The benefits of international exchange are undisputed in our industry, as the majority of those working within international education have seen first-hand the cultural enrichment gained from learning and living in another country, and the enhanced understanding achieved between communities and nationalities.
It is for this reason that many work to promote study abroad and ensure that the opportunity to study overseas remains accessible to others. In the post-September 11 world, national security is under increased scrutiny, but those in the US industry, for example, are campaigning tirelessly to ensure that the new national security measures do not make it too cumbersome for potential students to apply to study in the USA.
The Sevis student tracking scheme is likely to come into effect in the USA on January 1, 2003, and US institutions seem broadly happy to back this new security measure as long as they have enough time and information to inform agents and students about the changes that will be in place. Nafsa is also continuing to campaign to quash the student funding aspect of the Sevis scheme, or to keep it as simple as possible (page 4).
Our Agent Questionnaire candidate, also from the USA, points out that American students are as determined as ever to continue with their study plans, emphasising that there is a recognised value, possibly now more than ever, in study abroad (page 8).
Visa issuance is, of course, a cornerstone of the industry, without which study abroad would not be possible. Efforts to streamline and improve visa processes around the world can usher in benefits for education providers, as long as they are kept up to date about developments. In Australia, schools testify that they have received increased student enrolments, since the new "transparent" immigration regulations came into effect (page 27).
Visas can help grow the industry, but they can also stifle it, if the issuance process becomes problematic. One Yugoslav agent believes that this is the main reason for a lack of expansion within the language travel agency market in Yugoslavia (page 17). The boutique nature of many businesses also testifies to the personal involvement of many within the industry, and the care and precision afforded to each client.
There are continuing efforts from agencies to improve the image of study abroad among the general public. German agency association, FDSV, for example, is aiming to recruit more members and promote its code of conduct to the German public, recognising that the potential for language learning in Germany is still unfulfilled (page 9).
However, despite agencies' best efforts, there are factors mainly economic that can kill the language travel industry overnight. In Argentina, agents and consultants report that the market has in many cases dried up, and those clients looking to study overseas are seeking means to leave Argentina as a direct result of the country's turbulent economic situation (page 8).
There are certainly hard times ahead, but efforts from agencies, institutions and associations will be rewarded for continuing to promote the value of international exchange. Factors such as economic prospects and international peace undoubtedly impact on our market, but a continuing expansion of global understanding, which is only achieveable through international exchange and cooperation, will help ease all of these problems.