June 2013 issue

News Round Up
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Market Analysis

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USA stands firm

Efforts to bolster outbound enrolments in a number of countries had a positive impact on ELT enrolments in the USA in 2012, with many of the country’s English language schools reporting good growth in student numbers despite challenges posed by changes to accreditation policy. Claire Twyman reports.

USA language schools’ marketing budget by region (overall %) Top nationalities in the USA by student weeks – according to schools, 2012
W Europe 11%
Asia 24%
C&E Europe 12%
Latin America 20.5%
Middle East 8.5%
Africa 3%
Australasia 1%
N America 21%
Saudi 11.9%
Korean 9.6%
Brazilian 6.5%
Chinese 6.3%

Japanese 5.2%
French 4.7%
Turkish 3.6%
Thai 3.5%

Spanish 3.2%
Italian 2.7%

Source: STM USA school survey

Commission Student numbers by age range
21.6% is the average comission paid on a language course

2% is the average commission paid on accommodation by two of the institutions profiled

8-11: 2.2%
12-15: 11.7%
16-18: 16.9%
19-24: 32.7%
25-30: 24%
30-50: 11%
50+: 1.5%

Means of recruiting students in the USA, 2012 (schools) Reasons for learning English
Agents 42%
Internet 24%
Local bookings 20%
Other means 14%
University/college studies at home 10% For pleasure only 10% For further studies in another English-speaking country 4%
No reply 1%

Student's region of origin How did students find out about their school
Latin America 15.5%
Middle East 15.5%
North America 3%
Central and Eastern Europe 3%
Africa 2%
No reply 2%
Internet 27%
Advertised 1%

Total marketing spend by sector and by category in %
Agency costs 28%
Commission 20% Incentives 3% Agency brochures 5%

Travel costs 33%
Agent workshops 9% Student exhibitions 2% Agency visits to school 3% Entertainment 2% Trips to agencies 4%
Publicity costs 29%
A gent mags 2% Student mags etc 10% Brochure, video etc 15% Internet 25%

Ask the students – view from the classroom

107 students from 31 different countries schools took part in our survey of UK language schools

The average age was 26 years
The average class size was 13 students
35 per cent of respondents were from Asia
24 per cent of respondents were from Western Europe
41 per cent of respondents booked their course through an agency
27 per cent of respondents found their school through the Internet
96 per cent of respondents would recommend their school
42 per cent of respondents were staying in homestay accommodation
41 per cent were learning English for current or future work purposes
67 per cent of respondents found it very easy or quite easy to practise their English with local people
24 per cent of students had been on a previous study abroad trip
65 per cent of respondents thought that there was just the right number of students and mix of nationalities in the classroom

Number of participating language schools: 20
Total number of students at the organisations in 2012: 21,795
Total number of student weeks in 2012, estimated: 281,156
Participating schools: A.C.E. Language Institutes, American Culture and Language Institute at California State University Chico, Aston International Academy at the University of Texas at Austin, California ESL Language Academy, Campus Education, ESL Academy at the University of Colorado Denver, FLS International, Geos Languages Plus, GENY Business School in New York, Global Language Institute, International House Boston, inlingua Washington DC, Intrax, LAL Fort Lauderdale, Language Studies International, Manhattan Language, Tennessee Technological University, University of Delaware English Language Institute, University of Illinois at Chicago Intensive English Program, University of West Florida Intensive English Program, Zoni Language Centers.

12.9 weeks Overall average length of stay

20 hours Average language tuition per week

The 2012 operating year brought good fortunes to the USA’s ELT schools, relates Kathryn Kohut at English USA, the country’s association for intensive English programmes (IEPs). “The majority of our member programmes reported an increase in student enrolments in 2012,” she says. “According to a survey sent to our members, 61 per cent of programmes responding noted an increase in spring 2012 enrolments over the same period in 2011. One of the top reasons noted was the increase in government-sponsored scholarship students, particularly from Saudi Arabia, and an increase in the number of summer group programmes.”

Although the majority of language school contributors to this article also report that business went well in 2012, it wasn’t all plain sailing. As we report in our market analysis feature on the USA in 2011 (see STM June 2012, page 55), the Accreditation of English Language Programs Training Act was introduced in 2010, requiring language schools to gain accreditation from a national or regional agency recognised by the Department of Education. “Initially, it was unclear as to how to verify the accreditation of English language programmes, which caused widespread panic.” However, EnglishUSA and the agency responsible for introducing the act went to great lengths to resolve the issue by providing guidelines for language schools to follow. “The effects of the act will likely shape the student market beginning in 2014, since the deadline for programmes to secure accreditation is December 2013,” she adds. “At this time, all programmes accepting F-1 students [students entering the USA for language or academic study purposes] will be accredited. While the act has not necessarily affected the student market, it has significantly impacted how IEPs in the USA operate.”

Meanwhile, increasing visa denials for students from certain countries have caused problems for some schools. As Joseph Caporale at the Manhattan, NY branch of Campus Education reports, Turkish students are among this group.
“There is always a good deal of time, effort and paperwork involved when we endeavour to interest and enrol students abroad, so it is disappointing when significant numbers are denied the opportunity to study with us,” Caporale says. There are a number of other nationalities, however, that are performing rather well. Audrey Malgras-Serra from Geos Languages Plus , with various centres across the USA, refers to Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah Scholarship Programme which has been extended until 2018 (see STM April 2013, page 7). “The approval of the scholarship programme extension is a great opportunity for our USA-based schools to keep on fulfilling the Saudi students’ needs and gain enrolments from this market,” she says.

Meanwhile, Caporale says that Campus Education is benefiting from high enrolment numbers from countries such as Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan. “The wealthier countries in the region, such as Kazakhstan, have only recently been sending students in large numbers to the USA, the UK and other English-speaking countries, so we hope to establish a solid reputation in this geographic area,” he notes. Lori Maxfield from ACE Cultural Institute at Montana State University in Bozeman, meanwhile, anticipates that the Brazilian Scientific Mobility Program – a government scholarship initiative for 10,000 Brazilian undergraduate students on science, technology, engineering and maths (Stem) programmes – will bring Brazilian students to intensive English programmes.

Across the board, China, with its ever-growing middle class, was another top source country. “Every school appears to be bombarded by Chinese group enquiries,” confirms Alissa Olgun at California ESL Language Academy, CA. “The Chinese and Taiwanese populations are really set on having their classes feel much more academic and they are insistent on classes being held on university campuses,” she says. Olgun has responded by moving all summer programmes to university locations. “Chinese agents are also insistent on their groups being the only Chinese students in the programme, but with the high number of enquiries this is very difficult,” she adds. “We are very interested in trying to reach the European market more, because we want our classes to have a great international representation. We are going to do that by directly reaching out to agencies.”

Meanwhile, Malgras-Serra says that the creation of the 10,000 Strong Foundation, launched to enhance opportunities for students from the USA to learn Mandarin and study in China (see STM April 2013, page 10), will encourage Geos Languages Plus to strengthen business ties as well as “build up new partnerships with Chinese agencies in order to host more Chinese students in the coming years, especially through our pathway programme”. The development of the pathway college/university partnership programme, as well as the strengthening of exam preparation courses, continue to attract long-term students in 2013, she adds, and European students are targeted through the customised junior and adult programme. “Moreover, this year, we are hosting our first fam trip to the USA and we hope to offer it to our agencies regularly over the years.”

Other recruitment efforts included the use of Skype, which Rebecca Fisher from the ESL Academy at the University of Colorado Denver, CO implemented. “Skyping with applicants is our biggest secret to reaching this high yield,” she says, “Students love face-to-face communication. I personally Skyped with over 120 students last year and found it very rewarding to blend proficiency assessment with recruitment.” Joe Picard from the American Language and Culture Institute at California State University Chico, CA, on the other hand, praises the power of the word-of-mouth as well as improved agent relations.

Overall, the mood surrounding the 2013 operating year is optimistic. David Maguire from Global Language Institute in St. Paul, MN, is aiming for a 10 per cent boost in enrolments this year, and anticipates strong demand for the new Toefl iBT course due to high demand. “Study Minnesota is also an initiative we are excited about,” he says. “It’s backed by the US Commercial Service and Minnesota trade office, and aims to spread the word to international students about the benefits of education in our state through joint marketing efforts.” And although Caporale from Campus Education relates that this is a challenging time for small-to-medium sized language schools in the USA without huge marketing budgets and brand appeal, he is sanguine about prospects for enrolment success in coming months. “In the past year or two we have revamped our Toefl preparation programme and have integrated free practice tests into our curriculum. We are attracting greater numbers of students. with very specific goals in mind,” he reveals

Meanwhile, Caporale is hopeful that a move to streamline policies and adopt an Internet-based system of record keeping “will speed up many aspects of our students’ paperwork and bring efficiency and renewed vigour to international education in the USA as a whole”.

Comparing the statistics with 2011

This year’s survey on enrolment trends for the USA’s ELT schools in 2012 had double the number of contributors than last year’s survey on the 2011 operating year, and there are a greater number of participants from ESL departments at universities in the USA. Despite this, there is little differentiation between figures within the two surveys, with the cost of a one-month course averaging at US$1,222 in 2012 (compared with US$1,123 in 2011), and with the average length of stay around the 13 weeks mark in both 2011 and 2012. The average hours of language tuition per week was 20 in 2012, a marginal decline from 2011’s average of 21.5 hours, and agent commission was at 21.6 per cent in 2012 compared with the previous rate of 23 per cent.

Students from similar countries frequented the top 10 student nationality list both years, with Saudi students making the number one spot again in 2012. Interestingly, despite complaints of declining visa acceptance rates for Turkish students in 2012, clients of this nationality climbed from eighth to seventh place in the top nationality list in 2012. The greater variety and number of contributors this time round could account for this, or perhaps the Turkish student visa denials will have a greater impact on enrolments in 2013. Like 2011, Korean, Chinese and Brazilian students, among other nationalities, were also numerous in 2012.
In terms of recruitment methods, there was a greater reliance on the Internet (24 per cent) in 2012 compared with in 2011 (11 per cent), and agent usage fell by 10 percentage points in 2012 to 42 per cent. Meanwhile, the most common student age range was between 19 and 24 years in 2011 (42.1 per cent) and 2012 (32.7 per cent).

Thank you to the following schools who participated in our student survey: American Culture and Language Institute at California State University Chico, Converse International School of Languages, East Tennessee State University, GEOS Languages Plus, Global Language Institute, International House Boston, International Language Institute of Massachusetts, Into Oregon State University, LAL Fort Lauderdale, Language Studies International, Sol School Miami.

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Sakura House  

English UK  
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English UK North  
Fedele Spain  
Groupement FLE  
Languages Canada / Langues Canada  
Quality English  

Ability English  
Academia International Collegs  
Access Macquarie Limited  
Australian Institute of Professional Education  
Cairns Language Centre / Eurocentres Cairns  
English Language & Foundation Studies Centre  
ILSC Australia  
Impact English College  
UNSW Global Pay Limited (University of New South Wales)  

CERAN Lingua International  

College of New Caledonia  
Geos Language Academy  
Global Village  
Inlingua Vancouver School of Languages  
Languages Canada / Langues Canada  
North Island College  
Okanagan University College  
Upper Madison College  
Vancouver English Centre  

English UK  
City School of Languages  
English 100  
English UK North  
Frances King School of English  
GSM (Greenwich School of Management)  
Kaplan International Colleges  
Lexis London LTD  
London School of Business & Finance  
TUS Advertising  
St Giles International  

Alphe Conferences  
Cambridge Esol  

Accent Francais  
Groupement FLE  
ILCF Institut Catholique de Paris  
Institut de Touraine  
Institut Linguistique Adenet  
IS Aix-en-Provence  
ISEFE - Université de Savoie  
Langue Onze Toulouse  
Lyon Bleu International  
Paris Langues / Club CEI des 4 Vents  

English For Asia  

Guard. Me  

Centre of English Studies  

Sakura House  

Fedele Spain  
Malaca Instituto - Club Hispanico SL  

EF International Language Centers  

Taiwan Mandarin Institute  

Malta Tourism Authority  

California State University San Marcos  
ELS Language Centers  
English Language Center  
Forest Ridge School of the Sacred Heart  
Glenholme School  
Global Language Institute  
University of Arizona  
University of California San Diego  
Zoni Language Centers  

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