A group of 10 agencies with offices in Australia has formed a working group to establish a new association of Australian agents. The group, called International Student Consultants Australia (Isca), hopes to form a company structure by May 2008 when it will be able to use the term “association”.
Robert Parsonson, Director of Education Export Services a marketing company representing Australian schools that works with local agencies said that he had been involved in trying to set up the group for the last three years. “The group feels that the education industry in Australia does not use the resource of education agents when conducting industry consultations,” he said. “[It is] also concerned about quality issues with some providers following the change in education provider regulations in July.”
As well as getting involved in government policy issues, Isca also plans to set up a code of conduct for agents in the industry, work with providers and bodies to benchmark minimum criteria for education agents covering such factors as qualifications, experience and office facilities and address student welfare issues.
Melanie Macfarlane from MM Migration in Sydney, NSW, a member of the working group, said that she “jumped at the opportunity to set up an association” of like-minded agencies in Australia.
“As an association we will have a [representative] body that can address issues through publicising letters, running agent events at which issues can be discussed, and where there will be a public forum for debate,” she said, saying that she hoped Isca would “ultimately be supported by the government to self-regulate our industry”.
European agency expansion plans
StudyGlobal, a language travel agency based in Spain, France and Germany, opened a new office in Berlin in November last year.
Patrick Mueller, Director of StudyGlobal Spain and Germany, said, “The new location is a strategic move to have more access to the German student market, which has recently started to recover. Due to Berlin’s geographic location close to Poland and the Czech Republic, it also serves as a starting point to prepare a future StudyGlobal expansion in Eastern Europe.”
Mueller added that students in Germany are increasingly choosing work and adventure travel programmes and the new office would offer students a range of English plus internship programmes in Australia and Canada, as well as English and intercultural skills for business people and a Spanish and adventure programme in the Amazon rainforest.
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How do you keep in contact with your student clients while they are overseas?
Jacqueline Ramos, Brazilians to the World, Brazil
“We always try to keep in touch with our students when they’re overseas to be sure that they’re doing well and also to check their progress. Especially when students are younger for example high school students it’s important to contact them at least once per month and also talk to their parents. We provide a 24-hour emergency phone number and also an exclusive email address for students and there’s one staff person responsible to answer and handle any problems our clients may have during their trip. This service is offered 24 hours a day, seven days of the week. Pre-orientation meetings are arranged so that students can meet each other (when going to same destination) and also discuss any doubts they might have before departure. Working that way we avoid a lot of problems.”
Dihua Wu, Fujian Center for Overseas Studies, China
“As an education agent, we are known by our clients to be available 24 hours by phone and email whenever they need help. Actually, when our overseas students are doing well, we just chat with them in MSN or Skype to share with them their happiness and [stories] of their studies and living overseas. However, when they have an emergency we are 100 per cent dedicated to help them. Though we don’t have a person or office in the destination country, we work closely with education institutes, guardian companies and homestay agents who can look after our students very well. Before our students’ departure for the same destination, we organise a meeting for students to get to know each other and the contact details of the students who have already studied in that destination are also forwarded to new students.”
Marion Priess, InterSwop Auslandsaufenthalte, Germany
“Mainly we keep in contact by email. Our customer service contacts every participant after the first two weeks of their stay to check if any problems arose with the airport pickup, the transfer to the accommodation, the welcome, language school etc. Our students are all assigned someone who can provide local assistance in case of an emergency. Depending on the programme, a homestay, internship or farmstay coordinator could be assigned. In case of severe problems, local 24-hour emergency numbers are available. Students can contact us by phone, email, fax or via our local partner. We only send our customers to destinations where we have local partners providing professional assistance. Also, students can contact other participants in the same location if they want to.”
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, Linguatime School of English in Malta nominates Living Languages in Spain. Lisa Audino, Sales and Marketing Manager, explains this nomination.
“I have nominated Living Languages in Spain as Agency of the Month. They have proven to be very professional and efficient in their work both from an administrative point of view as well as in the way they give the right information to their students. We appreciate it when agents are caring about their students, when they inform them on what to expect when in Malta, at the school and their accommodation. This for us is essential.
All the students sent through Living Languages are well informed about everything prior to their arrival and that means that they settle in easily as they know what to expect and there are no surprises. The efficiency and friendliness of the staff makes it easier for us to work with them and a pleasure, even in the busiest season. Living Languages always pays on time without any hesitation, which goes to show even further their professional side and this for us is a great support. We wish them many more years of success and look forward to carrying on our fruitful collaboration!”
On the move
Beate Niessl (left) and Clara Rivas (right) have joined InTuition Languages, based in the UK, as Course Coordinators, following InTuition’s recent acquisition of Academy English Programmes (AEP). The strong new team will be liaising with agents and host tutors. Ms Niessl comes from a language teaching, translation and management background and Ms Rivas is a team leader from the travel sector.
Maki Natori has recently accepted the position of Marketing Coordinator at the University of British Columbia English Language Institute (ELI) in Vancouver, BC, Canada. Ms Natori has been with the institute for the past 10 years, working in the Socio-Cultural Department; most recently, as the Socio-Cultural Coordinator.
Twin Group has appointed two new Principals for its English centres in Salisbury and Eastbourne in the UK. Colin Spicer (left) is the new Principal of Twin English Centre Salisbury and has 23 years of international experience throughout the EFL business. Mr Spicer previously worked at International House China, where he was Acting Principal. Before this he was Co-owner and Director of Sales and Marketing for Universal Language Services in the UK. Chris Savins (right) has worked in the industry in France, Italy, Reunion Island and Mauritius and has taken on the role of Principal in Eastbourne. Mr Savins was a Director of Milo Meads School of English in Eastbourne prior to joining Twin Group.
John Muscat-Drago has joined Bell Language Centre in St Julians, Malta as the new Centre Manager. Mr Muscat-Drago previously worked at the Malta Tourism Authority and brings with him a strong background in the tourism sector. He will be responsible for driving forward an ambitious plan of growth for Bell’s school in Malta.
John and Betty Wade are winding down their activities as southern hemisphere sales executives for Hothouse Media, taking a well earned retirement. They will be available in Australia to handle any day-to-day queries but cease active marketing of our products.
The Association of British Language Schools (ABLS) provides a voice for the smaller English language schools in the UK. Diana Lowe, Chief Executive of ABLS, answers our questions about its recent activities.
Full name: The Association of British Language Schools
Year established: 1993
Number of members: 31 with several pending
Type of members: private language schools
Association’s main role: to provide a voice for smaller private English language schools.
Government recognition: Yes
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: Fam trips planned for future.
PO Box 3382,
Norwich NR7 7HS
What has your association been up to in the last 12 months?
Raising the profile of the association and looking after the interests of all members in a market where the needs of this category of provider are often overlooked. ABLS has been lobbying regarding issues that affect smaller schools and providing support, advice and help to members.
What is the situation regarding ABLS getting onto the list of recognised accreditation providers in the UK?
ABLS association is not an accreditation body, but a membership association open to all schools accredited by an Ofsted/Border and Immigration Agency (BIA) approved accreditation body. It works in partnership with The Accreditation Body for Language Services Ltd, known as ABLS Accreditation. This body has been involved in the approval by Ofsted of accreditation systems. ABLS Accreditation is in the final stages of the approval process and has been recommended for approval by Ofsted to the BIA.
What challenges are your members currently facing?
Agents being unaware that there is a choice with regard to accreditation. [And] the extensive choice of English language courses offered by all English speaking nations, ie huge competition from all over the world.
What marketing activities are you planning for the near future?
We are starting a marketing campaign involving member schools on a regional basis. ABLS was also invited to give a presentation at the Icef Berlin Workshop in November on the subject ‘Diversity and Choice - The Partnership between The Accreditation Body for Language Services Ltd and The Association of British Language Schools.’
More Ielts test centres for USA
Language schools in the USA are being encouraged to apply to become Ielts test centres as Ielts International hopes to improve the accessibility of the test to students in the country.
There are currently 13 Ielts test centres in the USA; in California, Oregon, Texas, Florida, Illinois and the east coast states. The popularity of the test has been growing in recent years as it is increasingly recognised by universities and immigration departments. Currently over 1,200 institutions in the USA and 2,800 elsewhere accept the test for undergraduate, graduate and professional school admission.
Richard Halstead, Regional Manager of the US Test Center Network at Ielts International in the USA, said, “Our aim is to achieve coast-to-coast coverage, ensuring geographic accessibility for all Ielts test candidates. We will be opening new test centres in the short-term in large, medium and smaller US cities, with multiple test centres in large metropolitan areas.”
Over 700,000 candidates globally took the Ielts test last year, with demand coming from students preparing for university entrance as well as those applying to enter Canada or Australia.
Adelaide’s new student accommodation
Adelaide City Council in Australia has approved plans for two significant student housing projects that will see an extra 482 student apartments available for students studying at any of Adelaide’s educational institutions.
Melbourne developer Mattioli Group has teamed up with student accommodation company Student Living to build an eight-storey accommodation block of 22 apartments in the city at a cost of AUS$37 million (US$34 million). The apartments, known as ipads, are being built to especially appeal to international students and will contain a balcony, air conditioning, broadband Internet connection as well as a study desk and single bed. The block will also contain a gym, library, outdoor barbecue area and 24-hour security. Single apartments will cost AUS$270 (US$248) a week for a minimum term of 12 months.
In a separate development in the city, 260 student apartments will be created in a AUS$47 million (US$43 million) building project after planning permission was granted in October. The new eco-build will use a combination of gas and solar energy to generate hot water and storm water will also be collected in tanks on the roof to be used in the toilets.
Insurance group Iasis repositions
The International Association for Student Insurance Services (Iasis), which is an association that operates under the umbrella of WyseTC (formerly Fiyto), has restructured, appointed its own in-house expert and is ambitiously pursuing a “dynamic” relationship with members to enhance benefits.
Although Iasis has existed since 1951, the recent strategy took off last year with the appointment of Michael Ward and the announcement that a new “preferred supplier” of insurance services, Mapfre Asistencia, had been appointed, in addition to Gouda. Ward explained, “Mapfre has a presence in over 58 countries worldwide. This will enable members to discuss [insurance] products on a local basis while having the backing of an AM Best-ranked A+ global insurance company.”
Ward said that Iasis would use its negotiating power to gain more advantageous conditions, competitive premiums and increase income for members. “We recognise that travel insurance is an important revenue stream for agents,” he said. Iasis is also considering rebranding and enabling members to market their cover as Iasis Travel Insurance or use an Iasis stamp of approval.
There has been much socialising in Russia recently. Liden & Denz Language Centre held a big birthday bash in St Petersburg to celebrate its 15th anniversary. Over 160 guests joined co-founder Walter Denz (above, red tie) including many staff and students from both schools, city officials and press.
Pictured here at Alphe Russia (right): Tiziana di Dedda, Dilit-IH Rome, Italy and Oleg Stepanenko from Students International, Russia. Left, Paul Ceccaldi from Actilangue in France with his wife.
Roving LTM reporter, Nicola Hancox, snapped these dancing attendees (above right) at last year’s Fedele agent fair. Left, Christine Tang from Intrinsic in Hong Kong and Bozena Bobrzyk from Glossa agency in Poland join Nicola (right) on a cultural trip of local sights.
• Following new proposals from Ofcom, the independent regulator for the UK communications industry, UK airlines could soon allow passengers to use their mobile phones when airborne. The move would see flights fitted with an on-board base station where calls are re-routed via satellite. However, according to a survey conducted by travel information website, TripAdvisor, 78 per cent of travellers believe mobile phones should not be allowed on any flights.
• The A380, the world’s biggest passenger airliner, recently completed its first long-haul flight from Singapore to Sydney. Passengers of the Singapore Airlines commercial flight paid over the odds for the privilege of being the first to fly on the super carrier. Equipped to handle 525 travellers, the aircraft has an estimated take-off weight of around 560 tonnes a weight equal to 80 male African elephants. A majority of the seats for the first flight were sold on eBay, the online shopping website, with all proceeds donated to charity.
• Air Asia, Malaysia’s low-cost carrier, is finalising plans to add several UK destinations to its list of services. During a recent press trip, Air Asia Chief Executive, Azran Osman-Rani, said, “Stansted is definitely a leading contender, but we are talking to Liverpool and Manchester as well.” Currently, Malaysian Airlines is the only carrier that offers direct routes for UK passengers heading to Malaysia’s capital, Kuala Lumpur.
• The Costa Rican National Tourism Chamber (Canatur) recently announced that the number of travellers visiting the nation had risen by 11.3 per cent. From January to September 2007, 1,216,345 internationals journeyed to Costa Rica, 116,345 more than in the same 2006 period. The survey took into account all visitors arriving at Juan Santamaria Airport in San Jose and Daniel Daniel Oduber Airport in Guanacaste.
• Terminal five, the new UK£4.3 billion (US$8.9 billion) terminal at Heathrow airport in the UK, will be at full capacity when it opens in March 2008. Equipped to handle 28 million passengers a year, the terminal will churn out an average of 76,700 travellers per day. Home to the British Airways (BA) fleet, the terminal will be one of the most advanced facilities in the world, with 11 miles of baggage belts, capable of coping with 12,000 bags an hour during peak time. Richard Tams, BA’s Corporate Sales General Manager, said, “Transfer passengers won’t have to change terminals so less transfer baggage will go missing.”
• European passenger traffic is on the up according to the European Regions Airline Association (ERA). During the first six months of 2007, scheduled passenger traffic grew by 7.7 per cent compared with the first half of 2006. Meanwhile, capacity levels were also said to have risen, with seat numbers up 5.3 per cent. Mike Ambrose, Director General of the ERA, said, “These new figures illustrate perfectly that regional aviation remains a vital economic and social force in Europe”.
• Air China, the official airline partner of the Beijing Olympic Games, is set to expand its services to Australia, by adding three-times-weekly non-stop flights from Shanghai to Sydney and three-times-weekly flights from Beijing, via Shanghai, to Melbourne. The carrier has also announced plans to expand its European network by offering direct services to Copenhagen, Helsinki, Vienna, Istanbul and several German cities. Meanwhile, a new service from Beijing to Athens has also been launched.