he would develop a new study plan for the Semester at Sea. He said the ship will now sail to ports along the west coast of Latin America. The first trip is planned for this summer.

There is a new, unrelated program for college students who want to study at sea. The Scholar Ship was recently announced with support from Royal Caribbean Cruises and other partners.

Students who join the program are being offered academic credits from Macquarie University in Australia. Five schools in Morocco, Mexico, China and Ghana will provide teachers and administrators.

The first sixteen-week trip is planned for January from Greece. The plan is for at least six hundred students to visit eight countries.

Scholar Ship President Joe Olander says organizers have already heard from four thousand interested students. He told us earlier this week that the program is still negotiating for a ship.

This VOA Special English Education Report was written by Nancy Steinbach. Read and listen to our reports at I’m Steve Ember.