One of our news stories in this issue relates to the biggest players in the ELT market of the UK filing their 2005 company accounts OISE is becoming an astonishingly large company and has continued to expand since 2005 (page 7). With any industry that is around half a century old, creeping consolidation is inevitable, and while some of the language school chains in our industry are becoming bigger, it may not always be apparent if newly purchased brands are left unchanged and operate as before.
With some language school empires expanding in such a way Kaplan is also operating Aspect as a stand alone brand for the year ahead at least another business development is that there is also more crossover occuring between language schools and outbound agencies.
A number of agencies or schools have shares in or own a business on the other side of the commercial divide although the connection is not always made obvious. In effect, this means owning a part of the distribution chain as well as being a provider and the news of the Amerispan closure in the USA and Don Quijote takeover (page 6) is the latest such business development to emerge.
The acquisition of a sizeable agency by a prominent Spanish language school company has raised question marks in the industry, not, primarily, because it could mean the monopolisation of a significant outbound agency but because there have been questions raised about how Amerispan was able to close, leaving such substantial debts to so many ex-partners, and with no apparent way for these debts to be repaid.
At the time of going to press, a website set up by an association of unpaid language schools, Aulas, was urging all other affected schools to come forward and work together to find a solution to reclaim unpaid debts. While it is nice to see schools working together for the good of the majority, whether the association will be successful is likely to be decided by legal experts. But this action has certainly cast the spotlight on financial dealings in our industry, and for industry bystanders, for affected schools, and also for Don Quijote';s Antonio Anadon, as he told me, it has made a strong case for prompt payment by agencies and the need for clearer rules and structures.
This works both ways, as agencies in this issue also talk about payment problems they experience (page 11), with some universities revealed to be notoriously slow at sending back commission that is due to partners.