Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How does the cost of living overseas impact on your clients’ choice of a study destination?
Emiliano Trujillo, Teducamos, Colombia
“The cost of living overseas is very important when choosing a study destination because it increases the total cost. The cost of tuition per week is very similar in many language centers, but the cost of the homestay varies depending on the city and the country; you may pay double for living somewhere such as London. [Clients] want to go to the best language centre and stay with a good host family in a great place. They want to enjoy their experience, travel to different cities and places and learn as much as possible, and they know all of that is not cheap, but the price they pay for it is worth it.”
Martin (Sung Wook) Woo, Ganada Oversea Studies, Korea
“As the exchange rate is fluctuating nowadays [in Korea], the students seem more confused. The most important factor, though, is the programme of the language school. It’s quite normal that the college students go abroad and their parents become interested in their children’s education. Even if the student selects a study destination by themselves, the parents show their concern and recommend choosing the better programme in a safe environment. So Canada has always been attractive as it is known as a safe country and the language schools offer a variety of programmes for quite a reasonable price. If the student has a small budget, they could consider the Philippines or Australia. That is because the tuition and accommodation fees are quite cheap in the Philippines and working holiday visa holders can study and find a job easily in Australia.”
Kanehisa Watanabe, Ryugaku Times Tokyo, Japan
“The Japanese yen is currently getting much weaker [and] since other currencies are getting stronger than they used to be, we have obviously found difficulties in sending prospective students [overseas], especially to European countries. Our clients are mainly either university or college students in Japan so the cost of tuition and living overseas strongly affects their decision about where to study. Nowadays, learning English in Asia is more popular with young students aged between 18 and 25 years old. I suppose what they are all really concerned about is the cost more than the destination. However, I usually advise my prospective clients that studying English in an English speaking country is the best way to improve one’s English level if they are serious about improving their English. At this moment in time, probably Australia offers the best value for money because its currency is worth almost the same as the Japanese yen.”
Maria Eugenia Cutrone, Star Travel, Argentina
“Since the crisis in Argentina in December 2001 and the devaluation of our currency in 2002, destinations like Australia, New Zealand and smaller cities in England and the USA are more in demand. Hastings, for example, in the UK has begun to be requested by those who cannot afford London. It is not only the cost of living that students take into account but the possibility of working part-time. The UK remains the most popular destination, because it is the birthplace of the language, and some of our students prefer to go there for less time rather than sacrificing their destination of choice. A two- or three-week course is common now, but five years ago nobody went away for less than a month. Canada is another rising star, since it is considered to offer value for money with prestigious institutions and low costs.”
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Language Travel Magazine, we ask a different language 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, Home Language International, based in Monaco, nominates Atout Linguistique, in France. Ian Josephs, Chief Executive, explains this decision.
“Hervé Dutilloy at Atout Languages started from scratch about four years ago after working [elsewhere in the industry] for over 40 years. In no time he managed to send us almost 300 students per year which is an astonishing achievement for a person working alone. To offer private lessons in the teacher’s home, while the student lives with the teacher’s family on a full board basis, is a very specialised, individual product and selling it requires specific skills and a good understanding of the student’s needs.
Atout Linguistique always gives us the information we need to make the best match between student and teacher, which is very important since if the student and family are an unsuitable mix, the results are not so good.
Hervé, thank you for your hard work and all your efforts. We all love working with you so let’s make 2008 even more successful for the both of us! Merci!”
On the move
Christina Margraf is the newly appointed Business Development Coordinator of International House World Organisation in the UK. After finishing her studies in Germany and working there for three years, she served as Marketing Assistant for Dilit International House Rome for more than four years. She is now looking forward to the new challenge in London and is happy to stay within the International House network.
Claudia Mende joins the International Association of Language Centres (Ialc) as Events Co-ordinator, with special responsibility for the Ialc annual workshop. Claudia previously worked for ABN Amro Bank in Frankfurt, Germany, and has a university degree in events management.
Lucy Cattermole has joined the EC team at their head office in Malta as Regional Sales Manager for Spain and Latin America. Ms Cattermole joins EC with over five years’ experience in the language travel industry in Spain, South America and the UK. Following a short break in Andalusia, Spain, she is delighted to return once again to the language travel industry. “I’m very excited to be working with EC,” said Cattermole. “The company is dynamic and dedicated to providing a great service to their agents and students; I just can’t wait to meet all of my agents!”
Rupert Johnstone (left) has relocated from London to Singapore to head ELS Language Centers’ Asia expansion programme, as Director of New Business Development. This includes the new ELS American Education Center in Shanghai, a US-style mini campus in the city’s former French Concession. Mr Johnstone said, “Having joined ELS in 1991 in Seoul, before my Vancouver, Princeton and London postings, this I suppose officially completes my ELS Round the World Tour!” Dan Plaut (right) has relocated to Shanghai to become Managing Director of the ELS American Education Center. Moving from his previous position as Director of ELS Language Center at Idaho State University, he said, “I am excited to be returning to the Chinese culture and educational environment.” Plaut began his career in Taiwan, as an Academic Director and teacher trainer.
Jan Capper, Executive Director of Ialc, answers our questions about this venerable association’s activities.
Full name: TFull name: International Association of Language Centres
Year established: 1983
Number of members: 89 (63 full, 26 associate)
Type of members: private independent language schools
Association’s main role: accreditation, promotion and networking for independent language schools
Government recognition: required of members where applicable
Code of practice: Yes, code of ethics, bylaws, quality assurance scheme
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: Yes
Ialc, Lombard House, 12/17 Upper Bridge Street, Canterbury, CT1 2PY, UK.
Q What has Ialc been up to in the last year?
Our main activities were promotion to agents, the quality assurance of current member schools and recruiting new schools. At our Cape Town AGM, we ran seminars on “Doing business with the Middle East”, “Opening a second centre” and “Accommodation and Student Services”, and in November we set up an online forum for the directors of studies at Ialc schools, which has been very well received. We added more school information and a course finder to our website, so agents can now search instantly for a particular course anywhere in the world, as well as check the news section for the latest offers from Ialc schools.
Q How was your workshop in South Africa received?
The agents who travelled to Cape Town were very positive about the workshop and the host school, Good Hope Studies. Everyone loved the destination. The post-workshop tours around South Africa were a huge hit more than 100 people took part altogether. We’re now busy with last-minute preparations for our Munich workshop at the end of April, hosted by BWS Germanlingua. We intend to celebrate our 25th anniversary with some nice little surprises and a group of excellent new member schools. And work is already underway for Milan 2009.
Q Does Ialc have plans to continue to expand membership?
Ialc wants to recruit more top quality independent language schools, mainly but not exclusively in new languages and destinations. We are in contact with some Arabic language schools and would particularly like more members in Latin America.
Q What sort of dialogue with agencies does Ialc have?
We meet agencies throughout the year at the main industry events. Agents recommend new members and contact us about industry issues that concern them and we have a complaints procedure that they can use.
Scotland gets accommodation boost
The largest student accommodation provider in the UK, Unite, is to invest £180 million (US$372 million) in new student residences in Scotland over the next four years.
The company, which already has accommodation in 11 sites throughout Scotland and provides 37,000 beds in university cities across the UK, was granted permission to build a six-storey building with 276 bedrooms in Edinburgh. Jim Pike, Acquisition and Development Manager at Unite, said, “Our plans for the next four years mean that we will double our investment in Scotland as well as our bed numbers.”
The Unite developments offer en-suite rooms and self contained studio flats. The company has also developed accommodation solely for the use of students from the University of Aberdeen and has recently agreed to invest £25 million (US$52 million) in another development that will provide 520 beds for the university’s students by the 2008 academic year.
Students need health insurance for Finland
Finland introduced a new policy in September last year that requires students from outside the European Economic Area, entering the country to study in a higher education, vocational and adult education centre, to have comprehensive health insurance as a condition of applying for their residence permit.
Students in the country for less than two years do not qualify for municipal health care services and therefore are required to have health insurance to cover the cost of medical treatment up to e100,000 (US$148,600). Students studying in Finland for more than two years qualify for municipal health services but are still required to be insured up to e30,000 (US$44,580) to cover the cost of medicines.
The ruling only applies to students studying in the country for more than three months, who are required to apply for a residence permit. Students must also prove that their insurance policy is valid for the entire period of study in Finland.
Increase in iBT tests in China
The capacity of the Internet-based Toefl test (iBT) increased by 80 per cent in China over the last six months in 2007 as the number of seats increased from 1,950 in June to 3,550 at the end of the year.
The Educational Testing Service, which administers the test, has launched a number of initiatives to meet rising demand. Paul Ramsey, Senior Vice President of ETS’s Global Division, said, “We are deeply grateful to China’s National Education Examinations Authority for their [support]. Toefl scores are accepted by more than 6,000 colleges and universities in over 110 countries and the number of Toefl test takers in China has been growing steadily. We appreciate this high recognition of the Toefl iBT test from Chinese students and remain grateful for their support.”
The current 73 Internet-based Toefl test sites are located in 28 cities throughout China, including 19 sites in Beijing, eight in Shanghai, five in Nanjing, four in Hangzhou and another four in Tianjin.
The Icef Berlin workshop was a great combination of serious business and pleasant socialising. There were many blue (educator) and red (agent) badges seen together after business hours and the dancefloor was a throng of global activity. Rumours that the theme of the party was “pyjama party” were soon scotched, but did some of the Canadians in attendance take it seriously? (left). As well as all the grown up delegates pictured here, there were a few junior agents-in-training observed. Christian Geng of Lisa Sprachreisen brought along his baby son who slept through most of the workshop. Another under-aged agent was seen playing the racing car game at the Study Group stand (left). Finally, a particularly cute potential agent was signed up by Stephan Roussounis of Malvern House, London, based on his ability to charm (right).
Globo-study Sprachreisen in Switzerland organised another whirlwind fam trip for its agents, this time to London to celebrate Halloween. Twenty agents from the company jetted to the capital to tour United International College (UIC), enjoy dinner in a pub and hit the clubs in costume! UIC staff kindly provided the outfits..
Cactus TEFL, a division of the Cactus agency, announced a scholarship last year in memory of Suzanne Furstner, a young member of the Cactus team who tragically lost her life in a road accident in 2006. The prize of a four-week Cambridge Celta course and two-weeks of Spanish language training while in Spain was awarded to Anna Prime during a presentation ceremony in London. Pictured here, Laura Harrison (left) and Sarah Wilson (right) from Cactus with some of the finalists in the essay competition.
• Despite escalating fuel costs, easyJet, the UK’s low-cost carrier, has seen annual profits exceed UK£200 million (US$414 million) for 2007. The airline turned over an estimated £201.9 million (US$418) up to 30 September last year, carrying over 37.2 million passengers in the process. Load factors also increased with passenger numbers up 13 per cent and 84 per cent of all available seats filled. Andy Harrison, easyJet Chief Executive said, “This is yet another year of record profit at easyJet which underlines the strength of our business model. Despite challenging conditions, revenue, profit and return on equity have all shown strong improvements reflecting the success of our focus on low-cost with care and convenience.”
• According to research carried out by online travel agency, lastminute.com.au, the top four countries native Australians have never visited but have always wanted to include the USA, the UK, Canada and Italy. Other destinations that featured on the to-do list were Egypt, Ireland and China. Meanwhile, Australians also listed their favourite overseas cities with London, Paris and New York taking the top spots, while the Gold Coast, Queensland and Tasmania were among the top domestic destinations.
• British Airways (BA) announced that it plans to increase fuel surcharges once again in a bid to counter escalating oil prices. Soon, passengers on BA short-haul flights will be expected to pay an additional UK£10 (US$21) per leg of their journey, while the surcharge for flights lasting longer than nine hours will rise by UK£30 (US$62) to UK£116 (US$240) for a return ticket. Robert Boyle, BA Commercial Director, said, “The cost of oil has reached record levels, rising by more than $20 a barrel since we last increased our fuel surcharge in June 2007.” Analysts predict that other airlines could well follow suit.
• Eurostar recently launched services out of St Pancras International marking the start of a more eco-friendly future. With the world’s first train operator to offer carbon neutral journeys, Tony Juniper, Executive Director of Friends of the Earth said, “Today is a landmark day for green travel and the first step to making short-haul flights a thing of the past. Eurostar shows that short-haul rail travel is not only better for the environment than flying, but that it can also be quicker, easier and more comfortable as well.” Eurostar is also said to be considering rail links to the Netherlands and Germany.
• The city of Glasgow has been named the official host of the 2014 Commonwealth Games with tourism officials predicting a four per cent surge in visitor numbers following the event. Visit Britain Chief Executive, Tom Wright, said, “It is a fantastic opportunity to showcase the city to a global audience of over one billion people and we applaud the hard work that has gone into making this possible,” adding that, “Glasgow is the fifth most popular destination in Britain for international travellers and we look forward to seeing the additional benefit this success today will bring.”
• Air China has added yet another non-stop route to its list of services. A three-times-weekly flight from Beijing to Sydney will offer European travellers an alternative route into Australia. Mrs Zhang Lan, Senior Vice President of Air China, said, “As China’s sole flag carrier, we are pleased to offer this additional non-stop with our new A330s and show customers that we are working and growing to meet their needs.”