In an industry such as this, where student demand and the typical student profile is constantly evolving and changing, language providers have to remember to constantly re-evaluate their products and market them to make sure they reach the target audience. The type of programmes that schools sell, and how they sell them, are both factors that need to be reassessed regularly.
The issue of schools promoting themselves on the web, for example, needs constant reassessment, as there are always new opportunities and decisions for schools to consider. Schools in the UK can now choose whether to list their agent partners on a website which lists accredited providers in the country. Those that do become part of a two-tiered marketing approach, whereby student queries from the website are sent simultaneously to the school and agent, so that they can collaborate on the response (page 5).
The types of programmes promoted to students, via agents or other marketing methods, also matter. Student requests are increasingly discerning and many students have clear long-term academic goals when studying abroad. The rise of strategic academic courses that offer students a pathway from language learning through to higher education, for example, need to be promoted adequately. Institutions in the USA report that it is the academically minded students that have been the first to return to study in the country (page 4).
Quality assurance is another aspect of the marketing approach that schools need to consider. Agents report that they feel more confident representing a school if it can offer some sort of quality assurance through membership of an industry organisation (pages 24-29). Schools need to strive to enhance their quality credentials, as do national language learning associations that endorse the quality of a school, if they are to win the votes of agents. Efforts around the world to enhance quality standards mean that national associations are consistently working to ensure their quality benchmark remains competitive.
As many language teaching institutions face an uncertain summer season, it is encouraging that overseas government offices are working to help out their national industries by promoting study opportunities in their country. Five embassies talked to agents in Colombia to clarify visa issuing procedures and discuss the further education opportunities they could offer (page 10). Meanwhile, the latest country to organise a key strategy at home to boost its international student numbers is Germany, which has launched a website promoting and explaining its higher education system to potential students (page 29).
In New Zealand, Education New Zealand reports that revenue from international students has reached a record level, two years ahead of forecasts. The education trust plans to continue its work promoting New Zealand in key student provider countries (page 5).
While considerable efforts are being taken by recruiting countries to encourage student traffic, agents and consultants have to make the effort too if they are to retain their hold in the market. For example, agencies that can offer a native language booking service as well as an office in the student's destination country have a clear local advantage (page 19). With innovation and effort characterising the marketplace, agents need to keep up, using all the means available to them, in order to offer a competitive edge.