May 2007 issue

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in Germany

Last year was a good year all round for German language schools, but nevertheless, visa problems are having a dampening effect on enrolment from certain destinations. Amy Baker reports.

German language tuition providers are upbeat in their assessment of business last year after a couple of lacklustre years in terms of business growth, according to previous reports (see Language Travel Magazine, February 2006, page 21).

In what is a diversified market, lacking any central lobbying group or marketing association, reports are positive from all those German language teaching centres that contributed to this feature. Niels von Eisenhart Rothe of S&W Training in Meersburg am Bodensee points to an increase of 18 per cent in enrolments in 2006 compared with 2005. Florian Meierhofer of BWS Germanlingua paints an even rosier picture: “Business performance has been absolutely great for our schools in Munich and Berlin,” he says. “We had an increase of 35 per cent on student weeks, so we are quite happy about that.”

Meierhofer believes one reason for the upturn in business may be the effect of the football World Cup being held in Germany last year, and showcasing Germany as a “beautiful country with lots of sunshine!” Von Eisenhart Rothe also points to a growing proportion of US clients, while other schools underline that rising demand has also been noted from Russia, Brazil, Mexico and Japan.

At GLS Sprachenzentrum Berlin, Dorothee Robrecht – who underlines a steep incline in student numbers last year – offers a unique reason for the good upturn in business at this school: a new campus in a trendy area of Berlin with studio apartments on-site. “Obviously, this is something that students are looking for and find very attractive,” she notes.

While demand seems to be growing from a number of markets, it is not a diversification of product types, pinpointed by some schools in our previous report, that has helped to win business; far from it. Most schools indicate that the standard intensive German language programme still accounts for the lion’s share of bookings and it may be other services that win enrolments.

“What we observe is that the majority of students are booking our standard courses, any ‘frills’ attached don’t seem to be very attractive,” says Robrecht, while Meierhofer says that 95 per cent of his bookings are for the general German course. At did deutsch-institut Berlin, Axel Freudenfeld states that the 24-lesson intensive course is most popular, while the did school representatives in Frankfurt and Munich also point out that after intensive courses, TestDaf preparation classes – TestDaf is used for university entry – have risen in popularity in the last two years.

Europeans, such as British, Swiss and French, appear to make up the most significant share of nationalities at German language schools. Asian nationals, such as Japanese and Chinese, have also figured in the league table, but problems are being reported with visas from certain Asian countries, despite the overall market upturn. Ulrich Schmidt from Friedlaender Schule in Berlin says, “Students from non-European Union (EU) countries now have big problems to come here” and Meierhofer adds, “For certain countries, we encounter huge visa problems. For example, the big Chinese market is now almost completely dead.”

He relates that since the German embassy took the decision to start conducting interviews with visa applicants in German, the market has suffered. “This means that students are forced to learn the language in China before they can come to Germany to study at a German university.” This may have more of an effect on the academic-oriented German market than newly introduced tuition fees at some universities (see box).

With visa challenges affecting the market, the question of whether schools might work together for the good of the sector is relevant. However, some schools point to their membership of international or European industry associations, such as Ialc or Eaquals, as filling the gap left in the national marketplace since the disbandment of IQ Deutsch some years ago.

Freudenfeld cites a lack of interest in the most recent attempt to set up a national association and further suggests that although the German government runs the chain of Goethe Institut schools, its efforts actually work against the interests of the country’s private language teaching sector. Meierhofer adds, “Compared with the UK, the British Council is a partner of British language schools and the Goethe Institut is a competitor of German language schools.”

If the sector managed to get the government to work more proactively with the entire German language teaching industry, the outlook for the future could be more positive. As it is, Meierhofer says, “We will be very happy if we will have the same numbers of students again in 2007.”

WImpact of fees for higher education

In 2005, a landmark court decision paved the way for all universities in Germany to start charging fees to students for higher education (see Education Travel Magazine, May 2005, page 45). A popular long-term study destination, Germany still remains a very affordable option, however, to date, seven of the 16 regional states have started charging fees.

Nevertheless, some industry members are concerned about the effect this might have on enrolment from students intending to learn German as a prelude to enrolling at a university. Chinese and Vietnamese students, for example, favour Germany for its very affordable university tuition fees.

Dorothee Robrecht from GLS Sprachenzentrum Berlin observes, “We prepare many students for language certificates that they need in order to attend a German university. In the past, German universities were attractive as students did not have to pay.” And Ulrich Schmidt from Friedlaender Schule in Berlin says, “If universities will have fees, then I think there’ll be fewer students, especially from developing countries.”

However, Eva Matthäi, from Carl Duisberg Centren, is confident that there will be little impact on this market segment. “German universities charge a fee of around US$500 per semester,” Fees are still considerably lower than in other countries,” she notes.

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

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.





English Australia
Perth Education City

Malta Tourism

International House
       World Organisation

English Australia
Perth Education City

Bodwell College
Cowichan Valley School District # 79
Richmond School
       District # 38
Stewart College of

Mandarin House

World Education

Global Study
       (Karlov College)

Aspect (Australia,
       Canada, Ireland,
       Malta, NZ, UK, USA)
Bell International
International House
International House
       World Organisation
LAL Language and
       (England, Malta,
       South Africa, USA)
Malvern House
       College London
Queen Ethelburga's
Sels College London
St Clare's Oxford
St Giles Colleges
       (Canada, UK, USA)
Study Group
       (Australia, Canada,
       England, France,
       Germany, Ireland,
       Italy, New Zealand,
       South Africa,
       Spain, USA)
Tellus Group
Twin Group

AGISEFE - Université
       de Savoie
Alliance Française,
Home Language
       Austria, Brazil,
       Canada, Chile,
       China, Czech
       Republic, Denmark,
       Egypt, Finland,
       France, Germany,
       Holland, Hungary,
       Ireland, Italy,
       Japan, Malta, NZ,
       Norway, Poland,
       Portugal, Russia,
       Spain, Sweden,
       Switzerland, UK,
       USA, Venezuela)
Institut International
       de Rambouillet
Lyon Bleu
SILC - Séjours
       (England, France,

Carl Duisberg
       (England, Germany)
inlingua Berlin
Prolog- International
       House Berlin

Galway Cultural
High Schools
       (Australia, Canada,

International School
       of English
Malta Tourism

SELF Escola de

       Management AB
       (Russia, Ukraine)

University of

Cape Studies

Pamplona Learning
       Spanish Institute

EF Language
       Colleges Ltd
       (Australia, Canada,
       China, Ecuador,
       England, France,
       Germany, Ireland,
       Italy, Malta, New
       Zealand, Russia,
       Scotland, South
       Africa, Spain, USA)
       (Australia, Canada,
       England, France,
       Germany, Italy,
       Japan, New
       Zealand, Russia,
       Spain, Switzerland,

ALCC - American
ELS Language
       (Canada, USA)
inlingua New York
International House
       San Diego

Kaplan Educational
       (Canada, UK, USA)
University of
University of
       San Diego
University of
       Santa Cruz
Zoni Language
       (Canada, USA)



Bodwell College
Cowichan Valley
       School District # 79
Richmond School
       District # 38
Stewart College
       of Languages