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June 2011 issue

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Gathering strength

The role of education associations is growing and their remit is widening as they react to new challenges in the industry. Bethan Norris finds out some of the latest activities conducted by language school and education associations around the world.

Many language school and education associations were set up in order to provide a common voice for members and give strength to their interests in the face of government legislation and market trends. In some countries, particularly the UK and Australia, the work of associations is proving to be invaluable in representing the interests of the industry in the face of sweeping legislative changes.

Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia (EA), says that the past year has thrown up some major challenges in terms of workload for the association. “It’s been a busy year!” she states. “Whilst advocacy has been a major area of focus – Australia has seen a record number of enquiries, taskforces and committees looking at different aspects of international education, including; the student visa review, Esos legislation review, and the International Student Strategy development – we have not dropped the ball in any other area of our activities.”

In Australia, the outcome of the student visa review announced by the government in December last year and due to be completed by mid 2011, is critical for education providers in the country and a favourable result will largely depend on the extensive work by associations lobbying on behalf of their members. Blundell reports, “The current independent review is a critical opportunity for EA to work with government and other stakeholders to develop a robust framework that will support sustainable growth for the industry over the next 10 years. We have worked with member colleges to identify what we believe are the key issues with the current regime and are presenting these to the review team with our recommendations. EA is also working cooperatively with other sector peak bodies to develop industry-wide consensus on the issues and possible solutions.”

Working together has been a common theme among associations in Australia with various sectors of the study abroad industry coming together to deal with issues raised by recent immigration changes in the country. Claire Field, Chief Executive Officer at the Australian Council for Private Education and Training (Acpet), says that advocacy work has been a focus for them in recent times. “We have focussed our efforts in the past six-to-eight months on bringing the peak bodies across the international education sector and the business community together to lobby government for changes to student visas and the marketing of international education. While there has been a great deal of work by government over the past 18 months which Acpet strongly supports – notably the lifting of the quality bar, including a new requirement stipulating that providers re-register according to a higher set of requirements under the Esos Act – some government changes have gone too far and are now damaging the industry.”

For Acpet, the importance placed on lobbying efforts in the last 12 months have meant that the association has had to expand. Field explains, “Acpet will shortly finalise recruitment for a new international team to be located in our Canberra office. I anticipate the new team will deliver stronger and more productive links with government, which will in turn contribute to great stability in the government’s international education policy environment.”

In the UK, responding to visa policy changes within government has also pushed the work of English language school association English UK into the frontline. Susan Young from English UK says that they have lobbied against government proposals to reduce immigration figures that would be damaging for the industry and provided alternative suggestions that would help the government reach its targets. In some instances, the association’s work has received a lot of coverage in the mainstream press as the united efforts of members have attracted public attention. “We have been working closely with MPs from constituencies with large numbers of language centres, who have been extremely concerned about the possible consequences of some of the visa proposals,” says Young. “We have also worked with other interested organisations during the consultation period and Tony Millns [CEO of English UK] gave evidence twice to the Home Affairs Committee when it investigated student visas.”

The role of school associations varies according to the challenges facing members at any particular time. In Malta, language schools have not been facing the same kind of visa pressures as in Australia and the UK, but nevertheless the national school association Feltom has been called upon to react to damaging press reports on behalf of its members. “Over the last few weeks, we have been working to dispel misconceptions about the effect the unrest in North Africa has had on Malta,” says Isabelle Pace Warrington, Executive Officer at Feltom. “Unfortunately some media reporting has given an inaccurate picture of the situation and this is leading to uncertainty among agents and students. Feltom has been working closely with the tourist authorities to send out a clear message that events 200 miles away have had no effect on life in Malta or on the services offered.”

While advocacy work is a recognised part of an association’s business, some organisations are also expanding their remit in other areas. As well as further developing their established accreditation scheme for language school members over the past 12 months, Feltom has also been involved in organising student events for international language students in the country. “As in previous years, Feltom is organising a series of substance free events for language students under the age of 18,” says Pace Warrington. “These carefully organised events provide young students with an opportunity to meet many fellow students from various countries who are attending other schools on the island.”

As well as involving themselves with the welfare of the educator members and students, a key part of many associations’ business is developing their activities with study advisors. Attending asssociation advisor workshops and fam trips have long been an established part of agencies’ business and some associations are expanding their range of advisor-focused events. Young from English UK states that they run three inbound missions for advisors each year, as well as the established workshop, StudyWorld, and a specialist group, Business English UK, has “also had some interesting projects with agents during the past year”. She adds, “We’ve also rebranded and increased the numbers of our smaller overseas fairs, which have proved hugely popular with agents and members.”

Mariana Dima from Spanish language school association, Fedele, states that fam trips are an integral part of their annual general meeting, which involves a workshop for advisors. “This year we have four fam trips: Andalucia, Valencia Community, Castilla y Leon and Madrid. The programme of visits in each fam trip will be designed by our associations depending on their needs.”

In Malta too, the organisation of fam trips are a current consideration for Feltom. Pace Warrington reports that this year the association decided to move the annual Feltom agent workshop from the end of summer to spring 2012. “In the absence of this major workshop we are planning to hold a couple of smaller fam trips in the autumn,” she says. “The first will be immediately after ICEF Berlin and another open to agents from a specific market will be held in November. Details of both events are still being finalised.”


Association expansion

An association for language schools or education providers is only as strong as its members and most of the associations who took part in this feature reported that the total number of members had increased in the past year.

Susan Young at English UK reports that membership has “increased steadily” and “we’re now at a high of 450 members”. She adds, “We find many ways of telling language centres about what we can do for them, but it helps enormously that we are visible in the sector, thanks to the large number of centres now entitled to use our logo, and also thanks to our involvement with Accreditation UK.”

In Australia, Sue Blundell at English Australia also notes an increase in membership in the past year. “The EA brand sends a strong message of quality and provides access to a range of opportunities not available to non-members. The networking and information benefits, whether professional engagement, sharing issues and solutions with peers or being the first to know what’s going on through the EA information updates are also highly valued. Staff who leave an EA member to go and work for a non-EA member are always quick to try to influence their new employer to join EA as they miss the support and information.”

The development of an association website in order to better deliver the benefits of membership is a tactic used by Fedele in Spain according to Mariana Dima. “Several meetings are planned with Spanish language schools accredited by the Cervantes Institute in various communities to present the advantages of being a Fedele member,” she says. “We are also finalising our new website which will be better positioned on Google and other search engines.”

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

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

Name

Company

Country

Telephone

Email


ACCOMMODATION
Britannia Student Services  
Nido Student Living  

ASSOCIATIONS/ GROUPS
English Australia  
Fedele  
Felca  
Feltom Malta  
International House World Organisation  
Quality English  

EXAM BOARDS
Cambridge Esol  
IELTS  

INSURANCE
Dr. Walter GmbH  

TOURIST BOARDS
Malta Tourism Authority  

WORK EXPERIENCE
Twin Group  

AUSTRALIA
English Australia  
Southern Cross University  

CANADA
Algonquin College  
Canadian as a second language Institute  
Geos International Schools  
Georgian College  
ILSC  
IH Toronto  
Languages Canada / Langues Canada  
Queen's University  
SAIT Polytechnic  
Student Guard Insurance  
Vancouver English Centre  

ENGLAND
International House London  
Kaplan International Colleges  
Link School  
London School of Business & Finance  
Malvern House College London  
Quality English  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
Study Group  
Twin Group  
University of Essex - International Academy  

FRANCE
Accent Francais  
Alliance Française Paris Ile de France  
CAREL  
Ecole Suisse Internationale  
Idiom  
Langue Onze Toulouse  
Le Franc Parler  
LSF Montpellier  
Lyon Bleu International  
Paris Langues / Club CEI des 4 Vents  
Université d'été de Boulogne-sur-Mer  

GERMANY
International House Berlin - Prolog  

ITALY
Dialogo  

MALTA
Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre  
Feltom Malta  
inlingua Malta  
Language Room  
Malta Tourism Authority  

NEW ZEALAND
New Horizon College of English  

SOUTH AFRICA
English in Africa Language School  

SPAIN
Inturjoven Spanish Courses   
Escuela La Ola  
Malaca Instituto - Club Hispanico SL  
Pamplona Learning Spanish Institute  

SWITZERLAND
EF Language Colleges Ltd  

URUGUAY
Academia Uruguay  

USA
Boarding Schools in the USA  
Educatius  
ELS Language Centers  
International House Sol Group  
UC Berkeley Extension  
Zoni Language Centers  



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