Given that the language travel industry is over 50 years old in many countries, it is perhaps surprising that enforced government regulation of language schools in many countries still does not exist. However, as the industry continues to develop, school companies become bigger another takeover in Vancouver is yet the latest omen of the maturation of our industry (page 7) and immigration becomes a political hot potato in our current climate, enforced regulation of language schools is an increasingly likely scenario. In many countries, governments are realising the value in a robust accreditation scheme linked to visa issuance, while in others, industry associations are campaigning for such a scheme so that it might pave the way for more transparent visa processes.
In France, the industry has actually rallied together to try and obstruct governmental plans to usher in compulsory accreditation for language schools, given that European-wide standards already exist, and because of the government’s lack of liaison with the industry regarding its new visa rules (page 6). Conversely, in Italy, language schools’ association, Asils, is working for national accreditation in the hope that it will improve visa issuance (page 12). At the moment, problems with visas there are thwarting market growth (page 29).
Across the Atlantic in the USA, industry association AAIEP is also campaigning to bring compulsory accreditation into effect to strengthen adherence to visa conditions across the board, which will help improve national competitiveness (page 6). With competitors Canada and the UK already discussing such a move and national accreditation in existence in Australia and New Zealand, I think the US industry is mindful that it should keep up, especially as it recovers from a few difficult years post-September 11, when visa problems were reported everywhere.
A slow evolution towards greater legislation can only be a long-term boon for an industry. Having immigration departments working with the industry can really benefit student traffic one Chilean agent testifies that working holiday visas to Australia and New Zealand have helped establish the countries as long-term destinations, although students may organise this visa themselves (page 43).
While students may not be consciously aware of the machinations of legislation or lobbying when making a decision about where to study, as we hear from one reader in Vietnam (page 11), it can be an agency’s visa success rate with a certain country that wins them business.