Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How have you and your students been affected by the recent travel disruptions caused by an erupting volcano in Iceland?
Diana Khan, Lexis, Poland
“Luckily we didn’t have any travelling disruptions caused by the volcano erupting in Iceland yet. However adults and parents of teenagers who are planning to go on a language course in the summer are a little bit worried. They were asking us ‘what if the volcano erupts again?’ so we contacted our partner schools abroad if they have an emergency procedure in case the planes in Europe stop flying again. Our partners are very understanding about the situation. If somebody cannot get to England from Poland they offered to give students a full refund or reschedule the course for a later date without additional fees. If somebody gets stuck in England, the school will help with arranging additional nights of accommodation or alternative means of transportation. Right now we are having problems with people whose tickets got cancelled due to the British Airways strikes. I’m extremely unhappy about it, because their strike is costing innocent people extra money. This is really unfair.”
Alexander Nikitich, Director, Carfax Educational Consultants, UK
“We had about a dozen pupils [studying in the UK] who were back in Russia for the Easter break and got stranded there because of the volcano. The beginning of term was very important with crucial exams approaching and not much time left for students to do last minute revision. Most schools made special arrangements for pupils stranded abroad. Wellington for instance made some school work available on the Internet, so that pupils stranded abroad could use time productively. But our concern remained to find a way to get our pupils back to England as soon as was possible. We were exploring various options, trying to combine scheduled flights with overland travel. We also looked at chartering a private jet and appealed to our clients to see if any of them were willing to fly our pupils on their planes. But even with private jets the problem was that the majority of British aerospace was shut down. There was also a bottleneck and long delays for Channel crossing from France. We considered chartering a yacht privately to cross the Channel, but French port authorities produced some insurmountable petty bureaucratic obstacles. Eventually, with the help of our clients and our French connections we had a solution a private jet to an airfield near Paris and a French Navy coach that could bypass any queues in Calais to take our pupils on to London. However, on the day our party were ready to leave, the British aerospace was opened and there was no need for any of this anymore.”
Heleen Pelle, Bureau Buitenland, Netherlands
“We had only one student who wasn’t able to travel to her language course in time. She wanted to do a two-week course in Madrid, Spain, but at last she had to cancel the whole course, because the delay was too substantial a part of the two-week course for it to be worthwhile travelling to Spain. There wasn’t any payable alternative to travel from the Netherlands to Madrid at that time. The school offered our client to change her booking so now, she will probably do the same course in September this year.”
On the move
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart College (OLSH) in Adelaide, SA, Australia, has recently appointed Rachel Elgar to coordinate the international student recruitment and marketing programme. Ms Elgar comes to OLSH with extensive marketing experience in the education field. She says, “I’m delighted to be working with such lovely students. I look forward to establishing strong relationships with our families and international agents and further promoting the OLSH brand locally and internationally.”
Trevor Udberg has been elected to serve on the International House World Organisation Management Committee. Mr Udberg’s background has been as teacher, teacher trainer and Director of Studies of International House Newcastle, before becoming Academic Director and finally Managing Director in 1999. This latest move means he will continue as Managing Director of International House Newcastle but will spend some of his time helping to develop the International House World Organisation.
Dean Jones, the General Manager of LAL Torbay in the UK has become the new chairman of English UK South West. English UK South West is a regional group of English UK and has been established to benefit member schools in a number of key areas, including: raising the profile of the South West of England as a study destination; lobbying regional and national government, and; encouraging the highest professional standards in the teaching of English as a foreign language. Mr Jones commented, “I am delighted to have been elected chairman of English UK South West and to have the opportunity to support the aims of the organisation.”
Angel Piñuela has been appointed to the post of President of Fedele Spanish Federation of Language Schools. Mr Piñuela has been working in the Spanish language training sector since 1988 as manager of a Spanish school in Madrid, a member of the Fedele managing board, as well as President of two years of the Association of Schools of Spanish as a second language of Madrid (AEEEM).
Tae Yamaguchi has been appointed Marketing and Public Relations Officer at Kai Japanese Language School in Tokyo, Japan. She has previously been employed as a Japanese teacher at the school and worked in the investment office of the Flanders government in Tokyo.
Culture card for students in Melbourne
International students studying in Melbourne, VIC, Australia, are to be automatically given a free culture card on their arrival, which will enable them to access special offers and cheap entry deals when visiting many of the city’s array of tourist attractions.
Australian Skills and Workforce Participation Minister, Bronwyn Pike, launched the new scheme and said, “The card will help students get a better understanding of Victoria’s culture, our obsession with sport and food and our interests in zoos, parks and gardens. Some of Victoria’s best organisations will provide culture card holders with great offers, including the AFL, Cricket Victoria, Melbourne Cricket Club, Museums Victoria, Zoos Victoria, Royal Botanic Gardens, the Arts Centre, Melbourne Aquarium and the Shrine of Remembrance.”
The cards will be distributed through universities and education providers in the Melbourne area. Pike added that the culture card was part of a suite of measures introduced by the state to ensure that international students get a warm welcome when the arrive to study in the country. “We have launched the student welcome desk in Melbourne international airport, the Study Melbourne website and the 24-hour International Student Care Service in Carlton,” she added.
Homestay agency teams up with phone service provider
Australia-based homestay agency, Global Experience, has teamed up with Global Gossip to provide a range of Internet and phone services to students. Under the new service, students can set up their phone and Internet access before they leave home, meaning that they can give out their phone number to friends and family before they go.
Lynn Copithorne, General Manager at Global Experience, said, “All [students] have to do is pick up their communications pack when they arrive they can do that from our office at Town Hall or any of the pre-approved locations with Global Gossip. That means they have one less thing to worry about when they arrive.”
Copithorne added that they choose this partnership with Global Gossip due to its service and reliability. “Global Gossip’s ease of use, online registration, online billing, one bill policy no contract required competitive rates, national coverage over a robust Vodafone network and 24x7 support were all factors,” she added. “Global Gossip’s well thought out credit recharge system was a standout point, in terms of catering to the specific needs of the homestay provider’s 4,000+ student network.”
Students can recharge their credit at over 5,000 Australian locations and can allocate prepaid credit across a number of communications options such as mobile phone minutes, overseas calls from a landline or Internet time at any of the 200 Global Gossip Internet locations throughout Australia. Another feature of the system is a long credit expiry system of six months after last usage which allows students to take long trips back home without losing their credits.
Shafston Cambridge Exam Centre launch
Shafston International College in Brisbane Australia has launched its own Cambridge exam centre in the city after being appointed as an authorised testing centre for the Cambridge Esol exams.
Duncan Rayner, Regional Manager Asia Pacific for Cambridge Esol, said, “We are very pleased to appoint Shafston College in Queensland, Australia, as a new open exam centre for computer-based tests. Shafston College has been preparing candidates for Cambridge Esol exams for many years and is now working with us on this new initiative to make the computer-based tests available to students studying English in Australia.”
Language school builds boutique hotel
A language school in Malta has teamed up with a firm of builders to develop a 112-roomed boutique hotel that was due to open in June. The e15 million (US$18 million) development, called The George, is the project of the European School of English and Vassallo Builders.
The hotel is located in Paceville, in the heart of Malta’s entertainment hub, and has been designed to have fully green credentials, using alternative energy and recycled water.
General Manager of the hotel, Malcolm Azzopardi, said that a lot of emphasis had been placed on design. “We plan to help guests feel as though they entered a calm place despite the busy location that is however, very central.”
English UK Chief Executive, Tony Millns, talks to us about the association’s key role in lobbying the UK government regarding the recent changes to the Tier 4 visa system.
Full name: English UK
Year established: 2004
Number of members: 440
Type of members: Members are private language schools, educational trusts and charities and langauge 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
219 St John Street,
London, EC1V 4LY
Telephone: +44 (0) 20 7608 7960
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7608 7961
How did English UK get involved in challenging the Tier 4 visa changes introduced this year?
We have been lobbying the Home Office and UKBA in an effort to get the rules particularly the B1 requirement changed in a way that would meet everybody’s needs better. We knew there were problems with Tier 4, but the way in which the system has been revised sent many genuine students to our competitor nations at a time when, frankly, UK Plc needs all the cash it can get. We’ve been gathering evidence from our members so we can prove what we say: our latest finding is that the UK is losing more than half a billion pounds a year purely as a result of the B1 rule [namely students who want to take courses of longer than six months must prove they have an intermediate level of English]. We organised a mass lobby of the old Parliament and have been working hard to build relationships with the new government and new MPs. At the time of writing we are on the eve of a judicial review, to be heard in the High Court, of the way in which visa rules were changed after the Tier 4 review. It appears that we have a very strong case. I am hoping common sense will prevail.
What else have English UK been involved with?
Despite all the time and energy needed for the Tier 4 campaign, all our staff have been working tremendously hard to ensure that we continually improve our core activity of offering professional and marketing support to our members and help grow the sector. We have been developing our services to members with our increasingly popular and oversubscribed boutique fairs in selected parts of the world. These have been very popular with agents as well as members.
What challenges do you think UK schools face?
The biggest challenge will be the financial problems to their businesses caused by the new Tier 4 rules unless they can be sensibly amended. Although the exchange rate is likely to be on our side for the forseeable future, it is possible that financial problems and austerity packages in non-visa countries, such as Spain and Italy, may deter some of their nationals from studying English in the UK.
What plans do you have for the future?
We’re leading a project which would create a web-based professional develoment ‘one-stop-shop’ for English language teaching, which would include a quality framework and a new professional association. And we’ll be launching a new scheme at StudyWorld which will help our very best agents work more closely with us.
• Vietnam Airlines has joined the SkyTeam Alliance, becoming the 10th member of the group and the first member from Southeast Asia. Leo Van Wijk, Chairman of the alliance said, “Asia is a strategic growth market for SkyTeam and we are well on track to strengthen our network offering in this part of the world.” Vietnam Airlines brings 20 new destinations to the alliance, including those in Taiwan, Vietnam and Laos. The airline plans to increase its current fleet of 70 aircraft to 115 by 2015 and 165 by 2020.
• German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, has announced plans to introduce an air travel tax that would raise the price of air travel by an average of eight-to-15 euros per ticket. The proposal has been slammed by the aviation industry, which is already struggling to make a profit in a difficult economic environment. International Air Transport Association Chief Economist, Brian Pearce, said, “The most vulnerable part of the industry is in Europe. The last thing the industry needs is additional taxes and measures that will slow down economic growth.”
• A forecast by the International Air Transport Association (Iata) shows that world airlines will make a profit of US$2.5 billion in 2010, an improvement on the loss of US$2.8 billion forecast three months ago. However, the increase masks the loss generated by European airlines, which are predicted to be US$2.8 billion. Giovanni Bisignani, Iata Chief Executive, said, “We thought that it would take at least three years to recover the US$81 billion drop in revenues in 2009. But the US$62 billion top-line improvement this year puts us on the way to pre-crisis levels.”
• Budget Airline Jetstar will be the first airline to offer budget long haul flights from New Zealand when it begins its daily Auckland to Singapore services in March 2011. Chief Executive of Jetstar, Bruce Buchanan, said, “Affordability of air travel between Asia and New Zealand is not that great and we are going to smash that market in terms of giving people access and opportunity.” Flights will connect with services from Australian parent company Qantas in Singapore, providing passengers with access to Asian and European destinations. The Australian carrier is also trialling a scheme to offer Apple iPads to rent to passengers as inflight entertainment. The iPads will be pre-loaded with movies, TV, books, music and games and be available to rent for AUS$10 (US$8) on selected flights. Buchanan said, “Given the demand for the iPad so far, I anticipate it will have strong appeal amongst our passengers. Based on demand for the iPads as part of the trial, we’ll be looking to roll out the devices across our entire domestic and international network later in the year.”
• Qatar Airways has launched a daily flight between Doha and Barcelona, adding to its existing service between Doha and Madrid. The carrier is the only Gulf carrier to fly to Spain. Qatar Airways Chief Executive Officer, Akbar Al Baker, said, “The launch of flights to Barcelona our 90th destination in our ever-growing network is truly a milestone for Qatar Airways. With 14 flights a week now operating to Spain, this reflects the high demand we have been experiencing in and out of the region, helped by increased economic ties between the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula.”
• China Eastern Airlines is expanding its services between Shanghai and Vancouver and making permanent daily trips between the two destinations from November. The Chinese government recently granted Canada approved destination status, which allows tourist operators to advertise and market in China.
• Dubai-based air carrier Emirates has placed an order for 32 double decker A380 super jets at the recent Berlin air show, signalling the airline’s intention to continue its rapid growth. Emirates’ Chief Executive, Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed al-Maktoum, said, “Our latest commitment signals Emirates’ confidence in the growth to come in a thriving aviation sector.” The airline is also thought to be in the process of launching non-stop flights to Madrid, Spain. Emirates carried 27.5 million passengers last year, an increase of 4.7 per cent on the previous year.
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