August 2011 issue

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Malta turns around

Scarred by the effects of the global economic climate in 2009, the Maltese language school sector set to work to update its programmes and facilities over the past year – with pleasing results. Jane Vernon Smith reports.

The past 12 months have brought a strong turnaround, with many of Malta’s language schools showing double-digit percentage increases in student numbers. At the European School of English (ESE) in St Julian’s, the rise was as high as 15 per cent, according to Rachel Falzon. “There seems to be a general positive idea that we have seen the worst of the economic crisis, and that the air is changing,” observes Isabella Conti, Director of Marketing at the three BELS schools.

Certainly, the past year has had its share of challenges. Not least has been the strength of the euro against the UK pound, which, as Carsten Sallmann at Sprachcaffe Languages Plus, highlights, has made the UK more competitive at Malta’s expense. Natural phenomena, such as the volcanic ash emissions last year, and the more recent catastrophe in Japan, have also played their part, notes Falzon.

According to Falzon, it was with such challenges in mind that ESE has recently reviewed its range of programmes. “Offering needs-driven courses, as opposed to content-driven courses is key,” she maintains. While price remains a determining factor, she adds that students are also more quality-conscious. Hence the introduction of more “high-standard courses which address the needs of niche markets” – such as Aviation English.

Late booking is another trend that many Maltese language schools are continuing to contend with. Liz Camilleri, Director of Studies at AClass Academy of English, reports a rise in this phenomenon, while, according to Conti, the trend has now spread from the adult into the junior market.

One positive development has been a growth in demand for programmes in which Malta is already strong – both junior courses and family programmes. According to Sallmann, junior programmes for the under-20s are increasing in popularity. Meanwhile, Sprachcaffe is considering launching programmes for the eight-to-13 age-group, in response to growing demand.

At Alpha School of English in St Paul’s Bay, “Our family courses and corresponding family leisure, adventure and activity programmes have seen a consistent increase in demand over the last two years,” comments Maureen McDonald at the school. In 2010, Alpha introduced a playschool for young children of parents studying at the school. This has been “a resounding success,” she attests, “and we have almost reached capacity for some periods this year.”

Conti also reports a rise in requests for family programmes – particularly from Eastern Europe, and BELS has accordingly reworked its junior camp programme to accept parents who wish to join their children at the school. Meanwhile, inlingua School of Languages’ recently launched Parent + Child courses have proved very popular, according to Maryse Gatt.

In terms of nationality profile, Western European students – especially from Germany, Spain and Italy – continue to dominate at Maltese language schools. At English Language Academy (ELA) in Sliema, where the top three nationalities in 2010 were German, Russian and Italian, the biggest increase – particularly in the junior market – came from Russia, reports Louiseanne Mercieca.

More of a concern for the future is the Spanish market. Currently representing a large slice of business for many Maltese language schools, this could be set to drop, following a recent move by the Spanish government to cut the level of its BECAS student grants.

“This is already affecting our student bookings for this summer,” comments Camilleri, who is preparing for “a substantial reduction” in annual enrolments, with the grant for Malta being significantly lower than for other countries, she notes.

Notwithstanding various concerns, language schools remain generally positive about the outlook. “Overall, our numbers are up compared to last year,” says Costantino Mifsud at IH Malta-Gozo, “and this trend will hopefully continue throughout the year.”

Taking the lead

More than ever in times of challenge, the industry appreciates the efforts of external bodies in support of individual marketing efforts. This year, Maltese language schools have been keen to pay tribute to the work of both Feltom and the Maltese Tourism Authority (MTA).

“As always,” says Louiseanne Mercieca at English Language Academy (ELA) in Sliema, we continue to market intensely... We find strong support from Feltom and the MTA, which, we know, do their utmost to increase demand. This year”, she relates, “MTA even had a stand at a very important workshop promoting Malta and language study. Accompanying the MTA representative was a representative from our Central Visa unit, to assist and give first-hand information to agents who had queries regarding visas.”

According to Isabella Conti at BELS, there has been “a big improvement” by the Maltese government in its approval of visas, as well as “more involvement” from the MTA. Beyond its direct support at industry events, schools also value its wider promotional activities. This is especially the case during the current problems in North Africa. “MTA is constantly interviewing visitors to Malta,” highlights Mercieca, “and a voxpop has been uploaded on YouTube.”

Grant funding support has also been available from the Maltese government in conjunction with the EU. As Maureen McDonald relates, the Alpha School made a successful bid, and has invested in a new website and online marketing campaign.

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






AIPEC - Cuernavaca Language Schools
English Australia  
Feltom Malta  
IALC International  
International House London  
Quality English  

Alphe Conferences  
IALC International  

Cambridge Esol  
Pearson Education  

Dr. Walter GmbH  
Guard. Me  

LTM Digital  

Malta Tourism Authority  

ILSC - International Language Schools of Canada  
Tellus Group  
Twin Group  

All About Languages  
Astex - Asesoramiento de Estudios en el Extranjero  
Boa Lingua  
Bridge Blue Education Agency - Head office  
DIREKT Sprachreisen OHG  
Edm Education (LondonUhak)  
EDUCON for Educational Services  
ESL Ecole Suisse de Langues  
Global Visions Education  
Globo Study Sprachreisen  
Insight Lingua  
Karya International Education  
World Study Brazil  

Browns English Language School  
English Australia  
English Language Company  
Global Village Noosa  
Martin College  

Canadian & International Student Services  
Humber College  
ILAC - International Language Academy of Canada  
ILSC - International Language Schools of Canada  
LSC Language Studies Canada Toronto  
Seneca College  

Mandarin House  

Ardmore Language Schools  
Bournemouth Business School International  
British Study Centres  
Cambridge Education Group - HO  
Camp Beaumont  
Doncaster College  
Embassy CES  
IALC International  
Kaplan International Colleges  
London College of International Business Studies  
London Metropolitan University  
London School of Business & Finance  
Malvern House College London  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
St Giles International  
Study Group  
University of Essex - International Academy  

French in Normandy  
SILC - Séjours Linguistiques  

BWS Germanlingua  
Carl Duisberg Medien GmbH  
GLS Sprachenzentrum  
Goethe Institut  
inlingua Berlin  
International House Berlin - Prolog  
International House Heidelberg  

Centre of English Studies  
Galway Cultural Institute  

DILIT - International House  

ISI Language School  
Kai Japanese Language School  

Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre  
Feltom Malta  

AIPEC - Cuernavaca Language Schools

Languages International Christchurch  


EAC Language Centres and Activity Camps  

Babylon Idiomas  
Escuela de Idiomas Nerja  
International House - Sevilla CLIC  
Inturjoven Spanish Courses   
Malaca Instituto - Club Hispanico SL  

EF Language Colleges Ltd  
ESL Language Schools  

Rennert Bilingual  
Ross School (The)  
Zoni Language Centers   

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