Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. What percentage of your partner schools has a member of your agency staff visited?
Warwick White, World’s Best Language Schools.com
“Seventy per cent. It is very important, as this gives you a much better idea on the school, the local environment, strengths/weaknesses. And recommending one school due to its strengths/weaknesses is a key to being a good agent and servicing the needs of your clients. How you visit is also important: ie one or two weeks, taking classes or just sitting near the office, working on my laptop and seeing what happens, how students are dealt with, and what students say and think. I like to travel and a visit to a school is like a holiday for me! A mix of business and pleasure. I dont do ‘fam’ trips, but rather when in a area, will visit the school. Fam trips are too short, and only show you what they want to show you.”
Mark Winkler, CEO, Media Touristik AG, Switzerland
“Ninety-six per cent. It is essential to see schools, locations and feel the atmosphere of the city. Particular countries where it is unlikely we may have visited are China and Tahiti. We prefer to work with individual operators. Working with a chain school doesn’t automatically mean a certain standard of quality. For example, there are chain schools with excellent quality schools in university cities, but poor schools on the coast, or vice-versa.”
Wolfgang Bauer, Carl Duisberg Centren, Germany
“In the past it happened twice that customers complained heavily about our offerings in both cases we thought we could trust in what we were told and shown in pictures, and thought we can do without a visit. Since then, we have made it a principle to visit new schools before we include them in our programme, and to revisit partner schools as often as possible. Whenever possible we try to combine school visits with business trips or holiday times of our staff even if it is as far away as New Zealand.”
Rob Woodward, New Zealand Global / Global Culture, Chile
“We have visited around 90 per cent of our partner institutions in our main market, New Zealand. We have only recently started promoting other countries so have visited just a handful of partner schools in Australia which receive 100 per cent of our enrolments for that country. We send a very small percentage of students to those partner schools we haven’t visited. We usually only send them students when that client specifically asks to go there. It is our way of being faithful to those partner schools that have invested time and resources in our company (via fam trips etc).”
Stephen Wittig, NRCSA, USA
“Since 1968, a site visit by a staff member has been necessary prior to working with a foreign school. Given the economy and marketplace needs, we are considering changing our charter to ‘site visit by staff or associate’. ‘Associate’ is defined as: known professional in the field; former student; former staff member or person who we hired specifically to evaluate schools. With the economy changing so fast, we find that it is necessary to add new programmes faster and if we limit the on-site evaluation process to staff, the average time to schedule a site visit is now over two years!”
Petra Wagner, Easy Sprachreisen, Germany
“100 per cent we do not work with schools we haven’t visited! The discrepancy between professional sales persons, high gloss brochures and the reality is just too big. Most of our school partners co-fund fam trips. All of them should do it it would help a lot!”
On the move
Kinya Yumoto has been appointed Business Development Manager at Macquarie Education Group Australia (Mega). Prior to this new posting in September, Mr Yumoto worked for language centre, Ability Education in Sydney, Australia, also in a Business Development Manager capacity, and previously at Japanese agency, Gio Club, as International Director.
Cactus in the UK is pleased to announce the appointment of Rod Mitchell as its new Academic Director of Studies. Mr Mitchell comes to Cactus after being the Director of The English Studio in Pistoia, Tuscany. Previously he was the Director of Studies at Berlitz Brighton, and before that he held various roles in English language teaching schools in Australia, as well as other university and adult education teaching and language research roles. Mr Mitchell hails from Queensland, Australia but has also lived at various times in the UK, Australia, France and Italy. “I am very much looking forward to working as part of the team to help keep Cactus on its track to being a world leader in language teaching and learning services provision,” he said.
After more than 10 years, Christian Orth left Sprachcaffe Languages Plus in Frankfurt, Germany, this year. He was responsible for printed brochures in 11 languages and created the online brochures for the web as well. As Marketing Manager Germany he took care of the German market and set up an effective complaints management system. Mr Orth is now responsible for tourism and culture in the township of Grossenkneten (county of Oldenburg) in northern Germany.
Mitch Leventhal has been appointed Vice Chancellor for Global Affairs at the State University of New York (SUNY) in the USA. SUNY is the largest and most comprehensive public university system in the world, with 64 constituent colleges and universities, catering for over 70,000 students. Mr Leventhal said, “The three major initiatives which I will be focused on for the first several years will be: establishing SUNY’s headquarters for global operations in Midtown Manhattan; developing an approach to system-wide international data collection that will allow for more informed international strategy; and improving the inbound and outbound student pipelines.”
New global education directory launched
Another company is embracing the Internet to harness international exposure for a global education marketplace. This time, US-based CollegeBound Network, which hosts the CollegeBound.net and CollegeSurfing.com websites among others, is moving into the international domain. The company has 22 years of experience in the USA profiling higher education options online (it receives 3.5 million unique visitors per month) and a significant brand, reputation and reach that will help support its foray into global education. It has created Myglobaleducation.com, which launches in January 2010.
Bill Colvin, Director of International Recruitment, explained that the site will offer a matching service (lead generation) for institutions interested in listing on the website as well as links to education agencies that work with the company ideally one agency in each city around the world which can manage a student enquiry on behalf of an institution.
With the site not yet launched, there is significant opportunity for education agencies worldwide to get involved. “We are certainly interested in agencies that have an outstanding reputation for quality service and that are accredited by major agency associations,” commented Colvin.
He added that one reason for the move into the international domain was CollegeBound Network’s close relationship with Google, which has encouraged a venture beyond the USA. Primarily, countries that will be focused on will be the UK, Canada, Australia and New Zealand, but myglobaleducation.com also has its eye on other language teaching destinations.
Eurolanguages.com partners with Busuu.com
Another month and another alliance between an international education company and an online language learning community. This time, Ireland’s Eurolanguages.com, an online agency for language schools, has partnered with Spain-based busuu.com, which has 150,000 users from over 200 different countries.
Peter Hutchinson at Eurolanguages.com claimed the partnership had already led to results, with clients of busuu’s online language learning community booking offline courses in Spain and Italy.
“We are delighted that members of busuu.com now have the opportunity to book the best quality offline courses, at the best available prices,” he said.
Toefl reduces wait for score results
In a bid to remain competitive, ETS, the company that delivers the Toefl test, has announced that Toefl scores on the web will now be delivered within two weeks as opposed to three weeks, and printed test score will also arrive faster. “Test takers requested faster score reporting and that’s what we gave them,” explained Teresa Sanchez-Lazer at ETS.
ETS is having to up its game now that the new PTE Academic has been officially launched (see LTM, Sept 2009, page 34). The computer-based test was rolled out in October and delivers test results directly to higher education institutions, government departments and other organisations.
InterGlobal launches new student insurance packages
International insurance provider, InterGlobal, has announced that it has designed two new competitively-priced insurance packages for the international student. The prices start at under UK£40 (US$64) per month for the more basic plan.
Available either as single or group schemes, the International Students Plan covers inpatient, daycare and outpatient medical treatment in the study destination as well as family assistance, emergency medical evacuation and red24 security assistance. The International Students Plus plan includes additional extras such as maternity care, cover against loss of tuition fees and coverage for personal belongings.
Stephen Hartigan, Chief Ex-ecutive of InterGlobal, said, “We’ve designed these plans specifically to meet the needs of students studying abroad which means we have been able to provide a comprehensive level of cover at a very reasonable cost. As the vast majority of students only study in a single overseas country we have managed the cost of cover by simply providing protection in the country where they’re studying.”
Actilingua podcast welcomes 45,000 users
A free podcast launched by Austrian language school, Actilingua Academy, has welcomed 45,000 unique users since it was launched in May last year.
The vocabulary trainer avail-able in both German and English enables language learners to download lectures on a daily basis and listen to them on portable de-vices such as an iPod or mp3-player.
Designed to make learning German “child’s play”, Judith Purkarthofer at the school notes that the listings on several German and English speaking podcast portals and the BBC German language website are helping generate further interest in the podcasts.
“Together with our Online German Course (www.deutsch-lernen.com) we think of it as a very good resource to learn and practise German as an everyday activity,” she said, adding, “Feedback from professional language teachers and university staff was also really good.”
Michael Kohlfuerst from PromoMasters, the marketing company behind the initiative, stressed that although this modern method of e-learning would not substitute learning German in a classroom environment, it does offer students a “free and time-efficient way of updating their German skills”.
Acpet represents all types of private education institutions, including a significant number that cater for international students. Steve Quirk, Manager of International Engagement, answers our questions.
Full name: Australian Council for Private Education and Training
Year established: 1992
Number of members: 1,119 members
Type of members: Educational and training organisations involved in vocational, English language, higher education, foundation and mainstream education
Association’s main role: Advocacy of quality private education
Government recognition: Yes
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: No
Acpet, Suite 101, Level 1, 126 Wellington Parade,
East Melbourne, VIC 8002, Australia.
Steve Quirk, Manager International Engagement;
Tel: +61 3 9416 1355.
What has Acpet been up to in terms of ensuring international business for its members?
We have been advocating the interests of Australia’s international education industry in the face of the broader threat of the global financial crisis through undertaking groundbreaking research which has positioned Acpet as the leading commentator upon international education in Australia. This research has modelled the business environment in which international education takes place as well as the drivers of demand, student expectations and experiences. We are building a quality strategy supporting market entry, member accountability, better market information and recognising and rewarding excellence as well as strengthening consumer protection systems and services to members and international students.
How is Acpet getting involved in plans to overhaul the Esos Act?
We have a comprehensive consultative programme through forums in major cities; meetings with the Review Taskforce; and are presenting a comprehensive submission based upon member consultations, discussions with the taskforce and our specific research into the business environment and student experience.
What are members saying in terms of 2009 performance and expectations for 2010?
We have been through one of the most challenging economic and business environments in memory.
[Yet we see] continuing strong demand from students right across East Asia albeit with supply options under strain through a narrowing public policy pipeline. Strong industry leadership has offered the strongest confidence to students with demand increasing at around 30 per cent in the private sector over the last 12 months. We expect [in 2010] strong demand from a wider range of regions from inbound students.
Does Acpet engage in collaboration with local and/or international education agencies?
Acpet has established enduring relationships with peak agencies and internationally branded training provider networks. Acpet member colleges routinely engage with their international counterparts in partnership programmes, staff and student mobility initiatives and professional development programmes.
How does Acpet differ from English Australia?
Acpet has a wider membership profile: schools, English language development, vocational education and higher education. Acpet’s member services and advocacy therefore reflects a broad range of engagement.
• Budget airline passengers could soon be sitting in flip-up seats facing each other after a UK-based design company has designed a new passenger layout for budget airlines that will increase the number of seats by 50 per cent. Design Q said that the new layout was aimed at passengers flying for less than an hour, who were less concerned about comfort. Howard Guy, Director of the company, said that the design would enable aircraft to be lighter, more fuel efficient and let passengers board and disembarkmore quickly.
• Philippine Airlines (PAL) has announced that it will lay off workers and reduce flights in response to falling passenger numbers. The company also intends to outsource non-core business, such as catering, in an effort to cut costs. Flight capacities for the USA and Australia have already been cut by five-to-seven per cent and the workforce is due to be reduced by seven-to-10 per cent. PAL President, Jaime Bautista, commented, “The situation we are facing is very serious and management has taken initiatives to further reduce costs and also increase revenues.”
• Business class travellers flying with British Airways (BA) between London and New York can now send texts and emails during their flight after the carrier unrolled its in-flight OnAir service earlier this year. The new service is available on two of BA’s Airbus A318s flying between London City Airport and New York JFK and will cost at least the price of international roaming rates. So far, voice calls are not available on the service to avoid irritation to other passengers, although the airline has not ruled out adding this service in the future.
• Low-cost airline SkyEurope has ceased operations due to ongoing financial difficulties. The carrier, which operates from Kosice, Bratislava, Vienna and Prague to various European airports, cancelled all its flights in September this year, leaving many passengers stranded. The airline reduced its fleet from 15 to five last year and blamed the ongoing global economic crisis for its difficulties.
• Vietnam Airlines has announced plans to increase flights on existing routes and add a new route between Hanoi and Fukuoka in Japan after passenger numbers for 2009 increased by four per cent to nine million. The daily Ho Chi Minh City to Bangkok flight is due to increase to twice daily from December, while the frequency of the domestic Hanoi to Ho Chi Minh City route will also be increased by 20 per cent.
• German carrier Lufthansa has applied for a code-share agreement with US airline JetBlue, which will add 12 new destinations in the USA and Puerto Rico. Marianne Sammann, Lufthansa General Manager for the UK and Ireland, said, “The destinations being offered are all very popular business and leisure areas that, until now have been difficult to access so I am sure that this will be seen as a welcome move on both sides of the Atlantic.” Lufthansa currently serves 180 international destinations in its network.
• Air Arabia has announced that it will launch an Egypt based low-cost carrier in a joint venture with the hospitality company, Travco Group. The airline will serve Europe, the Middle East and Africa. Air Arabia’s Chairman, Sheikh Abdullah bin Mohammed al-Thani said, “At a time when the global aviation industry is witnessing serious challenges as a consequence of the worldwide financial crisis, we continue to move forward with our strategic expansion strategy.”
• The International Air Transport Association (Iata) has predicted that global airlines are on course to lose US$11 billion in 2009 due to declining passenger numbers and increased fuel costs US$2 billion more than was originally forecast. Giovanni Bisignani, Iata Director General and CEO, said, “We are in intensive care and the crisis for us is not over.” The association predicted that overall passenger traffic this year would fall by four per cent, while airline revenue is expected to fall by 15 per cent or US$80 billion.
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