August 2010 issue

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The LTM Star Awards shortlisters 2010

After eight weeks of solid voting and tens of thousands of votes cast, the fifth LTM Star Awards is well under way. We talk to this year’s excitable shortlisters about how hard work, determination and a savvy marketing campaign can make for a winning formula. Nicola Hancox reports.

It’s hard to believe almost a year has passed since educators and agents last flocked to London for the industry’s pinnacle red carpet event; the LTM Star Awards. As always, support has been overwhelming with over 3,600 peers taking the time to vote for their esteemed partners in 23 sector categories. So sit back, take a deep breath as we reveal who’s made this year’s final cut.

A brand new category makes its debut appearance this year; the LTM Star Junior Course for under 18s award – which recognises junior proprietors for their outstanding contribution to one of the most lucrative sectors of the language travel market. “If I’m not mistaken this is the first year this category has been included so to be nominated is just incredible,” enthuses Andrew Roper from British Study Centres (BSC) in the UK. Richie Morgan from EAC in the UK is equally effusive. He says, “Whilst not everyone who is shortlisted can win of course, we do feel that the annual LTM Star Awards has become a significant benchmark for professionals within the industry to recognise each other’s contribution EAC is delighted to be measured against that benchmark.” Meanwhile, Emma Harradine from Twin Group observes that the quality of their junior summer centres and their Chelsea Football Coaching and Professional Tennis courses gives them a distinct edge. “Once again, we’d like to thank our agents for working closely with us to promote these excellent programmes,” she volunteers.

Competitive streak
This year, competition within several categories was so tight, six shortlisters made the final cut instead of the usual five. These include LTM Star French Language School and LTM Star School Association. Jan Capper from Ialc, one of the associations shortlisted, relates that after a tumultuous year – most notably the global economic shakeup and the swine flu pandemic – the awards are the industry’s proverbial silver lining. “It’s been quite a challenging year for the industry so it’s especially nice to have an awards night to look forward to – win or lose!”

Agent associations have had an equally industrious year. Gokhan Islamoglu from UED in Turkey – nominated for LTM Star Agency Association – points to creating a definitive standard for Turkish education consultants as a definite motivator for partner schools. He says, “We believe this nomination is the result of many years of hard work and continuous efforts to provide best services as a family which consists of 38 agents with 83 member branches and more than 250 education counsellors.” While Maura Leão from Brazilian association, Belta – nominated every year since the awards’ inception five years ago – relates that their nomination is a reflection of their “great staff, active board members and very serious and entrepreneurial agents”.

Repeat performers
A select few nominees have been lucky enough to secure shortlister status each and every year, including three of the five nominees in the LTM Star Agency Asia category. iAE Edunet in Korea, GIO Club in Japan and Ryugaku Journal in Japan have each been nominated four times over and this is surely testament to the continuation of excellent business practice. “[We pride ourselves] on offering the services with integrity, fairness, honesty and with the highest standards,” notes Miki Harada from Ryugaku Journal. EDM Education (London Uhak) in Korea – who were last nominated in 2008 – and first time agent nominee, Wintech in Korea also jostle for position in 2010.

Familiar faces abound in the LTM Star French Language School shortlist this year also; Ecole France Langue, Institut Linguistique Adenet (ILA), Accord and French in Normandy – all of which have been nominated three or four times over – go head to head once again. However, Xavier de Bastos from ESL Ecole Suisse de Langues, the category’s only Swiss school, says that their second nomination is a “great achievement”, adding that it will “decidedly sustain our constant motivation to increase the quality of our services and programmes”. First time nominee, Centre International d’Antibes (CIA), also muscled in on the action this year.

New kids on the block
CIA is not the only organisation to be making its awards debut this year, however. In fact 2010 has welcomed 21 newcomers in a variety of different categories. “We are thrilled to be shortlisted for an LTM Star Award for the first time,” vouches Duncan Jackman of International House London in the UK, one of the five schools lobbying for LTM Star English Language School Europe. “We are a well-established school, and we are proud to have longstanding, successful relationships with excellent agents in many countries: we are extremely grateful to those agencies for their support in this year’s awards,” he notes. Meanwhile, Nathan Evans from Shafston International College in Australia – shortlisted for the first time in the LTM Star English Language School Southern Hemisphere category – says, given the high calibre competition, they were genuinely surprised to be nominated. He adds, “But then it occurred to me Shafston is not the small college it was when I started here some 12 years ago. I’m proud to be a part of this institution and proud of this nomination winner or not.”

In fact, a majority of newcomers are not new to the industry at all. According to Ana Cózar from Spanish language school association, Fedele – up for LTM Star School Association – they have been actively working in the industry for over a decade. She states that this nomination is “the best recognition that Fedele could obtain for the activity developed during the last 11 years”. Similarly, Cambridge Education Group (CEG) have, according to Michael Parris, “been quietly going about the business of providing top quality English language tuition and university preparation for 58 years.” Nevertheless, they have certainly made a splash in their first year to be nominated in the awards by securing not just one but three nominations this year; LTM Star High School, LTM Star LTM Star Junior Course for under 18s and LTM Star Innovation of the Year.

Indeed, it seems multiple nominations are a common theme this year with seven educators up for more than one award. “Being nominated in a record three categories is breathtaking,” observes Andrew Mangion from EC English, shortlisted for LTM Star Junior Course for under 18s, LTM Star Innovation and LTM Star Chain School. “It’s a huge honour and terribly humbling,” adds Andrew Roper from BSC, who, as well as LTM Star Junior Course for under 18s, is up for LTM Star English Language School Europe.
Getting inventive

Creative, innovative thinking can significantly enhance business potential and with new markets opening up all the time, educators would do well to tap into them. The LTM Star Innovation award looks to showcase those that have developed new programmes, facilities or services in the last 12 months and this year’s contenders have targeted a multitude of different audiences from the super smart teen to the sports enthusiast.

Tamwood International’s Whistler Olympic Fun programme – offered in conjunction with their work experience division, Go International – harnessed the recent Winter Olympics in Canada, to offer students a chance to combine their language learning with work experience that focussed on the games, while Mountlands Language School in the UK opted to target the young thrill seeker by offering English plus Kitesurfing. Ella Tyler at the school relates, “It’s great to know all our hard work throughout the year is truly appreciated by our agent partners. Thank you!”

Meanwhile, CATS Cambridge (part of CEG), targeted advanced learners with its Two Grades Higher and Oxbridge Preparation programmes – the former is a scientifically proven approach to teaching which has helped increase students’ reading speed and memory by at least 40 per cent and creative thinking by at least 200 per cent says their website, while the latter was formulated in conjunction with Oxbridge Admissions Tutors to develop the qualities that the most selective universities are seeking.

Having won the innovation award in 2009, EC Malta is back again this year targeting an entirely different age demographic. The Club 30+ programme places likeminded individuals, namely students over the age of 30, into tailor-made classes that target their individual needs and interests. And finally, Partners, an exclusive agent website launched by Embassy CES in 2009, completes the list of innovative shortlisters. Looking to put up-to-the-minute course and accommodation information at its agents’ fingertips, “This ensures we deliver the best in agent service,” relates Johnny Peters at Embassy CES.

Secret to success
To be shortlisted is no easy feat and both educators and agents offer up a variety of reasons as to why they think they made the final shortlist. Krister Weidenhielm from Swiss agency, ESL – up for LTM Star Agency Western Europe – notes that their “strong promotional coverage in different markets” sets them apart from fellow Western European agencies, while John Slocum from USA-based agency, Amerispan, believes partner schools appreciate their effort to “really learn about their programmes, facilities, locations and unique characteristics”. Having won the LTM Star Agency North America award in 2009, he notes they are keeping their fingers crossed to win again this year. Richard Bradford from Cactus UK, meanwhile, counts the relationships they have with partner schools they work with as “long-standing friendships” rather than contractual arrangements, adding that they, and their school partners work well together as a team, something that certainly stands them in good stead. He quips, “We hope to do better in the awards (notably the LTM Star Agency Western Europe category) than England did in the Eurovision!” [NB: England came last!]

Peter Daskalyesku from EXCEL Consulting in Moldova – up for LTM Star Agency Eastern Europe – asserts that their willingness to “go that extra mile” makes the difference between a good business relationship and a great, long-lasting one.

For English language school the Galway Cultural Institute, hosting an association workshop certainly helped catapult them into the spotlight this year. Nominated for LTM Star English Language School Europe, Celestine Rowland, comments, “The great thing about the Star Awards is that they are voted for by our partners – without them we could not have succeeded with events such as the Ialc Workshop.” Coupled with the fact that the school recently achieved accreditation status with international association, Eaquals, and, stresses Rowland, we have “gained a reputation as being a school agents can reply on”.

Campaign highs
The campaign trail can be an effective outlet for self promotion and many of those shortlisted this year employed a variety of techniques to compel their partners to vote for them. EAC’s Andrew Fisher, appealed to voters directly via video-sharing website, You Tube, while DEC Educational Consultancy in Moldova, up for LTM Star Agency Eastern Europe for a third time, launched a savvy marketing campaign that included a pre-election newsletter to all partner schools and a music video involving every member of staff! Meanwhile, CEG opted to simplify the entire voting process by setting up a webpage dedicated entirely to the awards.

Since shortlisters were contacted, champagne corks have been popping all across the globe. “We’ve ordered cava for our four schools in Spain to celebrate with staff and students,” relates Steven Muller of Babylon Idiomas, up for LTM Star Spanish School for the fourth time. “We’d like to thank all our agency partners who voted for us also a big thank you to LTM for organising this and providing the industry with an incentive to continue to improve its standards,” he adds.

Employees at BSC celebrated their double nomination in style by hosting an impromptu party which gave Managing Director, Andrew Roper, the perfect platform to thank his staff who, he says, “work tirelessly day after day to make our clients’ stay in the UK as enjoyable and as profitable as possible”. Likewise, Browns English Language School in Australia – shortlisted for LTM Star English Language School Southern Hemisphere – also threw a party, “traditional Browns style” insists School Director, Richard Brown. “We believe it’s important to enjoy these hard-earned company milestones,” he adds.

The full list of the Star Awards nominees.

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