Q&A Agent association
TEAG President, Ozdemir Icin, talks about the association’s developments, accreditation and training schemes.
Full name of association: Turkish Educational Agents Group (TEAG)
Year established: 2005
Number of members: 12
Type of members: Educational Consulting and Language Course Firms
Association’s main role: To bring together reliable, quality agencies under the common aim of providing the best services to schools and students while expanding the study abroad market in Turkey.
What has been Teag’s focus in the last 12 months?
We have focused on providing a forum for TEAG members to exchange opinions and concerns, discuss collective grievances regarding visas and other problematic issues surrounding the market and uphold our reputation as a reliable information source for overseas educators in the Turkish market. We have welcomed five new members, we attended Edufairs, Alphe İstanbul and ICEF Dubai to explain our aims and current work and to meet new schools and agencies. TEAG members come together bimonthly to exchange ideas. We lobby consulates to promote better understanding of identified concerns over standard setbacks experienced by language students and by the international travel sector as a whole.
Where do you stand on accreditation policy/standards? Do you think accrediting agents/agencies is necessary?
We think that accrediting agents/agencies is necessary to standardise the main services of the market. To be accepted as a TEAG member, we ask candidate firms whether they are suitable for the Felca accreditation code of conduct or not. All of our members adhere to the Felca accreditation code of conduct.
How do you feel about agent training schemes?
There are very few training organisations and unfortunately agents have to pay too much to attend.
What activities does Teag have planned?
We are planning to organise workshops for our members that will be exhibited by schools’ representatives in our office and we are going to organise meetings with consulates about visa procedures. We would like to attend related organisations like Alphe to meet new agencies and schools.
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How important is accommodation provision among clients? Have student expectations changed?
Thomas Schmidt, AILS, Belgium
“Accommodation is a key factor for our students when they choose a language school abroad. In fact they often have more questions about accommodation than the courses. And so as agents who consider our primary function to advise students well about all aspects of their programme abroad, we find it essential to be well informed about the accommodation provided by our partner schools, and, ideally, to have visited them personally. We trust our providers, we know their strengths and weaknesses, and if necessary we will provide accommodation through a third party. Although we usually tend to suggest host family accommodation to our students for the cultural benefits, more and more seem to prefer residences or shared apartments. The reasons for this are often the bad reputation of host families (though we know that partners work hard on this) and a desire for more independence. Students usually want access to a kitchen and Wi-Fi, but are happy to share their room with another student (with a different mother tongue). They are typically well-travelled individuals who are used to a certain level of comfort during their travels, and the level of expectation seems to be rising.”
Syed Hashim Hasan, Auspak International, Pakistan
“Students from Pakistan seldom have accommodation as their priority, their focus is primarily on the institute they are going to. Those planning to study in Canadian universities have to get their accommodation sorted before they apply for the visa, so usually adhere to the accommodation booking deadlines. Pakistan, as a society, is a last-minute market and this is true for students as well. The students tend to delay the booking of accommodation until the very end. These are common issues faced by our students who prefer to look for cheaper options or rely on friends already there. The students who come from the upper middle class prefer to have as many facilities as possible. The urgency is seen only once the visa has been stamped and in most cases they miss the accommodation deadline for halls of residence. We then look at alternatives and guide them by sending them a list of properties available, location and distance from the university. Price is an important aspect as well as Wi-Fi and meal plans. The preference of en-suite is also quite common. The females always look for female-only accommodation and at times prefer homestay as well. Homestay is one of the least preferred types, while independent is mostly in demand.”
Gabriella D’Urso, ATW Rome, Italy
“In spite of the massive flow of information provided by the Internet, a good agent’s advice is still appreciated by most students. Usually we book whatever the schools we work with have on offer, without excluding other providers if we have direct experience or very positive feedback. The adult and executive students are the most demanding and always have been: they strongly prefer either hotels or independent flats. No trend changes here, whatsoever. Self-catering student hall requests have increased by 40 per cent among university students, while host family accommodation is today chosen almost exclusively by very motivated young adults (18+). Nowadays, we specialise in the junior market, where requests for residential accommodation are massive, while demand for host families has decreased dramatically. Juniors and their parents have become more aware of the services and tools available: en-suite rooms are the top request, while Wi-Fi connection and a more varied menu come immediately after, followed by sports facilities.”
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Study Travel Magazine, we ask a different teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or agent partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month Kurus English in South Africa nominates akzent sprachbildung in Switzerland. Johannes Kraus, Director at the school, explains this decision.
“I would like to recommend akzent sprachbildung weltweit in Switzerland as Agency of the Month. Jackie and Patrick Helfenberger, and their team, have worked with us over the past two years. Kurus English is still a young school, but we have developed a fine relationship. Besides the students that akzent sprachbildung have sent us, a team member visited our school to get an idea of the environment we have created. akzent sprachbildung is a professional agency, with well-organised administration procedures as well as highly efficient response times and communication. We can also see that akzent’s clients receive individual and personal consultation in order to guarantee a perfect student-school match. Finally, we have been working on joint marketing efforts...this has considerably strengthened our working relationship.”guage] trainer proves to be a first-class counsellor.”
“With innovative programmes, dedication and outstanding service, it makes it easy for us to promote Kurus. Our clients are giving excellent feedback and that is exactly what we are aiming for.”
Jackie Helfenberger, akzent sprachbildung, Switzerland