April 2015 issue

News Round Up
Inside the industry
Agency Survey
Secondary Focus 1
Secondary Focus 2
Tertiary Focus 1
Tertiary Focus 2
Special Report
Regional Focus
Course Guide
Market Analysis

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Ireland on the map

Language schools in Ireland report a good year in 2014, as well as a promising start to 2015. Bethan Norris finds out more about the growth of new student markets and the revival of more traditional ones.

Ireland’s English language teaching industry experienced a year of change and development in 2014 as the Irish government reacted to a spate of school closures in the first six months of the year, and acted to limit the damage to the country’s reputation as a quality provider of education to international students. First under the microscope was the country’s school accreditation rules, leading to an announcement in September that a new Interim List of Eligible Programmes for Student Immigration Permission (ILEP) would be introduced in January 2015 which would prevent unaccredited providers from enroling student visa holders. The list was due to be used to identify legitimite education providers – in the case of language schools, those accredited by Acels – until the introduction of the International Education Mark (IEM) in 2015.

In general, this news was welcomed by the English language teaching industry in Ireland with those already accredited by Acels confident that the ruling would shore up the industry and help the country recover from a number of high profile negative media stories regarding unaccredited language schools in Ireland.

Rosanna Fiorenza from Travelling Languages, based in Dublin, says, “The visa situation is still the same as before. In general, international students who select a fully accredited school – Acels is the only accrediting body valid in Ireland – will reduce the risk to see their visa application being refused and they will get great tuition in Ireland. [As we] welcome mainly European students and provide short-term programmes – of up to 12 weeks – all our students who needed a visa have always received approval.”

The accreditation situation has since become more complicated after two further education institutions successfully overturned this interim ruling at the end of last year, due to the fact that the Irish government had provided no accreditation provision for further education providers in the country. This has had the result of stalling discussions regarding the IEM and further delaying the clarification of Ireland’s regulatory structure for international education providers.

However, for established language schools in Ireland accredited by Acels, the situation remains unchanged and many report that business in 2014 was good and the outlook continues to look positive for 2015. Fiorenza explains, “Our school has grown extensively in the last year, welcoming over 300 students – up from 50 during 2013. Our school only opened in 2012 and in 2013 we moved to bigger premises that helped us welcome more students and offer a more complete curriculum of courses.”

Active Language Learning in Dun Laoghaire has also experienced an upsurge in student bookings in 2014. Kieron Mahon, Marketing Manager at the school puts this down to internal as well as external factors. “First, our new marketing executive has rebranded us and invigorated our approach to the market,” he says. “[We have put] more concentration on the core values of our offers and delivering 100 per cent of the quality we promise to students thus increasing our repeat and new business. Secondly, and following on from our new approach and delivery of quality programmes, many students from closed schools in Dublin approached us directly through our reputation and secured places across our courses. The combination of both these factors have given us an overall increase in students by almost 38 per cent in 2014 and early 2015.”

As well as gaining ground due to the removal of unscrupulous competition in the market, language schools in Ireland have also benefitted from a return to good fortune of a few European student markets that had previously suffered a decline due to economic problems in 2013 (see STM, May, 2014, page 51). Our most recent survey of language schools in Ireland revealed that Italian was the top student nationality for the schools that took part in 2014 and made up 25 per cent of the student body. This is a substantial change from the results of our 2013 survey when Italian was forth in the list of top nationalities making up just 9.6 per cent of the student body. Gina Witherow from Donegal English Language School says that student numbers have recently increased at the school due to having a good reputation in their traditional European student markets. “[Our biggest student markets are] Italian, Spanish, German and French,” she says. “[There has not been] a massive change in markets.”

The Irish language school sector has benefitted considerably in recent years from funding by the Italian government for secondary students in Italy wanting to study a language overseas. Up to e3 billion (US$3.42 billion) was recently pledged for the Italian PON scheme earlier this year and Fiorenza at Travelling Languages confirms that this has affected Italian student numbers at the school. “In 2014, we saw the Italian market growing compared with 2013, due to the authorisation of PON funds – which are confirmed on a larger scale until 2020. But French students have also increased as we started working with several agents in France that were amazed by the great feedback their students sent back once they finished the travelling course and went home.”

Mahon at Active Language Learning has also noticed the recovery of another student market in Europe this year. “Unbelievably, our Spanish agents, while suffering their own economic difficulties, have managed to realign themselves accordingly,” he says. “Where the four-week junior summer programme was standard, it has now morphed into a higher demand for the more affordable winter school Intensive Study Week Programme for closed group courses based on price.” Mahon adds, “Both Russia and Turkey are also showing signs of a substantial increase in requests which will hopefully lead to bookings in 2015.”

With a changed demand for courses from traditional source markets has come a move away from the tradition of a busy summer season followed by quieter winters usually experienced by many language schools in Ireland. Now an increased number of schools report a trend towards a more steady demand from students for programmes throughout the year. Mahon says, “The adult market is showing a high increase in numbers thankfully spread across the whole year. As a small-to-medium-sized boutique school, the reliance on seasonal markets – mainly summer – was traditionally high but our early winter season January to March is very healthy at the moment.”

As a relatively new school in the market, Travelling Languages is seeing business grow from all student markets, although Fiorenza says that she has noticed that demand is increasing from students located in countries from further afield.

“Our main target markets have been the European countries so far, especially because short-term courses suit better students who do not require visas and of course flights are less expensive within Europe. Since we became accredited, the requests from students outside the EU are increasing – especially from countries like Russia, the UAE and Japan, who appreciate the opportunity to improve their English language skills while immersing in the Irish culture, the language and visiting the whole country.” bethan@hothousemedia.com

David O’Grady, CEO of MEI, sums up the current situation for the English language teaching sector in Ireland.

“MEI’s target markets for 2015 are the same as those of 2014: Turkey and China. For several years MEI has had, in conjunction with the Department of Justice, a fast track visa scheme for students from those markets intending to study in MEI schools. The Turkey scheme has been steadily successful, but China has been more modest. However, China is a long-term strategy, so we are patient in awaiting definite outcomes as we continue with our work in the market. In mid-March, MEI schools will be in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou (the Shanghai and Beijing events shared with BOSSA) for MEI workshops.

In early April, there is an MEI Workshop in Izmir (Turkey), followed by MEI presence at Alphe Istanbul. Late April sees an MEI Roadshow to central Europe with a four city whistlestop tour of Vienna, Prague, Budapest and Bratislava. Autumn sees the MEI Workshop in Dublin (October 4) followed by trip to Ukraine/Kazakhstan/Russia for MEI events. However, circumstances like political uncertainty and currency meltdown may temper these plans.

Presently, MEI schools are doing well. There are lots of Italian and Austrian groups for the spring and accounts are filtering in of healthy summer bookings. The strength of the US dollar and sterling may give us an edge. Unfortunately, Libya is unlikely to feature as a market with potential in the immediate future, as we had hoped, as no visas are being issued for potential Libyan students.KASP students continue apace and we are hopeful for more growth there. The whole issue here of organisations underpricing continues. It has created great uncertainty domestically. The original attempt by the government to regulate for the sector with a new regime in place from January 2015 was successfully challenged in the courts. Flowing from this High Court judgement, the Department of Justice has been charged with putting in place a pathway to accreditation for those unable to access accreditation through the traditional (and only) Acels pathway. This parallel pathway cannot be more rigorous or less rigorous than the Acels pathway.

This has created uncertainty as many believe that a system to regulate the hitherto unregulated sector may be so draconian that it will unwittingly restrict the operations of the Acels/regulated sector. Changes, regarded as inevitable, around the concession for visa requiring students to work may impact on everybody and this is what we are trying to prevent.

The relentless and byzantine merging of the different regulatory bodies into QQI (Quality & Qualifications Ireland) has confused and exhausted everybody in the ELT industry. Many have lost the will to live as a result of engagement with this snail’s progress. What was to have been 2015 for eventual action may now be 2016, and many feel it will probably be 2017, and counting. This bureaucratic morass aside, 2015 promises to be a good year for MEI schools.”

Ireland language schools’ marketing budget by region (overall %)

W Europe 45% 
C&E Europe 20.5%  
Asia 13%  
Latin America 13%   
Africa 1%
Middle East 7%
Australasia 0.5%

Overall average length of stay: 6.1 weeks

Average language tuition per week: 16.4 hours

Average cost of a one-month course, excluding accommodation €846 (US$1,146)

Average cost of residential accommodation per week €183

Average cost of host family accommodation per week €186 (US$252)

*Currencies converted to rates from 17/06/2014

Top nationalities in Ireland by student weeks - according to schools, 2014


Italian 25%
Brazilian 20.1%
Spanish 13.5%
French 6.5%
German 6.2%
Korean 5%
Mexican 4.8%
Swiss 4.6%
Russian 2.4%
Austrian 2.4%

22.7% is the average commission paid on a language course

17.5% is the average commission paid on accommodation by two of the profiled institutions

Student numbers by age range

Means of recruiting students in Ireland, 2014

8-11 1.5%

12-15 17.5%

16-18 30%

19-24 24.5%

25-30 15.5%

31-50 9%

50+ 2%

Agents 56%  
Internet 26%  
Local bookings 6%   
Other means 12%  

Marketing spend by sector (from a selection of schools) 

Agency costs 40%
Commission 29%
Incentives 8%
Agency brochure 3%
Travel costs 30%
Agent workshops 8%
Student exhibitions 2%
Agency visits 4%
Entertainment 5%
Marketing Trips 11%

Publicity costs 30%
Magazines for agents 4%
Magazines for students 2%
Own brochures 9%
Internet 15%

Key points in STM Status survey Ireland 2014

Number of participating organisations: 13

Total number of students at the organisations in 2014: 25,317

Total number of student weeks in 2014, estimated: 154,434

Participating schools: Active Language Learning; Atlantic Language Galway; Atlas Language School; Centre of English Studies; Donegal English Language School; Future Learning Language School; ISI Dublin; Killarney School of English; Language Academy Ireland; Rockbrook Park School; Travelling Languages

Ask the students – view from the classroom

202 students from 28 different countries took part in our survey of language schools in Ireland.

Students' region of origin Reasons for learning English

Latin America 40.5%
Western Europe 27%
Asia 16%
Central and Eastern Europe 10%
Middle East 6%
North America 0.5%

Current or future work 51%

University/college studies at home 16%

Further studies in another English speaking country 14%

Further studies in Ireland 11%

For pleasure only 8%

How did students find out about your school

Recommended by an agent 59%

Recommended by friend/relative 24.5%

On the internet 16%

Advertised 0.5%

The average age was 25 years

The average class size was 10 students

16 per cent of respondents were from Asia

40.5 per cent of respondents were from Latin America

71 per cent of respondents booked their course through an agency

99 per cent of respondents would recommend their school

36 per cent of respondents were staying in homestay accommodation

51 per cent of respondents were learning English for current or future work purposes

63 per cent of respondents found it quite easy or very easy to practise their English with local people

33 per cent of students had been on a previous study abroad trip

65 per cent of respondents thought that there was just the right number of students and mix of nationalities in the classroom

Thank you to the following schools who participated in our student survey: ACET; ATC Language & Travel; Atlas language School; Cork English College; Delfin English SchoolEmerald Cultural Institute; Irish College of English, ISI; Malvern House Dublin; Swan English Language Training

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Study Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.







Centre of English Studies  
ELS Language Centers  
Embassy English  
ILSC - International
Language Schools of Canada  
Inspiring Learning  
International House Pacific  
Malvern House  
MLI International Schools  
St Giles International  
TLG & The Language Gallery  
Xplore Ltd.  

Ability English  
Cairns Language Centre  
English Australia  
ILSC Australia  
Impact English College  
Monash College  

CERAN Lingua International  

Algonquin College  
Banff Education Centre  
College Platon  
Ecole Internationale de langues YMCA Montréal  

Mandarin Spring  
That's Mandarin  

Anglophiles Academic  
Stafford House  
Experience English Group  
Heart of England Language School  
Kings Education  
Liverpool School of English  
Living Learning English  
More than English  
Norwich Institute for Language Education- NILE  
University of Liverpool  
University of East Anglia  

Alliance Française Lyon  
Alpine French School  
France Langue  
International House Nice  
Saint Denis International School  

Carl Duisberg Centren  
F+U Academy of Languages  
Goethe Institut Munchen  
Sprachcaffe Languages Plus  

Atlantic Language Galway  
International House Dublin  
MEI Ireland  
University College Cork Language Centre  

Accademia Riaci  

Intercultural Institute of Japan  
Kai Japanese Language School  
Manabi Japanese Language Institute  

IELS - Institute of English Language Studies  

International House Belfast  

CIAL - Centro de Linguas  
International School of the Algarve  

Kilgraston Language and Activities School  

Escuela de Idiomas Nerja  
Estudio Sampere  
Malaca Instituto  

International Mediterranen Academy#

Boston School of Modern Languages  
Embassy English  
English USA  
ILSC San Francisco & New York  
Solex College  
South Seattle Community College  
Summer Study Programs  
University of Alabama  
University of Delaware  
University of Maryland Baltimore County  
University of Michigan at Flint 
City School of Languages  


Global Study Pass  
Xplore Ltd.  


Calgary Board of Education  
Campbell River School District  
Central Okanagan International Education Public  
Central Quebec School Board  
Dufferin-Peel Catholic District School Board  
Eastern Townships School Board  
Edmonton Catholic Schools  
Edmonton Public Schools  
English Montreal School Board  
Golden Hills School Division #75  
Greater Victoria School District  
Halton Catholic District School Board  
Kootenay Lake School District  
Louis Riel School Division  
Nova Scotia International Student Program  
Ottawa Carleton District School Board   
Pembina Trails School Division  
Simcoe County District School Board  
Sir Wilfrid Laurier School Board  
St James - Assiniboia School Division  
Waterloo Catholic District SB  

Queen Ethelburga's College  
Taunton School  

Saint Denis International School  

International School of the Algarve  

Ross School  
Wentworth Military Academy  


Hult International Business School  

Algonquin College  
Cambrian College of Applied Arts and Technology  
Centennial College of Applied Arts and Technology  
Vanier College  

SOAS School of Oriental and African Studies  
University of Liverpool  
University of East Anglia  

University College Cork Language Centre  

International School of the Algarve  

Solex College  
South Seattle Community College  
Summer Study Programs  
University of Alabama  
University of California Berkeley  
University of California San Diego  
University of Delaware  
University of Maryland Baltimore County  
University of Michigan at Flint  


Global Study Pass  
Quality English  
Trinity College London  
Twin Group  

Malta Tourism Authority  

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