June 2010 issue

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NZ pulls through

A low New Zealand dollar boosted enrolments at language schools in the country although difficult economic conditions in a variation of source countries created problems for some. Bethan Norris reports.

Numbers of fee-paying international students in New Zealand grew by 5.5 per cent between 2008 and 2009, proving that unstable economic conditions around the world have not had a negative affect on the country’s education export industry as a whole.

One reason for this is a decreasing exchange rate, making it one of the cheaper English language destinations to study in over the last 12 months. Terry Leotta from AIS St Helens in Auckland says, “[Student] numbers increased due to favourable exchange rates at certain points [in the year]. Japanese and Korean individual student numbers decreased due to the impact of the financial crisis. However, total weeks for these markets increased, as did study group numbers. Thailand was down but Vietnam increased due to more efficient visa processes.”

Some of New Zealand’s top student markets – Korea and Japan in particular – have suffered due to the global economic crisis and Jessica Lilley from Seafield School of English in Christchurch said that student numbers at their school have decreased by as much as 25 per cent. “The general roll decrease is a reflection of a decrease in students from Korea and Switzerland,” she says. “We understand that both our Swiss and Korean students have been adversely affected by the recent world financial crisis.” However, other schools report that, in general, any decreases were shortlived and student numbers from these countries are back on track.

Geoff Butler from Mount Maunganui Language Centre says that the school has been concentrating on increasing student numbers from Korea and Latin America recently. “Our numbers have remained stable, with slight increases in markets where we have increased our promotional activities,” he says, adding, “In Korea, as in other markets, our strategy of working with a small group of dedicated agents is working well.”

Maurice Kirby from Coromandel Outdoor Language Centre in Whitianga says that Japanese and Korean student numbers at the school have been increasing and puts this down to economic recovery in these countries as well as a change to the visa regulations. “[There is an] improved working holiday visa quota in Korea and increased allowable study period for Japanese working holiday visa holders – from three months to six months,” he explains.

Another student market faring particularly well for New Zealand is Saudi Arabia; now the fifth top source country for the education sector (see pie). Lilley reports that this is one student market that has increased for them in 2009 and Justin Mastoyo from Christchurch Language Centre says, “We have had more students from Saudi Arabia than ever. We have established a strong relationship and built a high reputation among the students and agents from Saudi Arabia.”

However, the recent world economic crisis has proved to be a warning against relying on selected student markets and language schools point out that targeted marketing combined with providing up-to-date language programmes ensure that they stay ahead of the game. Brett Shirreffs from Languages International in Auckland and Christchurch says that they have seen student numbers grow by 12.5 per cent over the last year, mainly due to a favourable exchange rate and increased marketing in Saudi Arabia. He adds, “We are sharpening our focus on certain areas [of course content] – English for academic purposes, aimed mainly at Saudi students and teacher training especially for Asian markets – and developing some work in the complementary field of workplace literacy to diversify our business a bit.”

Indeed, demand for teacher training courses in New Zealand appears to be on the increase, particularly from Asian markets. Mastoyo says, “[Asians] appreciate the fact that they also have the opportunity to train to become an English teacher when they return to their home countries.” Alyson Craig from Dominion English Schools in Auckland and Christchurch echoes this notion and observes that the nine teacher development courses held throughout the year are “all full”.

Increasingly wary?

New Zealand’s neighbour and rival education destination, Australia, has experienced a number of high profile school collapses in the last 12 months – including eight schools in the Geos chain – and it is possible that New Zealand has gained from this damage to Australia’s reputation.

New Zealand has a particularly robust tuition fee protection scheme for students which means that fees paid in advance for tuition and accommodation are held in a trust account and can be refunded in the event of a school closure.

Maurice Kirby from Coromandel Outdoor Language Centre in Whitianga says that students are increasingly wary about which schools to trust. “I think there may be a growing tendency – especially in Japan – to avoid the big chains, after the issues with Nova and more recently Geos,” he says. “Membership of English New Zealand and Ialc seem to offer confidence to agents.”

The three Geos schools in New Zealand were taken into private ownership at the beginning of the year and Mary-Rose Blackley from Taupo Language & Outdoor Education Centre hopes that the removal of a big chain operator from the country will allow fairer competition among the remaining schools. “Because Geos had undercut our prices and offered discounted rates, many of our group tours had gone their way. Now that they have closed down, we are hoping to recover some of these tours.”

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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.





Feltom Malta  
International House
      World Organisation  
Quality English  

Alphe Conferences  

Pearson Education  

Dr. Walter GmbH  

LTM Digital  

Malta Tourism

Ability Education  

College of New
ILSC - International
      Language Schools
      of Canada  
International House
Point 3 Language
Red Leaf
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Richmond School
      District #38  
Stewart College
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Vancouver English

Anglolang Academy
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Beet Language
Cambridge Academy
      Of English  
Cambridge Education
Capital School of
Churchill House  
Devon School Of
Discovery Summer
Eastbourne School
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Eckersley Oxford
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Excel English
Frances King School
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Kaplan Aspect
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Kings Colleges
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Lake School of
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      (Canada, Cyprus,
      Ireland, England,
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Lewis School of
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Living Learning
(The) London School
      of English  
Malvern House
      College London  
Millfield English
      Language Holiday
Queen Ethelburga's
Southbourne School
       of English  
Study Group  
      (Australia, Canada,
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Thames Valley
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Twin Group  
University of
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Wickham Court
Wimbledon School
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Alliance Française
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Home Language
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Université de
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International House
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ATC Language and
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Cork English
The Linguaviva

Clubclass Residential
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EC English Language
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Global Village English

Rotorua English
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Worldwide School
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Interlink School of   

Choices International
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Malaca Instituto -
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Malaga Si  
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EF Language
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Boston School of
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California School
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California State
      University Chico  
California State
      University Long
California State
      University San
ELS Language
International House
      San Diego  
San Diego State
University of
      California Berkeley
University of
      California Riverside  
University of
      California San
Zoni Language
      (Canada, USA)

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