January 2003 issue

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Language schools split from EdNZ

The English language teaching sector of New Zealand's international education industry has ceased its collaboration with the main export promotion body, Education New Zealand (EdNZ), because of its objections to the education export levy proposed by the government to establish an industry development fund. The levy is to be largely collected by EdNZ.

The Combined Registered English Language Schools of New Zealand (Crels) and the Federation of International English Language Schools (Fiels) - both members of the Association of Private Providers of English Language (Appel) - formally resigned from the Board of EdNZ last year. 'One [group] stated no reason,' explained Lester Taylor, Chief Executive of EdNZ. 'The other that they believe EdNZ had not represented its view over the levy proposed by government.'

Industry opinion is vehement in the face of the government's proposals - which were under consultation at the time of going to press - to charge all international education providers a levy of 0.5 per cent on foreign students' tuition fees (see Language Travel Magazine, August 2002, page 4). 'The government's export education tax is not supported by the industry and is being railroaded through by the government,' said Barbara Takase, Chairperson of Appel. The association claims its members enrol 80 per cent of international students studying English in New Zealand.

The tertiary education reform legislation is expected to pass in January, with the levying power introduced for fees for the 2003 academic year. New Zealand's Education Minister, Trevor Mallard, said he hoped to raise NZ$3.9 million (US$1.9) annually through the levy. Takase commented, 'The export education industry will be the only industry with a government-imposed industry tax. Every other industry requires balloted industry approval before a levy can be set. Without industry support, it is not a levy but a tax.'

Objections expressed by the industry include the lack of detail given to how the increased funds for promotion will be spent and the fact that successful operators may end up supporting less dynamic operations. James Upton, from Nelson English Centre, warned that, 'a bloated and inefficient centralised marketing structure will load English schools with massive costs and very little benefit'.

Appel's point of view is supported by the New Zealand Vice Chancellor's Committee (NZVCC), which is a committee representing all the universities in the country, and Education Forum, a grouping of cross-sector education providers. 'There is no market failure here [to justify the levy],' said Lindsay Taiaroa, Executive Director of NZVCC. 'The industry has expanded rapidly through the efforts of dominant players. They should not be taxed to cover the deficiencies of those on the fringes of [the market].'

Norman LaRocque, Education Forum's Adviser, added, 'The level of detail in the budgets is minimal and no performance objectives are suggested - not even for the tripling of the generic promotion budget.'

EdNZ said in the previous news story about the levy that it supported the idea in principle (see Language Travel Magazine, August 2002, page 4). Taylor clarified, 'EdNZ supports the rationale for an income stream to undertake such things as research, generic promotion, etc. We did not support the levy as the mechanism by which the income stream would be generated.'

WYSTC brings industry together

The World Youth and Student Travel Conference (Wystc) organised by Fiyto and ISTC proved a popular event in Rhodes, Greece, last year, with the event winning praise for bringing together companies from the worldwide youth travel industry. Total delegates numbered 820, with 91 organisations attending for the first time. Registration for the conference was up by over 20 per cent on the 2001 event held in Mexico.

This year, there was a much higher representation of businesses from Eastern Europe and Asia, said Susan Goldstein at Wystc. 'The increased growth in these key areas contributes to the overall success and secures the conference's role as the industry's global forum,' she said.

However, not all participants welcomed the location of Rhodes as a conference destination. Chu Kap Ning, from Yek Tak Travel Service in Hong Kong, echoed the sentiment of others when he said, 'Rhodes is difficult for booking flights.' David Anderson, Director of Agent Services Worldwide at ELS Language Centers in the USA, said, 'Rhodes was an acceptable venue, but for many, it was complicated to fly there.'

Kaylene Lawson, of Spelt English College in Brisbane, Australia, commended the Australian Village, introduced for the first time this year and coordinated by the Australian Tourist Commission. Juliet Cassells, Director of Dr Frank Sprachen & Reisen (DFSR) in Germany, found the event extremely well organised, particularly the pre-conference appointment arrangements.

Anderson added, 'The final gala event on Friday was a new twist and a fun way to close the conference.' He pointed out that the conference needs considered planning and consultation to make sure that it evolves with the industry. 'I did feel that the event was well organised,' he said, 'but it would be prudent to consider what could be done differently. It should not be necessary to spend an entire week at the venue.'

Alphe Asia charms clients

The Alphe Asia Workshop held in Phuket, Thailand, at the end of October last year, was once again commended by delegates for bringing top quality agents together with a range of educators in a high-class setting.

Twenty-eight educators met with 45 agents in the relaxed setting of the Le Meridian hotel and beach resort. 'Phuket is a beautiful place and the service is very good,' commented Shelley Fan, from Beijing D&LT Consultants in China. 'I was pleased to see schools [attending] from everywhere. All the schools were new to me so I found a lot of new partners there.'

Anirbar Surcar from APS Consultancy Services in India, added, '[The workshop] more than met my expectations.'

Educators were similarly content with the event. 'As far as business is concerned, it was good,' said Paul Mullins from American College Dublin in Ireland. 'I met agents from new countries for our school.'

Sevis reprieve for US schools

The Immigration and Naturalisation Service (INS) in the USA has clarified that while the deadline for using the national database for tracking foreign students, under the Student Exchange and Visitor Information Service (Sevis), is looming - January 30 - only new students are required to be entered into the database by this date, along with current students who change their visa status. This gives institutions in the USA much more time to enter all student details into the system.

In more good news for the industry, an agency hired to produce a report on the proposed fee to fund the system - payable by students and opposed by many educators - has called for the fee to be cut, given the initial US$36.8 million in funding for the scheme from the US government. KPMG Consulting has recommended to the INS that the fee be set at US$54 for students and exchange visitors, as opposed to the previous US$95 figure. The student fee is currently scheduled to be introduced in March.

New schools' association for South Africa

A number of language centres in South Africa have joined forces to form the English Language Travel Association of South Africa (Eltasa).

At the time of going to press, 20 institutions had expressed interest in joining Eltasa, which is in the process of setting up its constitution. The Executive Committee of five members has already been selected, and the first formal meeting is expected to take place in March this year.

Gavin Eyres, a spokesperson for Eltasa, explained that aims include government lobbying, maintaining quality standards and joint marketing initiatives. 'It is important, because South Africa is not well known as a [language travel] destination,' he said.

Previous attempts to establish an association, Salta, were short-lived. Secretary of Eltasa, Meryl van der Merwe, said, 'Salta was formed in 1997 [with] only a handful of centres. Now the industry has grown enormously and the need for and the commitment to an association is there.'

Student spending up in Australia

A new report commissioned by English Australia (EA) reveals that student spending increased by 30 per cent in 2001 on the previous year. The report, released in October last year and undertaken by Environmetrics, also found that English language students injected AUS$710 million (US$398 million) into the Australian economy in 2001 - up from AUS$547 million in 2000.

Alyson Moore, Chairperson of English Australia, commented, 'Even as the belt tightens on the tourism industry, English language colleges are attracting ever increasing numbers of students. Our enrolment numbers in 2001 were 81,053, a 22 per cent increase on the previous year.'

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