July 2009 issue

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Fingers crossed in the UK

Language schools in the UK are cautious in forecasting a great year in 2009, what with the world still in recession and teething troubles with the new visa system. But they all acknowledge that the weakened pound has led to buoyant business in a year when many might not have expected such results. Amy Baker reports.

Anglo-Continental has fortunately not seen the slightest dip in our business,” says Guido Schilling at Anglo-Continental in Bournemouth, referring to the impact of the new T4 visa system that launched in March this year.

He seems to be the lucky one, as many other schools do report teething troubles with the new system, which ultimately promises to be a transparent process, albeit with financial expectations that become more burdensome as the course length increases (all students have to demonstrate funds of UK£600 US$919 per month or UK£800 (US$1,225) if studying in London).

Kevin McNally at Hampstead School of English in London reports that in spring, question marks still hung over procedure. He says, “Inevitably schools in the UK will lose some business and it feels like a missed opportunity as I believe the Australian system [which T4 is modelled on] was very well received from day one.” Jane Merrick at Discovery Summer, a summer camp provider, adds that agents are reporting confusion. “Entry clearance officers in different cities and countries are demanding different visa letters due to differing interpretation of requirements,” she says.

Lucy Greaves at Study Group backs up this claim. “Currently [in April] we are hearing of backlogs in consular offices and a lack of local information and clarity in procedures,” she recounts. “Renewal documentation going from 19 pages to 50+ pages is extraordinary and is illustrative of a system that has the potential to damage the UK as a destination for international students.”

The new visa system was launched at the same time as visa fees were increased by 46 per cent and, as Greaves observes, ID cards for foreign students were rolled out. Despite all this, most schools do remain optimistic that once agents and entry clearance officers (ECOs) have adjusted to T4, the system will be easier to navigate. Mark Jones at London Study Centre acknowledges that in the rollout, “The private fear of many industry participants is that the new rules may fail to be correctly implemented by ECOs.” However, he adds, “The bottom line is that the system is based on the Australian system and hopefully will make the process more straightforward.”

Luckily for the UK, a global recession and weakened value of the pound sterling has come at the same time as new visa rules for non-EU nationals, and this financial factor, as all schools testify, is definitely helping to bolster business. “The weakened pound is undoubtedly helping the UK and comparing the performances of our operating divisions across USA and Australia, the UK is outperforming both, with the US suffering from a relatively strong dollar,” reveals Greaves, somewhat emphatically proving that the UK is one of the winners of the recession-hit climate.

Language schools operating at the cheaper end of the spectrum certainly report brisk business, indicating that price sensitivity is a client trend, even with a weakened pound assuring relative value for money. Mairead Fanning at The English Studio in London says, “We have actually doubled our income for the first three months of the year - we are busier than ever - but the English Studio has seen some big changes with a whole new look.”

Schilling also commends the UK’s price advantage but sounds a note of warning: “We are gaining market share from other countries,” he says. “However, if UK sterling weakens to stupid levels, agents’ commission reduces in value in their own currency and this could be detrimental,” he concludes.

Nationality trends

Korea is noted by a few schools as a declining market at the moment, while Turkey, Brazil and Colombia are all highlighted as growth markets. Pippa Nash at Shane Global says of Turkish clients, “We have found that they are able to take advantage of promotions and discounts much quicker than other nationalities and convert a promotion into an enrolment.”

Other education providers point to Asia, Europe and the Middle East as productive student source countries, indicating that a wide range of nationalities are contributing to international student intake across language schools in the UK.

Lucy Greaves at Study Group points to Iran, Vietnam, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and Kazakhstan as sources of growing enrolments. Jane Dancaster at Wimbledon School of English adds, “We have had 55 nationalities in school so far this year. Europe is strong and we are getting more European students outside of the peak summer season, which I am sure is because of the weak pound.” Dan Meager at Spinnaker College in Portsmouth also asserts that Europeans and Middle Eastern students are boosting demand.

Only Mark Jones at London Study Centre notes growth from Korea (biggest student market), along with Thailand and Turkey, and he underlines that this is because of strong agent links. “We have focused time and resources on these key markets, including being represented by our agents at student events in each,” he notes.

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Language Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.





Britannia Student

Feltom Malta  
Perth Education City
Quality English  

Alphe Conferences  
International House
      World Organisation  
Feltom Malta  


Malta Tourism


Perth Education City

Bics (Business & Intl

Berlitz Canada  
Elmwood School  
Richmond School
      District #38  
Stewart College of

IH Xi'an  

      Latinoamericana de
Andean Global
      Studies Spanish
Estudio Internacional
      Sampere, Ecuador  
South American
      Language Center  

Bell International  
Britannia Student
Kaplan Aspect  
      (Australia, Canada,
      Ireland, Malta, New
      Zealand, South
      Africa, UK, USA)
LAL Language and
      (Canada, Cyprus,
      Ireland, England,
      South Africa, Spain,
      Switzerland, USA)
Malvern House
      College London  
Shakespeare College
Spinnaker College
Quality English
Queen Ethelburga's
St Giles Colleges  
      (Canada, UK, USA)
Study Group  
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
      South Africa, Spain,
TUS Advertising  
Twin Group  
      (Ireland, UK, USA)
University of Essex -

Home Language
(Australia, Brazil, Canada, Czech Republic, Denmark, England, Egypt, Finland, France, Greece, The Netherlands, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Scotland, South Africa, Spain, Malta, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates, USA, Wales)

International House
      Berlin - Prolog  


Galway Cultural
      (via Impact Media)  

Kai Japanese
      Language School  

Clubclass Residential
      Language School  
EC English
      (England, Malta,
      South Africa, USA)
Feltom Malta  
Malta Tourism

Seafield School
      of English  

EC Cape Town  
      Cape Town- One
      World Language
Good Hope Studies  
inlingua Language
      Training Centre
      Cape Town  
Interlink School
      of Languages  
International House
      Cape Town  
LAL Cape Town  
Language Teaching
Shane Global
      Language Centres -
      Cape Town  

Malaca Instituto -
      Club Hispanico SL  
Pamplona Learning
      Spanish Institute  

EF Language
      Colleges Ltd  
(Australia, Canada, China, Costa Rica, Ecuador, England, France, Germany, Italy, Malta, New Zealand, Singapore, South Africa, Spain, USA)
Eurocentres International  
(Australia, Canada, England, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, New Zealand, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, USA)

Califorinia State
      University Northridge
ELS Language
      (Canada, USA)
San Diego State
University of
      California San Diego
Zoni Language
      (Canada, USA)

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