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Spanish language schools are largely relying on the European market to fill their classrooms, although some schools are looking further afield and positioning their programmes for a wider audience. Bethan Norris finds out more.
Trends in the Spanish language teaching market are mostly positive for 2007, with schools reporting growing or steady enrolments and new schools performing well. Stephen Jenkins from OISE in Madrid says that student numbers at the school increased by 10 per cent in the past year. “This is partly because of increasing interest in Spanish and partly because OISE Madrid is now more firmly established in the market,” he says.
David Urion from Castelar Centro de Estudios Hispánicos in Murcia says that the school only opened in September 2006 yet enrolments have been booming. “Student numbers have increased month on month and we continue to grow rapidly as people become aware of us, locally, nationally and [internationally],” he says.
With increased competition reported from other language schools, many in Spain are turning to niche courses in order to stay competitive. Juan Carlos Martinez from Instituto Mediterráneo Sol in Granada says that they have started offering more language plus activity courses. He adds that the most positive impact on student enrolments is the fact that “Spanish language [teaching] has been introduced into secondary schools” in some student markets.
If demand for Spanish language programmes on the rise, it would seem that language schools in Spain are in a good position to develop their student markets and increase their outreach into new regions. Yet, some schools report difficulties in building student numbers from areas outside Europe and North America. Jenkins puts this down to visa issues for nationalities outside the European Union. “It would help if the Spanish authorities were more open to visa applications from Asian and Middle Eastern countries,” he says. “French is our main nationality. We would like to see more British students. I think the UK is the fastest growing and as yet unexploited market.”
Our latest Status Survey on Spain supports the view that schools are becoming increasingly reliant on their Western European student markets with 75 per cent of students coming from this region in 2006, compared with 50 per cent the year before (see LTM, June 2007, page 40). Mirko Schwarzer from Inhispania in Madrid says that their most important student nationalities are “European students French, Italian, German, British and Dutch”, although he adds that the Asian markets do have potential for growth in the future. “[Next year we expect] an increase in student numbers, especially from Asia,” he says. “[There is a] growing interest there for studying Spanish.”
Juan Manuel Sampere from Estudio Sampere in Madrid says that one of their best performing student markets last year was an Asian country Korea asserting the potential of this world region for Spanish language providers. The UK, Russia and Korea were the top three markets at his school last year, while France, Switzerland and Germany performed the worst but, overall, numbers stayed very similar to the previous year, relates Sampere.
At OISE in Madrid, Jenkins says that they are specifically targeting some distinct sectors of the market. “We are running specific courses for A/AS level students aimed at the UK market and Abitur courses aimed at young German students,” he says. However, Sampere points out that introducing new courses can sometimes be something of a lottery. “Courses for students aged over 50 at Sampere El Puerto were successful but not in Alicante,” he says.
Predictions for future growth remain cautious. Sampere says, “I don’t expect big changes. I expect a similar year for 2008.” Urion, meanwhile, is hoping that their marketing efforts targeting Norwegian and Swedish agents based in Murcia will ensure healthy enrolment figures this year. Promotional efforts on the part of individual schools can pay dividends (see box left), although concerted action by the Spanish government and national advertising campaigns are also important. Schwarzer says of the outlook for the future, “We hope visa granting will get easier and Spain will keep on promoting itself.“
As language schools in Spain have to deal with increased competition from other providers, more are turning their attentions to improving marketing efforts. Attending study abroad fairs, advertising and using agents are all valuable marketing tools and efforts in these areas appear to have been stepped up.
David Urion from Castelar Centro de Estudios Hispánicos in Murcia says that the school has recently employed a person solely devoted to its marketing and publicity campaign. He adds that international enrolments have been boosted by “networking with Norwegian and Swedish agents here in Murcia to actually market the school in their native countries”. The school is also in the process of translating its advertising literature into Spanish, English, Norwegian, German and Swedish and will “expand this to other languages at a later date,” Urion adds.
Juan Carlos Martinez from Instituto Mediterráneo Sol in Granada says that their own and group marketing campaigns have been responsible for boosting student enrolments. “We have done more promotions and publicity,” he says. “We have also worked closely with Fedele, which has contributed to our development. And we have [also updated our home page.”
Juan Manuel Sampere from Estudio Sampere, however, is less confident as to the effectiveness of group marketing activities in Spain. “I have not seen any improvement in the number of students due to joint marketing efforts by language school associations in Spain,” he comments.
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