July 2010 issue

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UK upbeat

The UK’s language schools have had a lot to contend with in the last 12 months with new visa regulations causing major headaches for many. However, many schools remain upbeat about the future, as Bethan Norris finds out.

The introduction of new visa regulations for students over the last 12 months have caused a decline in student enrolments for some schools in the UK. Tim Melling from English Language in the Lakes in Ambleside says that student numbers at the school were down by 20 per cent in 2009, compared with 2010 and puts this down to “visa restrictions”.

However, other schools report that favourable exchange rates in 2009 have conversely boosted language student interest in the UK. Andrew Roper from British Study Centres says that student numbers rose by 36 per cent across their three schools in the past year and puts this down, in part, to “the strong European market; weak pound against the euro, Swiss franc, Swedish krona, Japanese yen and Korean won”. He adds that “increased investment in marketing, including three new sales staff” is also having a positive effect.

At St Giles International, Robin Garforth reports that the school chain has experienced a variation in fortunes since July 2009. “Exchange rates with sterling have certainly made the UK a more competitive destination,” he says. However, the visa furore has impacted some of their key markets. “We’ve seen a slow down since the introduction of the latter stages of Tier 4, from Korea and Colombia in particular, and all visa national markets in general. The changes since March sadly make the UK unavailable for many students.”

The latest changes to the UK’s visa system have made it more difficult for low level language learners to come to the UK for long term courses, as well as restricting access to courses that include a work placement as part of the programme (see LTM, April 2010, page 6). However, EU students and those who want to study in the UK for less than six months on a student visitor visa have been unaffected by the changes and schools are increasingly adapting their course offerings to work with the new rules.

Shane Wilkinson from BBSI in Bournemouth predicts a change in demand for certain types of courses at the school. “The only change we have made has been to drop professional work placements, due to the negative image they have with the UKBA,” he says. “We certainly forsee a decline in autumn bookings for long-stay courses, as agents and students opt for the less complicated student visitor visa.”

While visa changes are making life difficult for some, many report that they are focusing hard on creating innovative courses and catering to the student markets that are available to them. Mark Harrington from Berlitz Manchester says that the school has recently introduced a range of new programmes such as English plus activities, exam prep and business English. “Like many UK schools, it is vital that we offer our clients interesting and exciting programmes to minimise the impact of some very poorly thought out changes to the visa system.”

Roper says that their school is also being proactive with a new campus opening in Bournemouth this year and courses combining English tuition with windsurfing and surfing on the horizon. “We are all learning to adapt to the new reality,” he says. “Agents are skilled at dealing with new circumstances. The outlook for the UK is still positive I believe, but it means being more proactive than ever and not hesitating to increase the marketing spend.”

At Shane Global, Michael Dewar says that the school is focusing on the other end of the age spectrum. “Our 50 plus course at Hastings has proved popular as there are few other schools in the region that offer it, and we hope that our English at Christmas course will also prove popular, especially in the Asian market,” he says.

Overall, the outlook for the UK’s language teaching industry remains positive. Rebecca Cullen-Moreno from Spinnaker College in Portsmouth says that the opening of their new business school should see enrolments in this sector increase in the future. She adds that the changes to the visa system “have had some effect on recruitment, as there has been a lot of confusion among agents, embassies and students themselves”, but she remains confident of the future.

Top nationalities

In the last few years we have increasingly been popular among European students due to the competitiveness of our fees and proximity of the city to most European destinations,” says Rebecca Cullen-Moreno from Spinnaker College in Portsmouth.

Increasing numbers of European students at UK language schools may be one result of the new visa regulations which make it harder for non-EU nationals to apply for a student visa. Robin Garforth from St Giles International reports, “We continue to see good growth from Europe, particularly Switzerland, and what appears to be recession proof Turkey. Our top five nationalities are from Switzerland, Korea, Brazil, Italy and Spain.” Mark Harrington from Berlitz Manchester also points to good growth figures from Turkey as well as Spain, Italy and various Arabic nations.

Susan Brearey from Suzanne Sparrow Plymouth Language School in Plymouth asserts that they will have more students from Europe next year, while Tim Melling from English Language in the Lakes in Ambleside adds that their top nationalities are currently Spanish and Italian but he predicts more enrolments within the EU as the UK becomes less attractive to Asian, Russian and South American students.

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

English Australia  
MEI Ireland  

Alphe Conferences  

Pearson Education  

Dr. Walter GmbH  

LTM Digital  

Malta Tourism

Bond University  
Carrick Institute
      of Education  
English Australia  
La Trobe University  
Language Studies
Pacific Gateway
      International College  
      College (Shafston
      House College)
Universal English
College (Global
      Village Sydney)  
University of
University of
      Western Australia  
University of
      Western Sydney

Global Village 
      (Australia, Canada,
Saint Mary's

Ordex Cultural
      Exchange/ Quito -
Vida Verde - Green
      Life Spanish Center

Bell International  
      (Malta, UK)
      Education Group  
Kaplan Aspect  
      (Australia, Canada,
      Ireland, Malta, New
      Zealand, South
      UK, USA)
LAL Language
      (Australia, Canada,
      Costa Rica, Ecuador,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Malta, Mexico,
      Russia, South Africa,
      Spain, Switzerland,
London Metropolitan
Malvern House
      College London  
Prime Education
      (king's Colleges)  
Spinnaker College  
St Clare's Oxford  
St Giles Colleges 
      (Canada, UK, USA) 
Study Group 
      (Australia, Canada,
      England, France,
      Germany, Ireland,
      Italy, New Zealand,
      South Africa, Spain,
Queen Ethelburga's
Twin Group  
      (Ireland, UK)
University of Essex-
Wickham Court

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

International House
      Berlin - Prolog  

Academia de
      Español PROBIGUA 

Delfin English
Language College
MEI Ireland  

      Language School  

      Residential Language
NSTS English
      Language Institute  

Habla Ya
      Language Center  

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

ELS Language
International House
      San Diego  
University of
Zoni Language
      (Canada, USA)

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