December 2013 issue

News Round Up
Inside the industry
Agency Survey
Secondary Focus 1
Secondary Focus 2
Tertiary Focus 1
Tertiary Focus 2
Vocational Focus

Special Report
Course Guide
City Focus
Market Analysis

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Italy holds firm

After enjoying a major market recovery last year, Italian language schools were largely unable to sustain the positive impetus during 2013. Yet, there were many welcome aspects to the market’s performance, as Jane Vernon Smith reports.

Italy language schools’ marketing budget by region (overall %) Top nationalities in Italy by student weeks 2012 - according to schools

W Europe 34%  
C&E Europe 23%  
Asia 11.5%  
Latin America 8%   
North America 8%
Middle East 6.5%
Australasia 5%
Africa 0.5%

1.German 15.5%
2. Russian 10.3%
3. Swiss 6.4%
4. Austrian 5.9%
5. American 5.6%
6. British 4.5%
7. Brazilian 4.8%
8. French 3.9%
9. Scandinavian and Finnish 3.7%
10. Dutch 3.6%

Commission Student numbers by age range
21% is the average comission paid on a language course

10% is the comission paid on accommodation by one of the profiled institutions

8-11 0.2%
12-15 1%
16-18 10%
19-24 29%
25-30 25.4%
31-50 17%
50+ 17.4%

Means of recruiting students in Italy, 2012 Reasons for learning English

Agents 50 %
Internet 24%
Local bookings 16.5%
Other means 9%

Further studies in Italy 41%
For pleasure only
Current or future work 24%
University/college studies at home

Student's region of origin How did students find out about their school

Asia 49%
Western Europe 21%
Latin America 15%
C&E Europe 4%
Middle East 4%
Africa 3%
No answer 3%
N America 1%

Recommended by educational advisor/agent 42%
Internet 33%
Friend/relative 23%
Advertising 2%

Total marketing spend by sector and by category in %
Agency costs 37%

Commission 30%
Incentives 3%
Agency brochures 4%

Travel costs19%

Agent workshops 7%
Student exhibitions 3%
Agency visits 2%
Entertainment 1%
Marketing trips 6%

Publicity costs: 19% 

Magazines for agents 2%
Magazine for students 4%
Own brochures 12%
Internet 26%

Ask the students – view from the classroom

79 students from 28 different countries took part in our survey of language schools in Italy

The average age was 28 years
The average class size was 8 students
49 per cent of respondents were from Asia
21 per cent of respondents were from Western Europe
55 per cent of respondents booked their course through an agency
92 per cent of respondents would recommend their school
21 per cent of respondents were staying in homestay accommodation
24 per cent of respondents were learning Italian for current or future work purposes
48 per cent of respondents found it quite hard or very hard to practise their English with local people
51 per cent of students had been on a previous study abroad trip
70 per cent of respondents thought that there was just the right number of students and mix of nationalities in the classroom

Number of particpating organisations: 19
Total number of students at the organisations in 2012: 9,001
Total number of student weeks in 2012, estimated: 35,104
Participating schools: AbbeySchool CiaoItaly, Accademia del Giglio, Centro Italiano Firenze, Comitato Linguistico, Dilit-International House, Il Centro di Lingua e Cultura Italiana, International House Lake Como, International House Milan, Istituto Il David, Italiano e Co, Laboling – La Scuola di Italiano in Sicilia, Lingua Si, L’Italiano Porticando, Omnilingua, Orbit Lingua, Percosi d’Italiano, Sant’Anna Institute-Sorrento Lingue, Scuola Leonardo da Vinci, Studioitalia.

9.8 weeks Overall average length of stay
23.25 hours Average language tuition per week

NZ$1,381 (US$1,113) Average cost of a one-month course, excluding accommodation
NZ$227 (US$183) Average cost of residential accommodation per week
NZ$233 (US$188) Average cost of host family accommodation per week

Certainly, the economic situation is again seen by most as the major restraint on the market in 2013, although, as Fabrizio Fucile at CLI Dante Alighieri in Rome points out, the “bad picture” of the Italian political situation also put a dampener on recovery.

However, Daniel Pietzner from Omnilingua language school in San Remo, sums up the overall state of the market. “In general,” he says, “enrolments have stayed the same. We cannot talk about a big increase, nor a big decrease.” Rather, providers saw a number of shifts in the pattern of demand. Fabio Boccio of language school association, Italian in Italy, comments that member schools noticed a slight decrease in student weeks, but at the same time a general increase in student numbers. Enrolments were up in particular among the under-20s, which may be due, he believes, “to the fact that young students like the lifestyle and the Italian culture, and that, apart from English, [and] after French, German and Spanish, Italian is felt [to be] one of the most important languages to be studied by young people”.

Individual language schools also highlight a rise in enrolments of younger students. Among these was Linguaviva, whose junior courses in Lignano enjoyed an increase in volume, both in terms of bookings and student weeks, against the general trend, according to spokesperson, Giorgia Biccelli.

Boccio’s own school, Studioitalia in Rome, meanwhile, identified two growing categories of student: the first, students from 16-to-19 years old; and the second, adults with a relatively high standard of Italian, who had come to Italy for a relatively long period, often with the intention to stay permanently.

Biccelli comments that, “Although the core business remains general Italian, there is an increasing interest in language-plus courses, or courses which prepare students for professional or academic careers in certain areas very much linked to Italy’s outstanding sectors, which are fashion and design.”

Simone Rainer of Piccola Università Italiana in Tropea and Trieste, meanwhile, observes that courses in Italian plus culture (as well as sports) are becoming increasingly popular, and a number of schools have recently launched courses designed to capitalise on this. At Studioitalia, “We have developed a special course for people over 50, and a course with Italian plus cinema,” Boccio reports. The latter, he says, has been approved and financed by the European Commission and has attracted many students.

While International House in Milan has also developed courses that combine language and culture; Spokesman Alberto Canella says that the ‘classic’ standard course in general Italian remains the most popular. Likewise, at Piccola Università Italiana, “Most students are satisfied with a standard group course,” Rainer observes, “which obviously costs less.” Fucile concurs, “Students buy the cheapest programmes (i.e. general language).”

To compensate for the negative trends, providers used a number of strategies to keep business buoyant. Pietzner reports that Omnilingua has launched courses in other languages to help local students to gain skills that will help them find jobs in neighbouring countries.

Meanwhile, Rainer notes, “We are currently trying to boost our institute for all year-long programmes. Therefore, we have opened a second school in Trieste, a city with a high cultural profile, in order to be able to offer an interesting destination.”

Language schools have used a variety of approaches to market themselves. At Linguaviva, “We still have a traditional marketing approach: B2B workshops, visiting countries for direct meetings with educational agencies and, of course, the internet [website and social media] being of increasing importance,” Biccelli notes.

At Sant’Anna Institute-Sorrento Lingue in Sorrento, in addition to its core work with agencies and online advertising, Study Abroad Programme Co-ordinator, Olga Stinga, highlights the development of successful partnerships – particularly in Europe – with many teachers and educational/cultural institutions.

Omnilingua’s marketing is focused primarily upon specific regions, and here, “We have enrolled ourselves in Russian search engines, as well as sending out private requests to universities in the USA, Argentina and Chile, Belgium and Holland,” Pietzner reports. He adds that finding university language departments has been really helpful in offering them discounted programmes and internships for their students.

For many providers, online activities are becoming increasingly important, and, as Boccio highlights, a recent social media project, financed by the European Commission, has enabled Italian in Italy members to try out different social media for marketing purposes. For Studioitalia, he affirms, “This has helped a lot. Facebook, of course, has been the most useful in order to reach our clients, but also the use of a famous blogger, who spoke about us in some of his posts, was tremendously effective, because he learned Italian in our school.”

In confirmation of increasing internet exploitation, STM’s status survey data shows that internet recruitment grew significantly in 2012 to reach 24 per cent of the total. Agent bookings, meanwhile, dropped to 50 per cent. Language schools nevertheless continued to invest strongly in agent relationships, with agency costs representing 37 per cent of total marketing spend, and travel contributing a further 19 per cent.

By region, Western Europe received the largest marketing investment, in line with the high number of Western Europeans recruited. Central and Eastern Europe, at 23 per cent, received an increased proportion of the total spend, with a concomitant rise in enrolments from the region. North America received less than in 2012, and similarly showed a decrease in student numbers.

The market to show the biggest increase in student numbers this year has been Russia. For Sant’Anna Institute, as for Omnilingua, this was in part the result of increased marketing efforts, and the former also likewise achieved improved results in Brazil. However, a further stimulus was provided by the fact that, as Boccio points out, “The visa policy... of some embassies abroad has changed positively, especially in countries [such as] Russia, where we have now almost 100 per cent of study visa requests accepted.”

Other key hurdles to be overcome, according to Stinga, will include, “loss of country-sponsored scholarships and a reduction in funding by the Italian government”. For Biccelli, the future also depends upon political stability. With a call for new elections at the time of writing, as well as a constantly changing regulatory environment, this makes it rather difficult for companies to plan ahead of time, she points out. Regarding the state of the Italian economy, however, she says the forecasts are that by 2014 the country should be out of the general recession. “But,” she warns, “if there is a prolongation of political uncertainty, the end of the recession tunnel [may] be postponed again. Concerning our sector, I would say that the hope is to maintain the results achieved in 2013.” jvs@hothousemedia.com

Fabio Boccio of Italian language school association Italian in Italy talks about some of the association’s work in promoting Italian language schools over the past year, and its goals for the year ahead.

“In 2012, Italian in Italy set up three new projects, two Leonardos and one Grundtvig. Approved in July 2013, these deal with topics such as coaching for trainers and teachers, intercultural development skills and e-learning teaching strategy implementation. The partners in this project (known as Coach4ME) come from Poland, Turkey, Austria, Iceland, Spain, Sweden and the UK. One of the goals we have now is to get the private educational sector involved in the public one, especially in the extra-curricular activities of state schools. So, we are working on the preparation of new teachers and trainers to this end.

We are also working on stabilising our marketing in Russia and Brazil, where we have been working for the last three years. In fact, the number of students coming from these two countries has hugely increased, thanks to some measures we took – for example, hiring Russian agents to promote our schools in that country. We also provided some of the schools with a Facebook page in Russian.

Moreover, we are working on promoting Italian and our services in China, of course. China seems very interested in our culture and language, and Italy enjoys a good reputation in this country. So we are trying to promote our educational services, using some of the characteristics that make Italy unique, such as brands, cinema and gastronomic topics, in order to make Italian more attractive. Another market we would like to try to revitalise is Northern Europe: Scandinavian countries, unfortunately, seem to have lost part of the interest in Italian in the last three years.

We will also increase the number of students who want to achieve here their degree in fashion, design or one of the fields related to gastronomy, any particular sector where Italy acts as a leading country. I hope we will have the same success we had in recent years, especially at a European level, from where we could reach a wider range of potential students and new organisations active abroad in promoting the Italian language and culture. These new networks we will create will allow us to expand our market and cooperation with other different institutions, at a private or at a public level.”

Thank you to the following schools who participated in our student survey: Thank you to the following schools who participated in our student survey: Accademia Italiana, IH Milano, Studio Italia, Sant Anna Institute, Galilei Institute, Linguadue Milano.
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