||Australia wants to combat dodgy agents
Australia’s Immigration Minister, Chris Evans, announced last year that he wanted to crack down on unscrupulous education agents tarnishing the reputation of Australia’s education industry and allowing illegal immigration to flourish by promising visas to clients or painting an unrealistic picture of life (and earning potential) in the country.
News reports circulated about overseas agencies temporarily lending their clients money to prove sufficient funds for study, for example. “I have very severe concerns about education agents both in this country and abroad,” said Evans in a statement. He said he was talking to the Education Minister about increasing the legislative powers available as currently, his department can only regulate Australia-based migration agents.
Evans wants overseas governments on board, offering to take action against offenders, and he has raised the issue with the Chinese ambassador. He also wants to combat forged visa documentation and has organised for two Chinese officials to become trained in forensic document examination. Of 128 people caught using forged or fradulent documents at Australian airports in 2007-2008, 26 per cent were from Iraq and 21 per cent from China. (A further 143 fraudsters were detected at overseas airports; 30 per cent from Bangkok and 23 per cent from Hong Kong).
Australian education agents backed Evans’ call for action against unscrupulous agencies. “When you hear that agents tell students that they don’t need to go to class and study if they go to certain schools or some agents sell some schools that don’t exist and keep the students’ money, this has a bad effect on ethical and professional education agencies,” complained Arnaud France of Boomerang Australia Studies in Sydney, NSW.
Juan Tobella Archs, of Australian Migration & Education Solutions in Adelaide, SA, added, “They are a major problem affecting Australia’s reputation and the image and credibility of institutions. They are also creating serious backlog problems in the admissions departments resulting in a minimal conversion rate, and of course, eroding the market share of accredited education agents.”
However, France noted that Evans should also focus his attention on “unscrupulous education providers who obtain accreditation from the government and don’t follow the rules: they are the ones offering very low prices and enticing agencies to work with them by giving either ridiculously low fees or very high commissions or promising that students can organise their own timetable so that they can go and work.”
MEI visits Istanbul
Schools association, Marketing English in Ireland (MEI), organised a trade mission to Istanbul in Turkey last year to enable various members to meet with Turkish agencies. Fourteen MEI members made the trip to Turkey where they met with 30 education agencies.
Adrian Cummins, outgoing Chief Executive of the association, told Language Travel Magazine, “Representatives from both the Irish Embassy and Honorary Consulate were on hand to field questions from agents and the mood from the Irish trade was that Turkey will grow as a market.”
Following the workshop, a networking event was held with agents, Irish trade representatives and Irish expats. “Turkish agents have already increased their programming of Ireland for 2009,” stated Cummins late last year. Ozgur Demirci of Study Ireland was one attendee, who is setting up a new agency dedicated to promoting Ireland. “We believe [Turkish students] will enjoy magical moments during their education with price advantages against the UK and USA,” he said.
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, The Training Partnership in the UK nominates Travel Work, based in Spain. Jayne Stroud, Manager, explains this decision.
“The Training Partnership has had the pleasure of working with Travel Work based in Barcelona for the last three years, so it is my privilege to be able to nominate Eva Sabater as one of my favourite agents and Agency of the Month. During the last three years we have received many students from Travel Work. Eva’s agency is one of the few specialising in Work Abroad programmes. Travel Work’s commitment to their Spanish students is commendable. Eva works tirelessly on their behalf, she is always available to support The Training Partnership in our decisions and her Spanish students in their decisions. I am always impressed with her ability to understand problematic situations and the fact that she takes the trouble to look beneath the surface to find the truth. During the last three years we have been able to meet frequently to discuss potential new programmes and also exchange ideas on improving current programmes. Efficient and well organised, Eva and Travel Work are a pleasure to work with.”
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Are you noticing an attitude shift to international education agents in the USA?
Nizar Saade, Head of Language Center, STA Travel, Switzerland
“Yes, already before the election of the new President we certainly noticed a change mainly due to the weak US$. Even the strict entry regulations do not hold students back to book ESL courses in the USA. Even though we have not been approached by colleges and universities yet, this might be the right time for them to join the market and I would appreciate starting a cooperation. Since they offer a big variety of different programmes they might be a great alternative to traditional language schools. Also I do think that the amount of clients booking educational programs in the US might increase rather than spreading the student numbers between colleges, universities and language schools. Apart from this, commission is an important issue and in my opinion colleges and universities need to think over their policies if they want to start a business with overseas agents. “
Jack Cao, Managing Director, DY Oceanic Consultants LLC, China
”The demand for US education in China has been booming in the past two years and the trend will be maintaining for sure for the next three to five years as long as the US government keeps a stable and positive policy towards international students. We realised that more and more American universities or colleges are open to work with agents to recruit international students. But most of these schools, unlike their British or Australian counterparts, do not pay commission to the referral agents even though some of them mentioned they were considering using referral agents on a commission basis. We do believe that the top US schools have no need to use agents for recruitment due to their reputation and the huge amount of quality applications they receive. But frankly speaking, most of the higher education institutions in the USA, in my point of view, should consider establishing a quality benchmark of working with reliable agents globally to increase their international applications. Otherwise, more and more students will be moving to rival countries. In addition, the US schools should take the local cultural factor into their consideration. In Asian countries, especially in China, most of the students need the services the agents provide due to language and cultural reasons, especially for undergraduate admissions. The USA has been leading the world in education in the past decades but it is facing challenges from other popular international student destination countries. We are looking at how the US government, agencies or the schools will repond to this practically and effectively.”
Abdul Wahid Abbasi, Abassi Pacific Consultants, Pakistan
“International education agents are now keenly interested in recruiting international students to US colleges and universities. Reforms in the international education industry will bring fresh opportunities for agents to once again organise international education fairs, seminars and exhibitions [and] invite US colleges and universities.”
Saha Ng, Vantage International Education Centre, Bangladesh
“Universities are focusing on market expansion of the education industry through agents/representatives. It is very important that representatives/agents must be very committed, honest and with a professional committed office. VIEC is also joining education seminars at the US Information Center where admission, course selection and visa processess are discussed in detail.”
On the move
After 10 years as the Marketing Manager of LAL South Africa, Gavin Eyre has left to become the Managing Director of International House - Cape Town. He is extremely excited at the opportunity of being part of the prestigious IH World Organisation in addition to marketing Cape Town as one of the top language school destinations in the world.
The Briar School of English in Lowestoft, UK, was purchased by Dean Annison in October last year, in the school’s 50th year of operation. Mr Annison is Director of Connections UK Guardianships, which offers long-term placements and guardianship to students wishing to study in high schools and in higher education in the UK. The Briar School of English welcomes over 2,000 overseas students on to its range of programmes at Lowestoft, Suffolk, every year from all over the world.
Pamela Caicedo has set up a new agency, Students From, based in Spain. She will be working to send students primarily from Latin America and Spain to the USA and Canada, as well as outbound from North America to Spanish speaking countries. She was previously working at Malaca Instituto in Malaga, Spain.
Johanne Lacombe is the new Executive Director at Languages Canada, a national not-for-profit organisation whose purpose is to be the voice of the Canadian language training sector. Prior to this, Ms Lacombe was Executive Director at Go for Green, a national not-for-profit organisation in Canada.
Lindsay Thierry, Director of Senior School Admissions at St George’s School in Vancouver, BC, Canada, has a new additional job title: Director of Residential Life at the school. He has held the former position for one year.
Geos English Academy in Dublin, Ireland, is pleased to introduce Ciarán McCarthy as the new Manager of the school. Initially trained as an English language teacher, he has over a decade’s experience in educational management and language course sales. He has also spent time on the board of Acels, Ireland’s English language school regulator, as well as time on the committee of teacher’s association, Iatefl, so has much experience in the field.
New student website launched
A new website was launched in January that will allow students to search for language programmes and schools around the world and share information about their experiences. The site, www.mylanguagetravel.com, features a directory of 1,500 language schools for 10 different languages in more than 30 countries.
Founder, Maxime Braire, said, “The website is designed to generate and amplify positive word-of-mouth on the web for each language school. We expect about 500,000 unique visitors during the first year, with long-term potential of two million.”
Braire added that the success of the project was dependent on successful online marketing to students and he was currently working with two Search Engine Optimisation companies in France and Spain, one of them being Internet Advantge, to improve the volume and quality of traffic to the site. Braire also plans to launch a social marketing campaign through social networking sites to “create a buzz” about the new site.
“I will also encourage schools to invite their satisfied students to leave a review on the website,” he said. “That’s in the interest of the schools to play the game and use their previous students as an asset to enrol new students. Conversations among previous and potential students happen whether they like it or not so good marketing should encourage the right sort of conversations.”
Assist-Card launches in the USA
The international travel insurance company, Assist-Card, has started selling its products to the US market after opening its US headquar-ters in Miami, FL, last year.
The company has been providing emergency services to travellers visiting the USA for many years through its regional alarm centres for North America in New York and Miami and is now offering two services to US travellers: The Privileged and the Classic US card. Both packages provide travel insurance to clients as well as traveller’s assistance in an emergency. The products are being sold through travel agencies, although the company plans to launch a US-specific website www.assist-cardusa.com soon.
Zoraida Aguilar at Assist-Card, said, “Now it is time for American travellers to start enjoying the peace of mind we have been providing to others for the last 36 years. Traveller’s assistance is a very different concept. We deliver around-the-clock emergency assistance to travellers in all situations, under any conditions.”
Hostelworld launches iPhone service
An Ireland-based accommodation provider, Hostelworld.com, has launched an iPhone-friendly layout for its website that will enable stu-dents to use its Internet services on their phones more easily. Users can now bookmark the site onto their iPhone and view hostel ratings, photos as well as make bookings.
Niamh Ni Mhir, Chief Marketing Officer at Hostelworld, said, “Backpackers are extremely tech-savvy and are well known early adaptors of new technology. According to a recent survey we conducted, we found that 95 per cent of backpackers bring either a laptop, digital camera, iPod or mobile phone with them when travelling. With the iPhone set to be the device of choice it was imperative for us to develop and launch an iPhone application with a strong core functionality.”
Ni Mihr added that they had seen an increase in the number of visitors to the website from an iPhone since its initial launch in July. Hostelworld.com offers online reservations for over 18,000 hostels and budget hotels in 170 countries worldwide.
Trinity launches new work-themed exam
London-based exam provider, Trinity College, has launched a new exam directed at students over the age of 16 wanting to work in an English speaking country.
The exam, called Spoken English for Work (SEW), is offered in four levels and prepares candidates for the workplace by providing practice in telephone conversations, formal and informal presentations and an opportunity to discuss work issues in an English-speaking environment. Successful candidates receive a certificate showing their chosen work sector on completion of the course.
While students can gear their learning towards their specific work sector, the exam itself provides a general approach to learning language skills for the workplace. Clinton Rae, Director of Language Examinations at Trinity College London, said, “The SEW exam is distinctive from other business and professional assess-ments because it is not sector-specific and can be applied across an organisation to all employees who need to speak English in their job.”
The exam itself consists of a telephone task, where students must resolve a work-related issue with an examiner over the phone and then a face-to-face interview, where the candidate is expected to discuss their own work experience and other job-related issues.
Eaquals is a pan-European association with goals that include international benchmarking and cross-border collegiality. One area of its quality focus for 2009 will be developing agreements with national school associations regarding accreditation schemes. Richard Rossner answers our questions.
Full name: The European Association for Quality Language Services
Year established: 1991Number of members: 104 accredited members, 20 associate members
Type of members: language schools & institutions; national cultural organisations, national associations of schools, exam boards; inspector members
Association’s main role: accreditation of and support for schools and organisations involved in foreign language teaching in order to foster higher quality internationally
Government recognition: International NGO with participatory status at the Council of Europe
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: No
P.O. Box 95,
Budapest, H-1301 Hungary
Telephone/fax: +36 13810158
Web address: www.eaquals.org
Eaquals is working with the Association of Language Testers in Europe (Alte); what do you hope to achieve through this collaboration?
The two associations have overlapping aims and concerns. We have already collaborated in the production of the Eaquals-Alte European Language Portfolio (ELP) and electronic ELP see www.e-elp.org, and also in other Council of Europe activities such as the recent seminar on the ‘Linguistic Integration of Adult Migrants. Eaquals’ strength is in the area of language course delivery and management, Alte’s is in testing and assessment relating to language learning. It is therefore a positive step forward that our next meeting in Lisbon is to be a joint one focusing on ‘assessment for language learning’.
What else does Eaquals have planned?
We are continuing work on several projects, including some new ones beginning in Lisbon, and will be rolling out the products of some completed projects to members (training for academic managers, teacher training units, a Quality Guide for ISO 9001 certification, translation of inspection-related documents). A priority is the development of a scheme to enable Eaquals members to offer their own externally validated certificates of language learning achievement to students finishing their courses. The first phase of this will be completed in 2009. We are working on collaborating agreements with associate members, which are national associations of language schools, with their own quality schemes; we expect several of these to come into force in 2009. Eaquals’ official liaison status with ISO (International Standards Organisation), which is developing basic requirements for learning service providers (including providers of language learning services), will continue until the draft standard is complete. Finally, Eaquals’ next conference is in Istanbul on 23-25 April 2009. The theme will be quality in language teacher training and development.
Why do you think schools become members?
They value the opportunity to network and collaborate with, and learn from, schools in other countries, and appreciate Eaquals’ efforts to develop quality frameworks and resources for all aspects of language teaching and learning. They are increasingly aware of the value of international quality accreditation.
Which of Eaquals’ accomplishments are you most proud of?
We have developed for the international community of providers of language learning services a quality accreditation framework based on the strong principles enshrined in our Charters. This system has proved to be robust, and a model for several national systems, and has gained the respect of the whole range of stakeholders in language learning, but most importantly to institutions of all kinds in a wide range of countries, whatever language courses they are providing.
• Malaysia Airlines is now operating commercial in-flight mobile phone calls and is the first air carrier in Asia to offer this service. The airline has teamed up with AeroMobile, a British company, to provide a service that allows passengers to make and receive calls on their phones while in the air. Another carrier that is set to launch the same service is Ireland-based low cost carrier, Ryanair, for which it will charge a cost of around UK£2 (US$3) per minute. Up to six passengers will be able to use their mobiles at any one time.
• South West Airlines in the USA has teamed up with Mexican carrier Volaris to offer flights from the USA to Mexico from 2010. The two companies have entered a code-share agreement that will see them offer lower fares in flights between the USA and Mexico. Bob Jordan, Southwest Airlines Executive Vice President for Strategy and Planning, said, “Volaris has a stellar reputation for being a highly efficient airline with a dedication to customer service, which makes it a natural fit for Southwest Airlines.”
• Irish low-cost carrier, Ryanair, has posted a profit decrease of 47 per cent for the first half of 2008 as a result of soaring fuel costs. The airline’s fuel bill has doubled from e392.7 million (US496 million) to e788.5 million (US$997 million) resulting in a reduction of profits to e215 million (US$ 272 million). However, Chief Executive, Michael O’Leary, is upbeat about the future. “We expect continuing bankruptcies and consolidations to create even more opportunities for Ryanair to grow,” he said. The company also plans to launch new low-cost transatlantic routes in the next 12-to-18 months.
• The Russian government has created a new giant airline company called Russia Airlines to provide a competitor to the national carrier Aeroflot and absorb the 11 failing local airlines that have been struggling in the current economic climate. The new state company will operate internal routes that were closed due to the financial crisis, such as to Siberia and the Russian Far East, and also avoid the heavy air traffic at Moscow airport.
• British Airways (BA) has launched a new service that allows passengers to check-in for flights using their mobile handsets. Travellers will be able to select their seats and check in individuals, groups and families by using the specially adapted BA website. Travellers will also be able to access BA flight schedules. The service is free and available in 11 languages.
• British Airways’ pre-tax profits were down to just UK£52 million (US$77) the first half of 2008, from UK£616 million (US$914 million) in the same period last year. According to BA, fuel costs in 2008 were 52 per cent higher than in 2007 although the company said it was well placed to benefit from the current fall in fuel prices. The company plans to reduce its total flights by one per cent in 2009, in response to falling passenger demand.
• Airports in Ireland will soon offer full US immigration checks for passengers before departure, the first country outside of North America to do so. Ireland’s Transport Minister, Noel Dempsey, was due to sign an agreement with the US Secretary of Homeland Security at the time of going to press that would see Shannon offering full clearance facilities by the summer of 2009 and Dublin in 2010. Dempsey said, “Flights from Shannon and Dublin airports will be treated like domestic flights in the USA.”
• A new no-frills service has been launched from the UK to Malaysia. Travellers can now fly from London to Kuala Lumpur for under UK£100 (US$148) with AirAsia, backed by Virgin Group. Up to 40 per cent of seats will be priced at UK£99 (US$147) with an average fare of UK£150 (US$223) for each seat. Passengers will be able to connect with low-cost flights to Hong Kong, Thailand or Australia. Flights will operate between 11 March and 24 October 2009.
• United Airlines in the USA has announced a new daily non-stop service between Washiongton, DC and Geneva in Switzerland. The service will operate from March 29.
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