Working in a global industry means that all agencies witness currency exchange rates rising and dipping in various countries with which they work. This may or may not change their clients’ decision about where to study but it is surely a consideration. (One New Zealand language school points to the high NZ dollar as discouraging students from long-term study in the country, page 35).
Now, with a global economic slowdown being touted and increased price sensitivity, it is interesting that this current climate seems to have its roots in the emergence of China as an economic powerhouse, which in turn has buoyed the education export market in so many countries (and helped bolster New Zealand’s industry a few years ago, page 19).
The growing economy of China has meant greater demand for oil, which is one reason behind high oil prices, which is having a knock-on effect on airlines and the farming industry. Rising consumption of meat in China is also credited with pushing food prices upwards as grain used to feed livestock is in high demand. And as certain countries try and move away from a reliance on oil to biofuels, land that was used for food crops is now being used for crops for fuel, exerting more pressure on food production and prices.
The big question is, will inflation and the rising cost of travel make an impact on the study abroad market? For students studying for pleasure only, their plans will undoubtedly be hindered by having less disposable income. However, over the years, I have heard many reports that study abroad is a resilient sector; that in times of recession, students become more convinced of their need to improve their qualifications and skills.
Agents around the world told us of changing client trends in this issue, with online booking becoming common and an agency’s website imperative in attracting business (pages 24-28). One Swiss agent said that because his fees were “reasonable”, “In times of recession, I have more requests and more bookings. [Clients] do not take so many risks and choose big international school organisations to book with.”
Interesting that school chains might be considered a safer venture (EF has just opened two more schools, page 6). This suggests that economic considerations might influence enrolment patterns but not numbers. Right now, there are certainly upbeat reports, with outbound business good in Spain, for example. However, the market is somewhat dependent on the economy, say agents (pages 20-21).