Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How did you first get involved in the education/language travel industry? What do you enjoy about your job?
Rafael Menezes, ABIC Cursos no Exterior, Brazil
“Learning a foreign language and culture nowadays is an essential requirement to join the international global market in any area. I decided to join the language industry because I believe this is the best way to get to know other realities in an intensive way. During my international experience in 1998, I found out that this was the field I wished to work in. I would like to keep working in this area to make people aware of the importance of global understanding which is only possible by having an experience abroad.”
Heather Smaellie, Director, Perth Demi Pair, Australia
“After starting as a homestay 20 years ago, I found the experience a very enriching time learning about other cultures. I had previously worked in computing, administration, sales and marketing and the last job was in a language school and I felt I had enough experience to start up on my own. As well as working full-time, I also spent 11 years working in a voluntary capacity with a children’s charity, establishing their office and helping run camps for the children and support camps for their families. I think to work in this industry, you have to be able to give of yourself over and above a nine-to-five job and have a lot of patience and understanding. My background shows I love working with people, helping them achieve their goals.”
Irina Sledyeva, Director, AcademConsult, Russia
“I started working in the education travel industry 13 years ago, being one of the pioneers in Russia. After so many years of intellectual and educational isolation, our country opened its doors to a bigger world. Since that time Russia has experienced profound changes in political, economical and social life. The education abroad industry played a great role in the massive transformation of the Russian mentality and being part of the process is amazing. Nothing else can satisfy your professional feeling like children that speak foreign languages fluently, people that communicate and perform efficiently in their business environment, small learners that have grown and become young specialists, with your help.”
Adriana Sanchez, Founder, Educonexion, Colombia
“Before I founded Educonexion, I was a commercial manager, therefore I like to be involved in marketing these services and applying all the business strategies I learnt before. Working in the education industry is a rewarding job for me. First of all, I am doing something I have always liked and something I think I was born for: helping people to make their dreams come true. When I have interviews with students and I see how important their education plans are and all the expectations they have, I feel the commitment to help them because I already lived this experience and I know how difficult it can be if they don’t get adequate support and professional advice. Since I was a child, I always liked travelling and knowing new places and cultures. Being in this business has allowed me to visit some new places and I love it.”
Jill Gordon, Best Programs, Spain
“I began as a teacher and opened an English extra-curricular school for Spanish children, then I did teacher training and finally developed the internship programme for resume and foreign language upgrading. The education industry is where passion for language, culture and education converge. It is dynamic, global, creative and helps the world to communicate better.”
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Language Travel Magazine, we ask a different language teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or agent partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month, Caxton College in Valencia, Spain, nominates Kultur Life in Germany. Laura Galán, the Boarding School Co-ordinator, explains:
“I am delighted to nominate Kultur Life as our top agency in Germany. We have been working successfully together for five years now bringing high school students from Germany to study from one term to a full academic year in Valencia. Kultur Life places students at Caxton College who have an interest in studying in English whilst at the same time learning and improving Spanish. Martin Elbeshausen, the Director of Kultur Life, leads a dynamic, highly professional team that advises the students on the programme best suited to their individual needs.
We have had the opportunity to meet with the Director and staff of Kultur Life on more than one occasion and this has helped us to establish excellent working relations. They have visited our facilities and are familiar with our programmes. This close working relationship and understanding of one another’s requirements means that the students are matched perfectly with their host families and with their academic course.”
On the move
The Acpet National Board in Australia is delighted to announce the appointment of Andrew Smith to the role of National Executive Officer. Formerly Deputy Chief Executive at the Association of Independent Schools of Victoria (AISV), Mr Smith has a strong track record of providing strategic leadership and expertise in operational management.
Ability Education in Sydney, Australia, is proud to announce that Kinya Yumoto, formerly of GIO Club Study Abroad Japan, has joined as the new Japanese Market Manager. As well as building new relationships in Japan, Kinya will be developing new institutional partnerships in Sydney.
Katherine Samantsova (left) has been appointed Deputy Marketing Manager at St Giles International in London, the UK. She takes over from Lucy Heron who has left the company to become a full-time mum. Ms Samantsova started working at St Giles as Sales and Marketing Coordinator two years ago. St Giles has also appointed Joana Arias to the role of Sales and Marketing Executive. Ms Arias has three years experience in the EFL industry working for the Avalon School of English in London, UK.
Isabelle Pace Warrington is a new Executive Officer at language school association, Feltom in Malta. Ms Pace Warrington, a graduate of the University of London, has several years’ experience in the field of education. After relocating to Malta, she taught in one of the country’s mainstream schools, as well as in a leading English language school.
Henning Pruess has been elected as Coordinator of the Tandem International language school network. Mr Pruess from Hamburg, Germany has been involved in Tandem’s marketing and quality management for several years and is now a contact for schools and agents. As an experienced school manager and agent for schools abroad, he understands the market from both sides.
Kate O’Connor has been elected the new President of UCIEP, the consortium of University and College Intensive English Programs. Ms O’Connor is Director of the University of Southern California Language Academy and has been active in international education since 1980.
Adrian Cummins, Chief Executive of MEI~Relsa, answers our questions about the association’s recent activities and plans for the future.
Full name: Marketing English in Ireland~Recognised English Language Schools Association
Year established: 1969
Number of members: 68
Type of members: English language schools, colleges and universities promoting English language learning, Business English, General English, Private tuition, English for special purposes, Academic year, Foundation programme, Teacher training (Tefl), High school preparation and/or placement, Au pair.
Association’s main role: Marketing, representation, lobbying and a voice for the EFL sector in Ireland.
Government recognition: Yes
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: Yes 2008 Agent Workshop & Familiarization Trip in Galway on April 7th - 12th, 2008
1 Lower Pembroke Street,
Dublin 2, Ireland
Tel: +353 16180910
What has your association been up to in the last 12 months?
2007 started with the appointment of a new Chief Executive, Adrian Cummins and a new administrator, Lorraine Watters. The association conducted a number of marketing activities including: attending workshops in Brazil, Japan, Korea, Germany, France, Italy, UK, Czech Republic, Hungary & Slovenia. MEI~Relsa also organised two workshops in Ireland in March and September where 78 educational agents from 23 countries participated. We have also developed a new website for the association, produced a new brochure and created a new brand image for the sector.
What main challenges are your members currently facing?
Visas are still a major obstacle with regard to the development of new and emerging markets for the Irish EFL sector. Ireland sees its competitors gaining market share in markets where the Irish visa and immigration agencies haven’t developed a fast track approach to the issuing of visas. Other challenges are currency fluctuation and global competition.
What marketing activities are you planning for the near future?
2008 will see a growth in marketing activities for the association. We will be increasing the number of agencies attending the workshop & familiarisation trips by 25 per cent in 2008. The association will be conducting marketing activity in the following countries: Russia, Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Brazil, Italy, France, Switzerland, Turkey, Eastern Europe and the Nordic countries. The MEI website is currently being translated into eight different languages with a roll out of website optimisation in early spring. We are currently developing a new e-zine which will be issued quarterly to agents and educational providers. Finally, we will be conducting a number of training programmes for the EFL sector in Ireland over the next two years with funding from the Irish government. We have appointed a training manager to implement and manage this initiative.
Student accommodation on the rise in UK
The UK’s growing domestic and inter- national student community is fuelling growth in purpose built high quality student accommodation, according to a report by UK-based international property consultants, King Sturge.
The report points out that the number of students in full-time education in the UK increased by six per cent in 2007, compared with 2006 and demand for student accommodation outstripped supply. University applications from EU students have risen by more than 14 per cent in the past two years, while applications from outside the EU have increased by 5.5 per cent. The value of the 450,000 purpose built student beds in the UK was set at UK£20 billion (US$39) in 2007 and the report predicted that building developments for this sector of the market would continue.
“It is clear that the sector is entering a new phase of university-led development and refurbishment of existing stock [is occuring], alongside an increased focus on the provision of premium accommodation for overseas students in major European university centres,” said Philip Hillman, National Head of King Sturge’s UK students accommodation group.
Chinese exam expands into Canada
A new Chinese language exam, called the Test of Proficiency in Huayu (Top-Huayu), can now be taken in Canada as of March this year. The test, which is required by all non-native speakers of Chinese wishing to apply to study at a college or university in Taiwan, was administered for the first time in Vancouver, Canada, in March.
The National Taiwan Normal University, the Mandarin Training Center and the Graduate Institute of Teaching Chinese as a Second Language first developed the test as the Chinese Proficiency Test (CPT) in 2003 to compete with China’s own proficiency test the HSK. It since changed its name to the Top-Huayu in 2007 and has had test centres in Thailand, the UK, Japan, the USA and Korea since 2006. In 2007, students learning Chinese in Vietnam and France could also sit the Top-Huayu at test centres in their home countries.
Test takers can take the Top-Huayu in four different levels of beginner, basic, intermediate and advanced and the score is used as a marker of Chinese language proficiency and competence by universities in Taiwan as well as for various government sponsored scholarships.
Chinese insurance company links with AXA
Beijing-based Sunshine Property and Casualty Insurance Company has launched a new product aimed at student travellers with European insurance company AXA.
The new insurance product has been tailored towards Chinese students travelling abroad to further their studies as well as businessmen travelling overseas for work purposes. Sunshine Insurance was set up in China two years ago and made a profit of 23.08 million yuan (US$3.2 million) last year.
Value of backpacker luggage on the increase
A study by AA Travel Insurance in the UK reports that the average backpacker carries goods worth UK£450 (US$879). Mobile phones, digital cameras and laptops are just some of the essential items that have raised the value of backpacker and student traveller’s luggage.
AA Travel Insurance Head, Christian Young, said, “With all these technological treasures in their bag, it has never been more important for backpackers to ensure that they are fully insured.”
Study Group officially opened its new UK£30 million (US$58.5 million) Brighton Study Centre in February and chose some students to unveil the plaque. Cultural and musical acts from around the world gave the party some pzazz and underlined the multicultural aspect of the new 1,000-student capacity centre. Pictured right, Chief Executive, Heath Mackay-Cruise, addresses guests.
UK-based agency Lanacos has opened a new office in Sevenoaks, Kent. Martin Pickett, Managing Director (above) said that the new office would offer residential courses for students wanting to learn German, Spanish, French, Russian, Mandarin, Japanese and Italian.
Mount Maunganui Language Centre in New Zealand has moved premises to a purpose-built school in the same area. The school has two student recreation areas plus an outdoor garden courtyard, free wireless Internet access and kitchen facilities. Geoff Butler at the school said that the new location offers many advantages to students, including being closer to homestay families, while still being close to the beach!
Love is in the air in Costa Rica! Pura Vida Language Institute in the country has announced it will transport willing students around the country in a “hippy bus” (right), while they get to learn phrases such as “peace, man” in Spanish (only joking). The Costa Rica Spanish Travel Adventure programme will take clients to four different regions of Costa Rica in a two-week programme. The course offers three hours a day of Spanish language tuition. Students will also be able to interact with local people as they travel around on the bus; what a great way to meet the natives.
The Technical and Vocational Education and Training UK (TVET UK) group was launched in February in a reception that featured speeches by Bill Rammell, Minister of State for Lifelong Learning (left) and Eric Joyce, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Education. Also in attendance was Tony Millns, Chief Executive of English UK, who was snapped (above) with Dominic Savage, Chair of the TVET UK Interim Strategy Council.
• British engineers have unveiled a new hypersonic jet, capable of flying from Europe to Australia in under five hours. At 469 feet long, the aircraft is twice the size of current jets and capable of carrying 300 passengers. Designed by Oxfordshire-based Reaction Engines, the prototype is windowless, so as to avoid friction, and would be powered by liquid hydrogen thus ecologically friendly as the by products are water and nitrous oxide as opposed to carbon dioxide. The jet would reach a speed of 6,400 kilometers per hour and at full speed would travel up to five times the speed of sound. Chief Executive of Reaction Engines, Alan Bond said, “It sounds incredible by today’s standards but I don’t see why future generations can’t make day trips to Australasia.”
• OssiUrlaub, a German Internet travel agency, plans to start catering for nudist holidaymakers. Company founder, Enrico Hess, said the move was inspired by the former East Germany’s enthusiasm for naturist holiday breaks during the communist rule. The first charter flight, from Erfurt to the Baltic Island of Usedom, will commence in July and tickets will cost around e499 (US$735). “All the passengers will fly naked, but they will only be allowed to undress once they are in the plane,” Hess said. “But then they will be able to enjoy the hour-long flight in the way God intended.”
• The UK is becoming one of Hong Kong’s fastest growing markets. According to numbers released by the Hong Kong Tourist Board, UK arrival numbers topped the 600,000 mark for the first time in 2007, a 16.4 per cent increase on 2006 figures. Meanwhile, US visitors were also numerous, responsible for 1,230,927 of all arrivals a 9.4 per cent increase on 2006 and Australia, New Zealand and the South Pacific reached an all-time high of 756,964 arrivals. Overall, Hong Kong welcomed 28.1 million visitors in 2007, an increase of 11.6 per cent.
• US airlines handled more than 7.4 million flights last year, a record high. In a bid to maximise revenue, major airlines squeezed more passengers into peak slots. However, late arrivals peaked at 1.8 million, the most that has ever been reported since records began back in 1995. Atlanta Haresfield Airport, the main hub of Delta Airlines, was the busiest US airport for flights by major airlines, churning out 827,600. Meanwhile, Chicago O’Hare United Airlines’ base was second with 751,500 and Dallas Fort Worth home to American Airlines was third with just under 600,000 flights.
• Sir Richard Branson is locked in talks with several investors over the possible introduction of Virgin Russia. Virgin, which already runs several successful internal airlines in Australia and the USA, could well profit from millions of Russians who still rely on the nation’s rail services to travel across the vast country. “We hope to offer the Russian people a really good airline. We may be able to do it a little better than is being done at the moment. We’re in discussion with two or three partners,” said Branson.
• The US Department of Commerce recently signed an agreement with the Chinese government permitting group leisure travel from China to the USA. The Chinese government currently restricts leisure travel for its citizens and the move could well increase inbound US visitor numbers. Last year, 320,000 Chinese journeyed to the USA but officials predict that figure could well jump to 579,000 in 2011. A more liberalised air policy was also drawn up last year, allowing more US carriers to service the region. Further talks concerning the open skies agreement between the two countries have been scheduled for 2010.