May 2013 issue

News Round Up
Inside the industry
Agency Survey
Secondary Focus 1
Secondary Focus 2
Tertiary Focus 1
Tertiary Focus 2
Vocational Focus
Special Report
Course Guide
Regional Focus
Market Analysis

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Ireland's strength

Ireland’s English language schools attracted a wide variety of nationalities onto their courses in 2012, according to STM’s Status survey of EFL schools in the country. Although traditional Western European student markets remain the mainstay of the sector, reports Bethan Norris.

Irish language schools’ overall marketing budget by region % Top nationalites in Ireland by student weeks – according to schools, 2012
W Europe 59%
Asia 13%
C&E Europe 13%
Latin America 9%
Middle East 5%
Australasia 1%
Italian 29%
Spanish 20%
Austrian 10%
French 8.4%
Brazilian 7.8%
Korean 4.2%
Saudi 4.1%
German 3.3%
Swiss 3.2%
Japanese 1.5%
Russia 1.4%

Source: STM Status survey on Ireland

Commission Student numbers by age range
23% is the average commission paid on a language course

24% is the average paid for commission on accommodation by three of the institutions profiled

12-15: 5%
16-18: 17%
19-24: 32%
25-30: 30%
30-50: 14%
50+: 2%

Means of recruiting students in the Ireland, 2012 (schools) Reasons for learning English
Agents 60%
Internet 19%
Local bookings 9%
Other means 12%
Current or future work 59%
University/college studies at home 20%
Further studies in another English speaking country 10%
Further studies in Ireland 7%
For pleasure only 4%

Student's region of origin How did students find out about their school
Western Europe 58.5%
Latin America 20%
Asia 14%
Central and Eastern Europe 4%
Middle East 3.5%
Agent 38%
Internet 29.5%
Friend/relative 29.5%
Advertised 3%

Total marketing spend by sector and by category in %
Agency costs 39%
Commission 27%
Incentives 6%
Agency brochures 6%

Travel costs 38%
Agent workshops 17%
Student exhibitions 5%
Agency visits to school 4.5%
Entertainment 4.5%
Trips to agencies 7%
Publicity costs 23%
Agent mags 2%
Student mags etc 1%
Brochure, video etc 12%
Internet 8%

Ask the students – view from the classroom

147 individuals from 22 different countries took part in our survey of current language school students in Ireland

58 per cent of respondents were from Western Europe
20 per cent of respondents were from Latin America
56 per cent of respondents booked their course through an agency
29.5 per cent of respondents found their school through the Internet
98 per cent of respondents would recommend their school
56 per cent of respondents were staying in homestays
65 per cent of students had been on a previous study abroad trip
59 per cent of respondents were learning English for current or future work purposes
54 per cent of respondents found it very easy or quite easy to practise their English with local people
14 per cent of respondents thought that there were too many students who spoke the same language as them in the classroom

Number of participating language schools: 20
Total number of students at the organisations in 2012: 33,473
Total number of student weeks in 2012, estimated: 153,976
Participating schools: ACET; Active Language Learning; Aisling Ireland; Alpha College of English; Atlas Language School; Bridge Mills Galway Language Centre; Centre of English Studies; Delfin English School; Eden School of English; EFL Ireland; Galway Cultural Institute; Home Tuition Ireland; International House Dublin; International School of English; Killarney School of English; Linguaviva Centre; Malvern House; Profitz Language Training; Slaney Language Centre; Travelling Languages.

4.6 weeks Overall average length of stay

20 hours Average language tuition per week

Ireland as an English language study destination has been becoming more popular with a wider range of student nationalities of late and this can largely be attributed to the deliberate marketing efforts of schools to reach new markets.

Elisabeth Okasha from the Language Centre at University College Cork says that they have had 50 different nationalities at the language centre over the course of the year. “The most populous in our part-time classes are Malaysian, German, French and Spanish students but in our full-time classes, the most populous are Saudi and Kuwait,” she says. “We are seeing the results of our active marketing campaigns in increasing numbers of Japanese, Korean and Libyan students coming to take full-time classes. We are also getting greater numbers of students from various South American countries.”

The Language Centre at University College Cork is not the only language school in Ireland to look further afield to increase student enrolments for English language courses. Jonathan Quinn from the Centre of English Studies in Dublin says that the school has seen increasing student numbers from the Middle East and South America over the past year. “The fact that CES is now an official Ielts test centre makes us attractive as the students can take their Ielts course and exam with CES,” says Quinn. “We have also been working very hard with our many good agents in these areas to try and enhance our profile.”

While Ireland is definitely becoming more attractive to students from the Middle East and South America, the more traditional student markets in Western Europe – particularly Italy and Spain – are also holding their own in the face of economic difficulties at home. Paul Barton from Linguaviva Centre in Dublin says that student numbers at the school increased by 15 per cent last year with the student mainstay nationalities of Austria, Italy, Germany, France and Spain being the most numerous. However, he adds, “Spanish numbers have dropped, probably due to the lack of grants now being given out [by the Spanish government].”

While Europe’s economic problems have inevitably resulted in a decline in the number of students from Italy and Spain accessing funds to study abroad, it seems that, in the main, Ireland has not suffered a large decline in student numbers from these countries. David O’Grady, CEO of school association MEI highlights the surprising strength of both Italy and Spain as student markets in 2012 (see box page 57) while our own survey results point to healthy numbers from both these European countries.

However, some schools have experienced a decline in numbers from Western European student markets, highlighting the importance of increased marketing activities elsewhere. Quinn says, “Students from some of our traditional markets such as Spain and Italy have seen a decrease. I would put this down to the difficult economic circumstances those countries find themselves in.”

MEI has been concentrating its efforts on developing the student markets of Turkey and China in the last year with the continuation of a pilot scheme introduced in 2010 (See STM, July 2012, page 59) and a new pilot scheme introduced for Chinese students in 2012 (see STM, May 2012, page 9). O’Grady says that the Turkish scheme has seen a modest growth in Turkish student numbers at MEI member schools and as the result of a review at the end of 2012, “the scheme has been broadened and deepened to incorporate most categories of students and the student stay can be for a period of 24 weeks [up from 90 days]”. He also points out, “Most importantly it has begun to raise awareness of Ireland in the minds of Turkish agents and students and has seen many MEI schools now include Turkey in their marketing visits.”

Stephen Shortt, Manging Director at Alpha College of English, says that more work is needed to fully develop the potential of the MEI schemes in the future. “I think both markets have huge potential for Ireland but the take up has been slower than I would have expected. It’s up to us to change that,” he says.

While it may take some years for the fruits of all this work by MEI – the China pilot scheme is set to be relaunched in 2013 after hitting teething problems in 2012 – to be transformed into physical student numbers, there is no doubt that Ireland’s EFL industry has a higher profile in more countries than a few years ago and this has definitely resulted in strong student enrolments across the board.

Adam Macklin from Delfin English School in Dublin says that they received 500 more students at the school than last year. “At present the top four countries from which our students came from are: Brazil, Spain, Italy and Korea,” he says. “These countries have a massive interest in improving their conversational language skills and also have particularly active agencies and partners.” Macklin also puts the increase in numbers down to “returning students and personal recommendations” and adds that the school’s recent expansion has also borne fruit. “We have found that there has been an increased interest in the Dublin school since we opened our London branch,” he says.

As well as increasing and diversifying their marketing tactics, EFL schools in Ireland have also been busy developing their course offerings over the last year with some innovative developments in this area. “Our new CLIL teachers course is proving very popular, as well as the junior rugby programme,” says Quinn in Dublin. “An increased number and variety of Ielts courses has also helped boost numbers in that area. This programme for our junior students has seen a fantastic return with numbers increasing year-on-year.”

A definite trend among schools in Ireland appears to be the development of more academic, exam preparation or targeted language learning classes for students. Macklin says, “We have increased and improved our courses, offering new areas of study, more exam preparation classes and extended our social activities. After talking with students we sometimes find an interest in business language skills, Irish culture or particular language skills.”

Okasha at University College Cork believes that more courses offering academic credit is the key to increasing numbers in the future. “We are also increasing our marketing efforts to attract full-time students from the Far East,” she says.

David O’Grady, CEO of MEI, the national association of English language teaching schools in Ireland, talks about the development of the ELT industry in Ireland as a whole and highlights the current focus of the association…

“In recent years Ireland has become quite a traditional destination for ELT students, often as a result of marketing by the Irish schools in student markets around the world. Of course there are still markets in which Ireland has a very low profile and it is the role of MEI to tackle such a situation.

International students come to Ireland for a wide range of reasons: quality of courses on offer; the feeling that Ireland may be off-the-beaten-track and thereby have fewer students from one particular linguistic background; a vague association with mistiness, writers, music, poetry, sociability, ambiance; a feeling that education is taken seriously in Ireland; a clear accent; the fact that more and more Irish schools are linked to agents worldwide who are in a position to offer Ireland as an attractive alternative to other English speaking destinations.

Competing with larger/stronger competitors is what we have to do all the time. We have to be sleek, run faster and be more nimble than the big players to be able to stay in the race. Currency can sometimes be the edge; pricing; turning our remoteness to our advantage by being able to assure students they won’t be overwhelmed by teeming compatriots; emphasising small, quiet, quality; playing on Ireland’s reputation for friendliness and openness; trying to persuade the authorities to keep the visa regime user-friendly; also convincing the authorities to keep the right to work policy in place.

The traditional student markets of Italy and Spain remained surprisingly strong in 2012. Those two markets remain the strongest, in terms of numbers of students. Brazil also remains strong in number of student weeks. Russia has shown the strongest growth, albeit from a low base. Saudi student numbers remain consistent.

Obviously, when your main student markets are experiencing an economic slump there is cause for concern. Hence, attempts to increase market share from Turkey, Russia and China.

The MEI focus for 2013 is Turkey, China and Russia. While not neglecting the traditional markets in Europe, we need to use our limited resources to promote Ireland (and MEI schools) as a quality destination in markets that are growing and where people have greater disposable income.”

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The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Study Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.






Global Immersions Inc  
Sara's New York Homestay LLC  

English Australia  
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International House World Organisation  
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English Language & Foundation Studies Centre  
ILSC Australia  
UNSW Global Pay Limited (University of New South Wales)
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Cambridge Esol  

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EF International Language Centers  
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Malta Tourism Authority  

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