All together now
Working with agencies around the world is only one way for language schools to maintain their student enrolment levels and most schools will acknowledge that they accept direct bookings and employ other techniques to sell their services to a targeted clientele too. For example, schools may have links with international companies when it comes to finding executive clients for specialised business tuition (page 35).
In our Status survey of Ireland, a typical across-the-board figure for bookings via agencies is just under 50 per cent (page 43). The remaining categories are local bookings, Internet bookings and "other".
Aside from local and Internet-based bookings, Irish schools still typically attract another quarter of their business from "other sources". A main factor here will be word-of-mouth recommendation, but schools may also be contacted by interested parties who found them via a quality association. Our Student Feedback survey reveals that students often look for a school with particular credentials (pages 16-17), and some associations - most recently English UK - offer a searchable database of members via their website (page 7).
The role of a quality school association is multi-faceted, with internal quality and dialogue between members usually as important as external promotion and achieving marketing clout. There seems to have been a frenzy of association activity in recent months, with a new association in both Spain and Ireland being launched (pages 6/7).
While a well-run association can achieve great benefits for its members, in terms of raising the profile of a group, promoting quality and integrity, and even organising events for agents such as international group, Ialc (page 23) unless there is a notable unique selling point of an association, having too many in one market might surely become confusing for members of the industry and public.
A cohesive national approach to associations must be best, but in reality, few markets can now claim to have just one association representing quality interests. Feltom in Malta is one, while New Zealand has Education New Zealand representing all export education interests - although there is also English New Zealand, for certain quality, agent-friendly ELT providers.
Education New Zealand has long shown innovation and dynamism in raising NZ's profile as a study destination and its fam trips (page 10) and visa policy review (page 27) are just two more examples of its joined-up thinking.