With more reminders in this issue that the industry is not in a buoyant state, the importance of concerted promotional efforts and working together is brought home once again.
In Canada, many education institutions are downbeat about their outlook for their year-end 2002 figures, pointing to declining interest in overseas travel to North America and the economic problems in South America as factors contributing to a slowdown in student numbers (page 19).
As student bookings decline, competition for every booking automatically intensifies, not just nationally but internationally too. This is why so many countries are keen for their government to help promote an export promotion strategy that can help win bookings. In Canada, schools report that the government is only just beginning to recognise the industry, and there are dire visa problems that continue to hinder growth of the Chinese market.
In Australia, education associations in the country such as Acpet and English Australia have been working closely with the government to make their student visa legislation more workable and more suited to building the international education market (page 4). Such efforts can give countries a distinct advantage in the global marketplace, as visa issues are crucial to boosting student numbers from any market.
Most of the main English-teaching countries, as well as France and Germany, also benefit from government-backed agencies that provide some kind of generic international promotion for their education export market. Some of these agencies provide services to agents as part of their promotional strategies (page 17).
On top of favourable visa regulation, the efforts of these organisations to promote a brand image for their country as a study destination can greatly help to attract student bookings. The MyNZEd website and brand image developed by Education New Zealand and the country's International Education Marketing Board is a good example of a successful international image.
In the same way, if agents form an association to present a unified front to the public regarding their operations and quality goals, it can significantly raise their standing in the domestic marketplace. Agency associations around the world report that by representing a range of quality agencies in their country, they achieve an enhanced profile for all members and can become the recognised industry voice in the national media (pages 22-26). When a student is choosing their language learning pathway, agency credentials such as membership of an association can certainly help win their business.
There are other advantages too, such as the possibility to access international dialogue and exchange via the global federation of agency associations, Felca. Since its AGM in August, Felca has welcomed even more agency associations into the federation, truly representing industry voices from around the world (page 8).
Interntional cooperation is useful for collaborating with governments and school associations, protecting agency interests and establishing standards globally. At the same time, agencies also need to remember the importance of individual efforts to keep ahead of student demand. Trailblazing on an individual and international level guarantees maximum potential for success. Our Agent Questionnaire candidate underlines the need for creativity in each business when she reports, "We could sense that [our clients] wanted more than language courses" (page 8).