“Schools are, on the whole, nice to each other. Most school managers will tell you that their closest friends in the business are the people who run other schools often their most direct competitors. Although there are certainly exceptions, agents worldwide are often much more competitive with each other, and as a result co-operate less comfortably.
Why is this? Why do schools cooperate with each other more harmoniously than agents do? Is it that many of them don’t behave like real businesses? In the old days schools were almost always small owner-managed affairs, run as labours of love. Few even aspired to being a ‘business’. I remember arguments within the old Arels about whether it was a trade association or a professional association, and the people who argued that it was a professional association clearly felt that ‘trade’ was a long way beneath them.
Things have changed. There are clearly some large multi-national companies active in our field. Fewer schools are still small owner-managed affairs. Even if they are, most have tried to reinvent themselves as businesses. But I wonder how successfully they have changed. Are many of them only playing at being businesses? In how many real industrial sectors do competitors share their intellectual property and their commercial contacts? How often do they open the door to the staff of rival organisations? How often do they offer their customers services for which they have not paid? In being so nice to other schools, do we blunt the edge of our competition? Faced with such a friendly rival, do we hesitate to put in the knife? If we don’t make much money, do we only have ourselves to blame? Do our agent colleagues, less obviously collaborative, a bit more commercially focused, have it right and we have it wrong?”
The views in this article do not represent the opinion of Language Travel Magazine. They may not even represent the views of the author. But we hope they may encourage debate.
Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Do you foresee a rise in clients looking for experience overseas without the language tuition?
Pamela Knittel, Language Immersion Institute, USA
“It truly depends on the client. We are still receiving far more students who need language skills for their job or studies than any other type of student. We are just now looking at developing other avenues to satisfy learners’ experiences abroad without necessarily having a language component. These students wish to experience the culture, people and learn something uniquely related to their trip, such as Greek mythology in Greece, for example. We find that these students are usually retired, as they have the means and time to pursue such endeavors based solely on their desire to learn. It does not mean, however, that they are already linguists of the language, but rather that in pursuit of their interests they will study the language to aid in comprehension of their overall experience. Language learning is still a priority for these students. However, we have yet to find a partner school that incorporates both [factors] as thoroughly as these students are seeking.”
Katya Vasko, Prima Lingua Consultancy, Russia
“Gaining international work experience with leading companies is becoming increasingly popular among graduate students in Russia. As the competition among newly qualified professionals intensifies, students are honing their language skills long before completing higher education typically by visiting local specialist schools and attending language programmes abroad throughout their school years. They know that foreign language skills are not just an asset but often a “must” to pursue a successful career. Prima Lingua receives a lot of interest in internship-only programmes, and we predict this will increase. Our students are looking to gain work experience abroad within a short period of time, and at a reasonable price. The UK is a preferred destination for a number of obvious reasons. Unfortunately, at the moment we cannot fulfill all of our clients requests, since it is impossible to place non-EU students in the UK for two to four months and not all of our clients can afford to spend six months away from home. We hope UK visa restrictions will ease in the future so that more of our students have the opportunity to gain work experience abroad and enrich their lives before starting a career in their home country.”
Veronika Rastvortseva, Coliseum, Ukraine
“The main clients of Coliseum are students and young people. Therefore, our company foresees a rise in people who are looking for experience overseas without the language tuition. Students are very independent people, who have a great willingness to see new countries, experience new life and culture. It is really important for them to have a chance to dip into a business environment and earn some money during an internship period in foreign country. If a person goes for an internship programme for a second time they almost always pick a different country. The level of language learning [here] is increasing year-to-year. School trips overseas have become more common now because of a simplifying of [visa] rules for students. Sometimes it is not so easy to find partners who can provide us with internship or volunteer programmes without a language course. This is a reason why we are looking for companies who can provide us with such services.”
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Language Travel Magazine, we ask a different language teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or agent partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month, Bridge-Linguatec based in Denver, CO, USA, nominates Languages Abroad in Canada.
Ross Wehner, Vice-President of the school, explains this decision:
“Over the last two years, Languages Abroad has sent ever-increasing numbers of students to our schools in Argentina, Chile and Brazil. Much of Languages Abroad’s success we feel is due to their website, www.languagesabroad.com, voted “Best on the Web” by Forbes Magazine. Tech-savvy owner, Andy Stephenson, has within the last six months launched a whole new look-and-feel and a fully automated booking system. The next step is translating the web pages for the European market, which I’m sure we will benefit from.
The agency is nimble when it comes to new offerings. When we launched our volunteer programmes, they joined us in promoting them and sold two in the first week! All this growth and innovation, however, have not sacrificed customer service. We feel very comfortable dealing with Programme Director, Jesse Philippe. When we make a request, or have a problem, he finds a solution in a day or less.”
On the move
Andy Bungay is the new Principal of Exeter Academy in Exeter, UK. Mr Bungay previously taught at the International School in Exeter, having become an EFL teacher after cycling from Pakistan to Australia in 1990. He said, “I was offered the opportunity of working at the Exeter Academy this year and have found it a wonderful school to be involved with.”
Din Heiman has recently joined Kaplan English Programs in the USA as Executive Director of Operations, based in Los Angeles. Previously, Mr Heiman was Executive Vice-President of Rennert Bilingual, a New York-based language school and translation service company. Mr Heiman’s international background and experience will be a tremendous asset to Kaplan English Programs in the USA.
Stephen Vickers became Chief Executive of the British Accreditation Council (BAC) in the UK in March. The Council accredits over 240 independent FE and HE institutions in the UK and HE institutes abroad. Mr Vickers came to the BAC from the awarding body sector and amongst other jobs, has previously worked for QCA, Ucles, and as a teacher in the West Midlands.
Katherine Fry is a new sales and marketing administrator at Ceran UK, based in Sherborne. Ms Fry is already well accustomed to the company, having previously worked with Ceran as an activity organiser for the Junior UK programme. Her role will involve liaising with agencies with the aim of promoting Ceran.
Suno Lee worked for Educational Consultants in Seoul, Korea as a UK specialist before setting up his own business in the city. PeopleLoving Education is a new agency venture and Lee’s ambitions are to create a good studying abroad culture around the country. “I would like to run my company as a UK and Ireland education specialist,” he said.
Mark Bailey is the new Sales Manager Gold Coast, Australia for Study Group. He previously held the roles of Marketing Manager of Sydney College of English and more recently Marketing Director of Canterbury Institute in Christchurch, New Zealand. “I am delighted to be joining Study Group in such a beautiful and exciting educational destination as Surfers Paradise,” he said.
President of American association UCIEP, Patrick Kennell, answers our questions about the association’s current advocacy activities.
University and College Intensive English Programs (UCIEP)
Year established: 1967
Number of members: 68
Type of members:
UCIEP is a consortium of intensive English programs that are governed by universities and colleges in the United States.
Association’s main roles:
Promote excellence in intensive English programme administration, curriculum and instruction.
Compliance with the UCIEP; payment of annual fees; attendance at annual UCIEP Business Meeting or General Meeting
Government recognition: yes
Code of practice: yes
Complaints procedure: n/a
Agent workshops/fam trips: no
UCIEP Central Office
Applied English Center
University of Kansas,
1410 Jayhawk Blvd., Room 204,
Lawrence, KS 66045-7515, USA
What has UCIEP been up to in the last year?
Many of the directors of UCIEP programmes participated in the annual Directors’ Retreat at Bandera, Texas earlier this year. During this two-and-a-half-day retreat, we discussed a wide variety of issues related to our programmes, our international students, and our commitment to the mission of UCIEP. Sessions dealt with successful recruitment strategies, programming, best practices, and planning for the future. We also welcomed our newest institutional member: Georgia State University. We continue to be encouraged by statements made by our Secretary of State, Dr. Condoleeza Rice, on the importance of international education and study abroad. She has cabled US consular offices on the validity of students coming to the US for the purpose of studying English. We were also encouraged to hear that many consular officers are doing outreach with students.
Is UCIEP working with government at all to help expedite amendments to the visa issuing process?
UCIEP and AAIEP are currently working together to advocate for changes to various federal legislation that is before US Congress. In addition, at the annual UCIEP conference held in February, programme directors held conference calls with the heads of Sevis of the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of State Liaison with US Embassies and Consulates abroad. We were assured that all matters related to obtaining a student visa are being carefully monitored, and that issues raised by UCIEP and other professional associations, our institutions, as well as by individual advisors, are being researched.
What does UCIEP think of the proposals to improve visa issuance via video-linked visa interviews/online application?
UCIEP takes the position that anything that can be done to make the visa issuance process easier and faster for prospective students while ensuring that adequate security measures are maintained is welcomed.
Pictured here are three Brazilians demonstrating their flair for an activity that can only be described as “finger cracking” the ubiquitous hand gesture in Brazil used to inject speed into a sentence/story. From left, Fernando, Renato Haddad and Tatiana Mendes of Brazilian association, Belta, who were trying to teach the British how to perfect the gesture! All were great hosts during a fam trip to Brazil (see pages 18-20).
Delegates were treated to a cruise on the River Thames during the Icef Work & Travel Forum in London in May. Pictured below left, with Big Ben and the Houses of Parliament just visible in the background, is João Claudir Silva Castro, Director of Estudar no Exterior Intercâmbio Cultural in Brazil in the centre, squeezing in between Sigrid Segeren (right) and a colleague of hers, both from the Hague University of Professional Education in the Netherlands. Below right is Dmitry Almukhametov, General Director of Intex Cultural Exchange Centre, Russia, enjoying the early evening views with his wife.
Walking in the same corridors of fame as Ronaldo, Raul and Zidane, these Ialc Workshop delegates look excited to be soaking up the same atmosphere as Real Madrid’s sporting heroes. From left to right, Carlos Martin, abcCollege, Barcelona, Spain; Leo Rodriguez, Lingua Service Worldwide, USA; Asuncion M Pleite, Estudio Sampere, Madrid, Spain; Jose Hellberg i Falguera, SI Språkresor & Spanska Institutet, Sweden; and Andrea Dvorakova, also Estudio Sampere.