Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How is the global credit crunch making an impact on your clients’ decisions?
Hansraj Kanhye Director, Can Consulting; Chairman, Association of Education Consultants (ALICE), Mauritius
“The new UK visa system attempts to kill too many birds with one stone… stem the tide of illegal immigration via student visas, check on terrorists’ who might use the system to transgress borders, boost revenues from higher visa charges, etc… is that a wise policy? In Mauritius, the number of applicants for a UK visa (and refusals) has gone down in the last two months! Is that because of the recession or also because of the new visa regime, which places more stringent financial requirements on students? Time will tell… Compared with other destinations, like Canada and New Zealand, which appreciate the impact of the export industry called education on their economy, I am afraid the experts at the UKBA have not got it right. With so many English language destinations to choose from and the doubts being cast on the “supremacy” of British university qualifications (the reports of HEPI do not make good reading!), I am afraid the new system may cause untold damage to the British education industry.“
Kumar Karki, Managing Director, Landmark Educational Consultancy, Nepal
“The UK’s new visa system is very flexible and its seems like the UK government is trying to welcome international students. Due to the change in the visa system, there has been a dramatic increase in the number of students that wish to pursue their higher education [there] from Nepal. Due to the huge number of applications, they are forced to stand in a queue, one day earlier, at the VSF office [visa processing company]. But students are happy with the simple processes they don’t have to run to prepare lots of different documents. However, a number of visa applications were denied because they didn’t have a visa letter and this was a major problem faced by students and agents. In my opinion, colleges and universities need to confirm what minimum information is required and whether or not they have to include the visa letter so that our students don’t have to face the problem.’’
Chie Nakayama, Education Japan Corp., Japan
“Some of our clients’ UK student visa applications have been refused which is extremely unusual. One of the reasons for refusal was that necessary information was not included in the visa letter issued by the language school. Some schools have not been able to respond flexibly to the change of the UK visa regulations and have some mistakes in their documents. As you know, the US and Australian governments require all schools to complete certain official documents such as I-20 and CoE which can be easily inputted online by school registrars and gives a unique number for each applicant so the immigration office can also look up student information on their system. The UK government should follow the same example. Some new regulations are also unreasonable, for instance, the applicant has to hold their funds for at least 28 days in their bank account before applying and they have to submit their original bank book with accompanying translations. We usually recommend schools and countries to our clients based on our preferences, if the student comes to us with no definite idea; one of which can be whether or not the visa application procedure is simple to handle. Our counselors have not been recommending the UK since the new visa policy was implemented. We believe that the new UK visa procedure has been giving us a very bad image of the country.”
On the move
Elena Granato is the new Marketing Executive at Excel English in London, UK. She previously worked as Social Activities Leader during the summertime at Excel English and as Activities Coordinator on the teenage programme: The Explore London Experience. Her extensive experience and knowledge of Excel English gave her a head start in a marketing role at the school and she is now studying for the Certificate in Marketing with the Chartered Institute.
Bloomsbury School of English in London, UK, has recently recruited Will Davis as its new Sales and Marketing Executive. Mr Davis is a graduate of Dur-ham University and has worked in the EFL industry for nine years in both sales and teaching positions. He has recently returned from the south of France where he taught English for six years.
Michael Dewar has recently started as Sales & Market-ing Manager at Shane Global Schools UK. He has a wide range of Marketing and Business Development experience, which he is excited to use to help grow the Shane Global brand. His passion for languages (he speaks French and Spanish fluently) and for travelling the world has led him to Shane Global’s doors. He will be working within the team, to promote the Shane schools in London, Hastings and Cape Town.
Elisabetta di Gion has joined Milner School of English in Wimbledon, UK as Marketing Director. Having worked at the European School of Economics in Rome, Italy for a year and a half, Ms di Gion will also represent Milner International College of English, Perth, Australia when attending global workshops and fairs. Putting previous experience and personal skills to good use, Miss di Gion says she already feels part of the crew at Milner!
Cactus Languages in the UK is pleased to announce the appointment of Tinka Bose as its new Head of Marketing. Ms Bose joins Cactus from Cobra Beer, where she most recently led the brand’s mainstream development in UK pubs and bars. Originally from Germany, she first came to the UK on a language holiday nearly 15 years ago and says this experience stands her in good stead. “Having had first-hand experience of the benefits of language training, I am really excited about working with Cactus to promote its products to even more people,” she said.
New twist on TEFL
Teaching English overseas is a significant tangential sector to language travel, but a number of operators are offering a twist on providing and enabling professional Tefl teaching opportunities: they are enabling any native English speaker to trade conversation classes for room and board with a family overseas.
These type of trade-off programmes are becoming increasingly popular, according to Peter Talbot at Twin Work and Volunteer Abroad in the UK. He says that Twin’s programme was originally developed for Spain five years ago, but has been rolled out to other countries because of growing demand. “We now help other participants to become a Language Assistant in other countries as well; France, Italy, China and Bolivia,” he said, explaining that participants receive a language pack to help them with informal lesson planning.
Meanwhile, in the USA, GeoVisions has a similar inititaive branded as Conversation Corps and it offers the programme in 15 countries with Korea and Thailand said to be “coming soon”. Its website advises participants to arrive with fun lessons planned but points out that the company also provides support and advice too with a 24-hour email helpline.
And Bridge-Linguatec in the USA is now piloting its Teach & Travel Ambassadors programme, again offering a trade-off of 15 hours a week of English practice in return for room and board with a family that has one member with English knowledge. “We use the term ‘ambassador’ to convey the importance of cultural exchange as a major goal of this programme,” states the information pack.
Language Travel Magazine online
The very same incisive content and interesting features of Language Travel Magazine and Education Travel Magazine can now be read online, thanks to our new digital edition which is available at our website, www.hothousemedia.com/ltm.
The digital version of the magazine enables instant access to the current issue in an easily readable format and means web readers can also click directly through to our advertisers.
Pearson to provide customised qualifications in Middle East
Global education company, Pearson, has announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with Qatar-based Silatech to offer “Skills Development Services” in areas such as preparing trainers, course content development, certification and accreditation services. Customised qualifications for the Middle East and North Africa region will also be delivered, according to the company, with international accreditation provided by Pearson-owned awarding body, Edexcel.
Silatech aims to empower young people in the region and promote large-scale job placement and entrepreneurship for young people, countering the growing youth unemployment throughout the Arab world.
Englishbaby.com tips one million members
A social network site for learners of English, Englishbaby.com, has hit the million members mark, and added a new school search feature for its users seeking English language schools in North America.
Launched in 2000, the site is a similar networking model to Livemocha which we mentioned in our June issue because it had teamed up with Pearson to provide online tuition (see LTM, June 2009, page 10). Other social networking language sites also exist, such as voxswap.com, but this school search facility is new to Englishbaby.com this year.
New residence for CES, Ireland
A new 10-room residence is the latest innovation from CES in Dub-lin, Ireland, which is tapping into increasing demand for residential accommodation from its clients. Jonathan Quinn, Marketing Direc-tor of CES, told Language Travel Magazine, “In these tough time we feel we have to give the best level of service we can to make sure the clients return home happy.”
Auburn House is located on the main road to Dublin city centre, offering easy access to the city. Quinn said that an average journey time into central Dublin would take 20 minutes on the bus, with the airport also the same distance away. “We put a lot of money into the refurbishment to give our agents and their clients the best we could,” he commented. “The level of finish in the rooms is high and the little things, like having 10 mbs-strength wifi, should keep all happy!”
English UK has a busy workload organising events for members and dealing with the new UK visa system. Annie Wright answers our questions.
Full name: English UK
Year established: 2004
Number of members: 424 members
Type of members: Members are private language schools, educational trusts and charities, and language centres in further education colleges and universities. All are accredited under the Accreditation UK Scheme.
Association’s main role: Our main roles are promoting quality and representing our members’ interests. We are also a UK registered charity with the key aim of advancing the education of international students in the English language.
Government recognition: yes
Code of practice: yes
Complaints procedure: yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: yes
English UK 219
St John Street, London, EC1V 4LY
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7608 7960
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7608 7961
How has English UK helped inform agencies worldwide about T4?
Throughout 2008 and 2009, English UK has been working closely with the UK Border Agency and has jointly organised agent visa briefing sessions in Colombia, Brazil, Kazakhstan, Russia, South Korea, Taiwan and Turkey. We also keep agents up-to-date on developments concerning the PBS [points-based system] and T4 via our quarterly e-newsletter, English UK News, and via the news & events section of the English UK website.
How is the system working so far, according to English UK members?
There are some initial problems being reported which are causing concern. We are working with other education sector bodies through the Joint Education Taskforce (JET) to ensure that UKBA solves these problems quickly and pragmatically. Problems include the issue of partner institution agreements the new regulations make it difficult for students to take a language course and then go on to a university or college course without having to apply for visa extensions. Another is student visitor visas (SVVs), which are outside T4. It seems that some Entry Clearance Officers are applying T4 policy guidelines to SVV and child visitor visa applications. There is also the issue of entry requirements recent rumours suggest all minors must have a parental letter of consent with them at entry to the UK. Finally, there have also been difficulties getting refusals deemed unfair investigated.
What is your outlook/expectation for members’ performance in 2009?
The same or just below performance levels in 2008. The first quarter results (from the 94 centres in our core group) indicate that performance is slightly up on last year (14 per cent) but that would be before the effects of the PBS are felt. Western Europe seems buoyant (Italy Spain, France and Turkey) perhaps helped by more affordable exchange rates, and there has been a significant increase [from] the Saudi/Gulf States.
What plans does English UK have for the rest of the year and beyond?
Inward missions are being organised from Slovenia to London, Cambridge and the South East (visiting providers of summer programmes) in August, and from the Middle East/Gulf States to another region of the UK in the autumn. StudyWorld London 2009 is also being held in September and our fourth ELPG (English Language Promotions Group)-organised Fair is planned for São Paulo in October. We also have scoping visits planned to Argentina and Chile.
• Aegean Airlines is set to join the world’s first and largest airline network, the Star Alliance. As the largest carrier by passenger numbers in Greece (it is purported to have carried six millions passengers in 2008) it currently services 17 Greek and 17 international destinations across Europe including London, Manchester, Paris and Berlin. The new signing sponsored by Lufthansa will bring nine unique destinations to the alliance besides the 916 that the network already has. “Aegean is a welcome addition to the Star Alliance network,” said Star Alliance CEO, Jean Albrecht. “Its home market is of strategic importance due to its geographic position in the eastern Mediterranean.”
• Not being familiar with the local currency when abroad could cost British travellers up to £975 million (US$1,590 million), around £15 ($US24) per person, according to a new study conducted by global financial services company, American Express. Nearly two-thirds of those polled said they tended to spend more than they had budgeted for and almost half (46 per cent) of all respondents admitted to being confused with the currency conversion rates. The poll of 1,000 people also determined that nearly one in three (31 per cent) had been left short-changed after shopping on holiday. American Express Foreign Exchange Vice President, Helen Grace, expressed her concern over the results of the poll. “As British travellers look to broaden their destinations and avoid the eurozone [European Union], knowledge needs to increase to help holiday-makers avoid blowing the budget or being caught out by currency confusion,” she commented.
• UAE national carrier, Etihad Airways, has launched a new four times weekly service to the Turkish city of Istanbul. It is reported that the development aims to improve business relations and encourage tourism links between the two nations. James Hogan, Etihad Airways’ Chief Executive said, “The launch of our new service to Istanbul brings many benefits for both countries and will continue to strengthen the trade and tourism links to an even higher level.” The new route will also provide onward connections to Etihad’s global network in particular, Sydney and Melbourne.
• Jet Airways, India’s premier international airline, has introduced a new all-economy, no-frills service under the brand of Jet Airways Konnect. The new competitively proced service, which boasts fares that are 10 to 15 per cent lower than Jet Airways economy fares, will service 19 routes, connecting 38 destinations in India. “Consumers are leaning towards a low-fare service,” commented Raj Sivakumar, Vice President of the airline. “A large segment of consumers want low fares as well as the brand. Our product is designed to suit their needs.”
• Airlines in Korea are looking to raise ticket prices for flights to the USA, Australia and parts of Europe in a bid to offset unfavourable market conditions. Korean Airlines, the nation’s flag carrier, and Asiana Airlines have both posted losses since the final quarter of 2008, and reports estimate that airfares which have been frozen since 2006 are set to increase by five and 15 per cent. These will be adjusted depending on market conditions, said officials.
• Tourism Concern, a UK-based non-governmental organisation that campaigns against exploitation in tourism, has published a book called The Ethical Guide. The guidebook which lists more than 300 places in over 60 countries is aimed at the more conscientious traveller and features destinations that are often missed out of more conventional guides. Those concerned about the environmental implications of their holiday can choose from ethnically sound trips such as a construction project in Tibet or canoeing in the Amazon. Pen Hadow, a British environmental speaker and broadcaster, said that the book was an inspiration. “It taps into the great spirit of adventure within us all, proving you really can take amazing journeys without having to make ethical sacrifices,” he said.
Please see the digital issue of Language Travel Magazine for the Grapevine section