State of flux
The last two years have brought trials and tribulations to both language schools around the world and language travel students. Many students have been hit by visa problems or economic issues at home that have prevented them from following their plans for language study abroad.
In Taiwan, for example, we hear from agents that the country's poor economic outlook has meant fewer language travel students embarking on their study abroad plans. And those that do study abroad are often likely to change their mind about which country to study in, following consultation with an agent . This is likely to be due to price or visa issues.
Similarly, language schools have been afflicted by their own types of visa problems, currency exchange rate issues and factors such as the Sars outbreak in the last few years, all of which have dampened demand. In this issue, one language school owner from Ottawa in Canada points out that his school has been affected by declining sales due to Sars, despite the fact that no Sars cases actually occured in the Canadian capital.
The global market is always in a state of flux, as student markets rise and fall and destinations become in vogue, or more problematic, to go to. Australia's government has unveiled a series of initiatives designed to increase the attractiveness and quality reputation of its international education industry. Government initiatives have a direct impact on determining trends in the marketplace.
One source in the USA acknowledges that the exponential rise of the Chinese market is relatively untapped by US language schools, because visa issuance problems mean that students studying English language only cannot obtain a visa.
Because student demand and student markets do change over time, it is important to try and analyse trends across the marketplace on a regular basis, to track these changes. This is, in fact, a very difficult task, as student visa rules differ per nationality in most countries, and therefore even when figures are available for student visa issuance, these do not reflect overall student numbers, including those on visitor visas.
Language Travel Magazine has used its own in-depth knowledge of the industry, the government information available, statistical data from the Status surveys and the professional opinions of key spokespeople in the industry to try and estimate global market share. Such analysis is essential industry reading, providing an indication of market share across the world.
Another way of keeping up with trends is, of course, through swapping market information with industry colleagues. As well as establishing fruitful business unions, schools and agents use workshops as an opportunity to find out about how each other is faring and trends in the respective market. We provide our annual summary of key events in the workshop calendar.
One interesting point arising from our global market analysis was that the number of Asian students studying in South Africa is significant, indicating growing popularity among Asian students for this relatively new English language learning destination.
There is a range of other language teaching destinations that attract niche interest language learners every year, and while languages such as Turkish and Dutch are certainly less common requests, agents need to know about courses in these countries too.