August 2009 issue

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Malta toughens up

Having become accustomed to bumper summers, Maltese language providers are finding this year’s more meagre stream of students hard to adapt to. Many hope new marketing initiatives will prop up numbers. Nicola Hancox reports.

Malta’s English language teaching industry has certainly felt the effect of the financial crisis. Add to that an appreciating currency and a loss of faith in the visa system and its no surprise that the feeling among providers is somewhat sombre.

Sandra Attard-Montalto at Bell Malta in St Julian’s, firstly points to a buoyant 2008, before lamenting that 2009 is proving to be far more difficult. She says that 2008 numbers at the school were relatively similar to 2007’s bumper year, with strong enrolments on their Young Learner programme one reason for this.

Indeed, according to statistics released by the NSO in June there was a minimal decline in the number of foreign students studying in Malta last year (down 0.8 per cent on 2007’s results) but providers remain sceptical as to whether or not these numbers can be maintained in 2009.

“2009 has already showed itself to be a critical year for Maltese EFL schools,” observes Attard-Montalto. “Not only are we in the middle of a global recession, but the euro’s strength against the sterling has resulted in more students opting for the UK.”

Anna Briffa from Britannia College in Valletta saw a slight decrease in the number of students studying at the school in 2008. The Spanish market was particularly affected she says, noting that a revision in the number of grants awarded to students by the Spanish government were perhaps the root cause.

However, Greg Burrell from Sprachcaffe Languages Plus in Pembroke, posted positive business growth for 2008 but he quickly points out the pitfalls of becoming too complacent. “2008 was a record-breaking year for us in terms of students weeks so it would be unrealistic to expect 2009 to be as good,” he states. Instead, Burrell says the chain will be investing heavily in renovation work during a slower season.

“Our target is to maintain the level of turnover... and we are trying to achieve this by investing more money than before in marketing and visiting agents,” says Caroline Castillo from Clubclass Residential Language School in Swieqi. And Ian Scerri from English Language Academy in Sliema, also acknowledges that they are busy marketing this year: “We are optimistic that the new marketing set-up in our organisation, together with new courses, should continue to bring in more students,” he says.

Owing to an increased marketing drive in France, Scerri notes they have seen a vast improvement in the number of French students choosing Malta over other English-speaking destinations.

However, visa woes continue to burden the market in Malta and providers feel the government’s lack of support could prove detrimental. Scerri says, “Student numbers in general were slightly lower due mainly to a prevailing global economic slowdown and problems for non-EU students obtaining visas,” he says.

Having entered the Schengen zone in December 2007, providers witnessed a decline in the number of non-EU students applying to study in Malta. “[Non-EU] students often have to travel to other towns to obtain visas,” states Attard-Montalto. “This means combined with their language study programme fees, they need to budget for an additional night…or two…or three! As a consequence, certain countries have given up on Malta and send their students elsewhere.”

Rebecca Brincat at Bels warns that unless the government helps out, the industry will suffer. “The typical European student numbers are decreasing so we need to seek new avenues. There is huge potential in both Turkey and China – also for long-term and higher education students but we are being blocked by the powers that be,” she laments.

Carol Galea Souchet at the Institute of English Language Studies (Iels) in Sliema says a new consulate office in Turkey should ease things a little, however. “We are hoping that the visa situation will improve,” she says. “Now that a Maltese Consulate is present in Turkey, we are banking on positive growth in this market!”

Courses galore

Listening to what agents, and indeed what students want, is crucial if educators are to continue to attract international students.

“We’ve continually striven to update our portfolio of programmes and launched a range of new courses,” notes Sandra Attard-Montalto at Bell Malta. She lists new executive options as well as programmes designed with older learners in mind. And at Bels, Rebecca Brincat says, “We have introduced teenage courses and 50-plus courses. They have been very well received so far.”

Meanwhile, Greg Burrell from Sprachcaffe Languages Plus reports that the school has added several new programmes to its 2009 timetable: language plus activity courses that incorporate a dance academy and a soccer camp: “These have been mildly successful and we feel that they will develop over time.”

At the International School of Languages – part of the University of Malta – Michelle Caruana Dingli says, “Our courses are academic and linked with the university credit system,” adding that they have just developed medical and legal English courses.

Meanwhile at Clubclass Residential Language School, Caroline Castillo says that they have launched a course for those who have become unemployed. It comprises of 20 lessons in general English and 10 lessons in fluency, focusing on vocabulary related to an interview scenario, and helping to increase students’ confidence.

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

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





English Australia  
Feltom Malta  
IALC International  
Languages Canada /
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Perth Education City
Quality English  
WYSE Travel

Boa Lingua  
Central de
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English Australia  
IEFT- International
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LTM Star Awards  
Quality English  
WYSE Travel


Student Guard

LTM Digital  

Malta Tourism
Perth Education City

Engliah Bay College
ONECO - the
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Professionals UK 

English Australia  
English Language
Perth Education City

Bodwell College  
Canadian &
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English Bay College
Hansa Language
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ILAC - International
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ILSC - International
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ITTTI Vancouver
Languages Canada /
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Ottawa International
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Beet Language
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Embassy CES  
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      South Africa, Spain,
IALC International
Kaplan Aspect  
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LAL Language
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Professionals UK 
Quality English  
St Giles Colleges
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Studio School of
Study Group  
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      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
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Queen Ethelburga's
Twin Group  
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University of
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France Langue  
French in

International House
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IP International
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Atlantic Language
Centre of English

IH Milano  

Kai Japanese
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Kudan Institute of
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      Language School  
Feltom Malta  
Malta Tourism

Home Language


Cape Studies  
Good Hope Studies

Almeria Spanish
Escuela de
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Malaca Instituto -
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Malaga ĄSi!  
ONECO - the
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IEFT- International
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Angelo State
California State
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Eastern Washington
Human International
San Diego State
St Timothy's School
University of
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University of
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Zoni Language
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