Contents - July 2003

Special Report
Academic gains
There is an increasing range of courses available for students who want to improve their English and receive oriented training for their next step on the academic ladder, into college or university. However, non-English language speaking countries are yet to fully develop this academic preparation sector, as Gillian Evans reports. But with demand rising for education abroad, it seems only a matter of time before these countries catch up and launch such integrated study products.

Maturing business
Expansion in the agency business has never been widespread, because, as some agents point out, a quality, personal service is the cornerstone of success. However, as the agency industry grows up, there are some trends developing. Second-generation agencies are arriving, the result of employees keen to improve on the agency service they learnt. National expansion also seems to be happening in many countries, although international growth is minimal.

City Focus
Sunny San Diego
In the bottom corner of California is San Diego, a language travel destination which has some natural advantages - its warm climate and fantastic beaches - as well as some more discreet advantages, such as a lack of English language students, compared with other west coast destinations. Schools in the city are keen to point out that the locals in San Diego are friendly, and the fantastic location of the city means there is plenty to do. Bethan Norris takes it all in.


Sticking together
It is not news to anyone that the industry is facing difficult times. The Sars virus has been the latest in a long line of challenges for agents and schools (page 4). However, as agents reveal to us in this issue, there are more concrete worries for many, apart from the latest health scare. Visa problems, specifically, seem a real issue for many agencies.

Having students that are interested and able to pay to study abroad, but who are likely to be refused a visa for the country of their choice, as is the case of Indonesian students interested in Australia, must be more disheartening for agents than concerns about potential cancellations by nervous students (page 8).

Economic problems at home can also have a deflating effect on business, and must be difficult to contend with, although, as our French Agency Survey shows, even economic malaise does not always impede students from following their goals to study abroad. Despite a lacklustre economy in France, business was buoyant last year, mainly because of student ambition (pages 10-11).

In fact, there are many problems that students can overcome if they are really keen to study abroad. This is the hope that agents must cling to in these difficult times, even when experiencing an economic slowdown, that education overseas remains a priority for many and is not seen as a luxury, but a necessity. Therefore, students will make efforts to study overseas.

In times of market contraction, short-term vacation-oriented courses usually suffer far more than the academic preparation sector of the market that agents cater for. It is important that agents remain up-to-speed with the range of programmes that are available for those students keen to learn a language and then integrate into an education system overseas. Luckily for agents, schools are investing in this sector, developing increasingly relevant and attractive programmes for this market (pages 20-24).

In terms of visa problems, there are also ways around them, but this usually means students switching their choice of destination to a country that is easier to get into. One US school is only too aware of this process. They point out that in Brazil, just flying to a US Embassy for a visa interview can cost students US$700 (page 23). English language schools in Ireland have also been discovering that an unwieldy immigration system can be a real disadvantage. Problems in China and Russia in particular have really impacted on the market (page 29).

For schools, it is important that they have clear channels of communication with immigration services in their country so that they can attempt to iron out any problems. This is the case in Ireland, with MEI~Relsa working with the Department of Justice.

In Canada, the time has come when language schools realise that they need a similar industry association, representing the interests of most language schools in the country to government as well as overseas agencies. Two separate associations are currently in talks about forming the first cross-sector national association for the industry (page 4).

It must be disheartening for schools if immigration authorities or the education ministry in their country don't seem as committed to market growth as they are. This seems to be the case in New Zealand, where the Education Ministry has been deemed unhelpful in the current climate (page 4). As with agencies, the lesson for schools is to work together and highlight their quality credentials, so that government bodies respect their goals.

It is not news to anyone that the industry is facing difficult times. The Sars virus has been the latest in a long line of challenges for agents and schools.

Sars impacts
on industry
New Zealand hits rocky times
Bold plans for cross-sector group in Canada
Work rights in South Africa

Travel News
Route cuts and losses abound
Pata upbeat about
Asian prospects
Air Canada files for protection

Agency News
Online training
for agents
Italian in Italy workshop
Wasels holds second agent workshop
Agent uncooperative over 'no-show' students

Agency Survey
France on form
Generally, French agencies reported good business last year, partly because of the work-related motivations of many of their language students. However, expectations for the coming year are more reserved due to economic uncertainty.

South Africa feedback
South Africa continues to attract an older, professional student who nevertheless may be a first-time language traveller. It also continues to score highly on its teaching quality.

Market Report
Ireland's fluctuations
Ireland has been one of the success stories of recent years, along with New Zealand more recently. Its price advantage and high quality host families were just two reasons for its soaring popularity among students. However, underlining the difficulties in the current operating environment, Ireland's performance last year was marred by visa problems and the strength of the euro. While some schools reported growth in business, the outlook for this year is muted.

Course Guide
Home tuition in the UK

Learning a language in the teacher's home is a good way for students to ensure that they are completely absorbed in the language full-time. Many home tuition centres offer intensive business and test preparation courses for students who need an intensive course in a short space of time.

Appel activity

Appel claims to represent schools teaching the majority of English language students in New Zealand and says it is the active voice of the country's private language teaching industry, despite withdrawing its support from Education New Zealand last year. We talk to Barbara Takase, Appel Chairperson.

Status: UK 2002
The Status survey is a venture by Language Travel Magazine, in collaboration with the Association of Language Travel Organisations (Alto), which gathers specific market data about all of the main language teaching markets in the world.