Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. Aside from summer vacation what is the next most lucrative sector of your business?
Enrique Helmbrecht, Coined International, Argentina
“Aside from summer vacation, which is vital to our industry, I would say the most lucrative sector of our business is definitely work experience. Students are now more aware of the benefits of taking a professional internship or a volunteer programme abroad and understand this is crucial for their careers and their quest to secure gainful employment. Acquiring international work experience is quickly becoming a prerequisite to professional success within our complex, globalised world. Whether combined with a Spanish course or not, demand for these type of programmes is only increasing. Therefore, we have established a partnership with different organisations from the private and public sector around the world, which enable participants to live and work in a secure environment.”
Ted Tansiri, Trendsetter Education Travel, Thailand
“Speaking from an Asian perspective in general, summer vacation constitutes a major part of the clientele, up to or more than half of the annual intake. The compressed time frame of two to three months during which the summer vacation courses are conducted optimises the overheads for the handling process from visa applications to departure at airports. It is not unusual for the income generated from summer vacation to support the agents concerned for another six months. On the other hand, short general English courses, as a prelude to a working holiday, are overwhelming choices for clients from Japan and to a lesser extent Korea whereas vocational studies are a predominant preference for students from South Asia. Students from China and South-East Asia would look for pathway, academic preparation courses and exam preparation such as Ielts, Toefl and Esol. The financial reward could be quite handsome as there is potential spin off from enrolments in diploma to postgraduate courses following successful completion of academic and exam preparation courses. By the same token boarding school enrolments are a natural consequence of summer courses which act as a testing ground for these potential future students.“
Monica Thompson, Inter-Express, Paraguay
“The most lucrative sector of our business, aside from summer vacation would be winter vacation. But in the last few years we’ve been having more students travelling all year round, especially those wanting to take international exams. An average 75 per cent of our clients prefer to study abroad during our summer months (January to March) when schools and universities are on recess. In July and August, which is winter in Paraguay, we find most of students prefer warmer climates and therefore the northern hemisphere is the first option. Requests for courses in the UK have been growing in the last few years. Most of our clients request general English.”
Mihai Timofte, IEC, Romania
“Our major sector of activity, where substantial efforts are invested, are university placement programmes. Romanian young people are very eager to pursue their education abroad, but almost invariably, are put off by limited funds. IEC is devoted to meet the real interest of its students, this is why we pay special attention to this criterion when selecting educators to establish partnerships. Keen study destinations for young Romanians are Denmark, Finland, Holland because of reasonable tuition fees charged, although we are putting efforts to popularise UK education opportunities for them.”
On the move
Julia Flaherty has been appointed General Manager of English Language Company (ELC) in Sydney, NSW, Australia. Ms Flaherty has extensive management experience in the UK summer school industry and has been involved in marketing and programme management in Australia for the past four years. She has an academic background and previous experience directing courses at ELC.
Ed Peters takes up the new role of Director of Marketing and Communications for Bedford Girls’ School in the UK, a new school formed by the merger of Bedford High School for Girls and Dame Alice Harpur School. Mr Peters moves from St Christopher School in Letchworth Garden City, UK, where he was Director of Marketing and Admissions.
After three years as Area Manager for the Ideal Education Group in Spain, Caroline Norris has moved to the position of International Sales and Marketing Officer for the Skola group of schools in the UK. “I am excited about representing one of the highest quality language schools in the UK. It will be a great opportunity for me to promote my home country!” states Norris.
Anna France is Langports English College in Australia’s new Marketing Manager. France has been working at Langports since the school was founded in 2004 and has worked in the Student Services team in both the Brisbane and Gold Coast campuses. She looks forward to developing the relationships with Langports’ partners and contributing to the growth of the college.
Tim Barker has joined the Language in Group as Sales & Account Executive. Mr Barker worked for five years as Assistant Principal and Head Teenager Activity Leader at Language in Totnes. “I am looking forward to working with agencies to grow both their businesses and ours,” he said.
Book deal for Kaplan International Colleges
Kaplan International Colleges (KIC) and Cambridge University Press have signed a five-year collaboration deal, which will see them work together to produce a new series of texts aimed at those studying English for academic purposes.
The collaboration is looking to provide more thorough and in-depth material than has been previously available. Andrew Thick, Senior Vice President of KIC, noted that it was hoped the two businesses would benefit from each other’s approaches. He added that the combination of KIC’s understanding of the kind of material required by students and Cambridge’s “formidable reputation for demanding standards” will “deliver a highly effective series of texts”. Peers at Cambridge University Press were equally as enthusiastic about the book deal. David Harrison, the English Language Teaching Group Director at Cambridge University Press, stated that the deal is “a great example of two organisations partnering to make the most of complementary skills”.
The end result of this partnership will result in the publication of six texts developed to help foreign students master the use and understanding of academic English: three levels of language for study and three of skills for study.
Work experience provider teams up with language school
Almond Vocational Link (AVL), a company that finds and organises work experience placements for foreign students in the UK’s South West, has joined forces with Atlantic Language Services, a local language provider based in Plymouth, Devon.
The joint venture was prompted by AVL’s acquisition of new premises on the Barbican a busy and historical part of Plymouth.
Given that English language support is vital to students on work experience placements in foreign countries, it was necessary for AVL to find a partner that could offer this service, vouched company Managing Director, Janet Wonnacott.
Opportunely situated nearby and with a growing reputation for language provision, Atlantic Language Services was a natural choice said Wonnacott adding that the aim of the collaboration is “to deliver high quality English Language training at a competitive price”. She added, “All the English language teachers are native speakers and highly qualified to teach English.”
Online practice tests for Cambridge
Exam board Cambridge Esol which offers a range of certificates for learners and teachers of English has developed new online practice tests to help candidates familiarise themselves with the exam format.
Developed by experts at the English language exams department of Cambridge University, the exam body has rolled out practice versions of the Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) and the First Certificate in English (FCE) exam.
Sharon Harvey, Assistant Director of Support Products and Services, noted that practice tests such as these could provide a route to exam success. “When you consider the life changing opportunities associated with passing a Cambridge English test, it’s essential that ambitious students are well prepared for exam day. Passing a Cambridge English test can make all the difference in getting a new job, a place at university and it can help with an immigration application,” she said.
As the only authentic online tests on the market for Cambridge Esol, the online facility will include a full practice test and a detailed report containing feedback and answers. Exam takers can either practise in conditions similar to those of the computer-based test whereby students are required to complete the test in a specified time and will be marked for the work completed or try the “learner mode”, which enables users to check their answers as they go along. “[The tests] can be used to help students with their learning and give them a clear idea of what to expect of the exam itself,” said Harvey.
Disillusioned UK students thrown lifeline
It is estimated that around 170,000 students have been rejected from UK universities (some univeristies were offering last minute spots to high fee-paying international students only) this year in spite of an increase in the standard of results. However, British Entrepreneur and Businessman, Peter Jones, has teamed up with notgoingtouni.co.uk to put together a results day survival guide, which aims to make people aware of all the options available to them.
“Our guide,” says Sarah Clover, Communications Director for notgoingtouni.co.uk, “aims to inform worried students, and parents, that there are many great alternatives to higher education.” The booklet offers advice on how to go about finding a job, doing vocational training, organising a gap year, starting a business and getting a degree without having to go to university.
The guide’s sole purpose is to inform young people and help them consider all their options before making a decision. As a result it is freely available to download, print or reproduce in any way and can be found at www.notgoingtouni.co.uk.
Obituary - Warwick White
Warwick White, Director of the online agency, World’s Best Language Schools, passed away on September 12, 2010. He died suddenly in Hungary just after competing in the Triathlon World Championships in Budapest. Originally from New Zealand, Mr White had made his home in Ecuador and was representing the country in the triathlon.
While the road to government awareness has not been an easy one, MEI Chief Executive, David O’Grady, is keen for the association to position itself well before a new accreditation scheme is introduced in 2011.
Full name: Marketing English in Ireland (MEI)
Year established: 1993
Number of members: 58
Type of members: Private language schools and universities
Association’s main role: To promote the interests of its members abroad in established, emerging and developing markets through the pooling of resources. Focused on academic standards, student welfare and the promotion of excellence of the EFL industry in Ireland
Government recognition: All MEI schools are recognised by the Department of Education & Science
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: MEI Workshop held on 14 October 2010
Contact details: MEI, 1 Lower Pembroke Street, Dublin 2, Tel: +353 16180910, Fax: +353 16180909; E: firstname.lastname@example.org, Web: www.mei.ie
What has you association been up to recently?
The last 12 months for MEI have been significant. We have concentrated a lot on lobbying different government departments and politicians to heighten awareness of our needs and of the importance of the ELT sector to the struggling Irish economy. We have also been attempting to position ourselves where we will be players when the whole new structure of accreditation comes into place in 2011. Sometimes, the processes of interdepartmental planning can be a labyrinth and we need to make sure we are not lost or sidelined in that process. Our membership stands at 58 at the moment. A few members did not renew in 2010 and a few members, sadly, ceased trading in the last 12 months. Academically, we’ve produced an academic English Foundation programme and are awaiting the outcome of representation to have it accredited. We’ve started a process of working with Spanish state teachers to upgrade their English skills. We plan to develop this a lot.
Does the fact that the UK visa system, which is under review again, bode well for Irish schools?
We have been closely monitoring the situation with the UK visa system and hope to prevent the same difficulties applying to us. Naturally, our aim is always to attract students on the strength of our product, but if we also receive business from students who might find themselves excluded from the UK then we are happy to work with that business.
What are your plans for the MEI workshop?
We have not had an MEI Workshop in the last 12 months as we decided to move the workshop from spring to autumn. Therefore, the 2010 MEI Workshop is 14 October in Fota Island, Cork. We’ve had MEI Workshops in Spain, Italy, France and Taiwan in the last 12 months and had big representations at many international fairs and workshops.
The Irish government recently consented to an MEI driven scheme. What will this entail? Is the government any closer to establishing a Q mark?
We’ve secured a deal with the Irish immigration authorities to run a pilot scheme for MEI schools to attract Turkish university students to Ireland. The idea is to make a start on a huge student market which has never been coming to Ireland because of a complicated visa process for potential students. The government is still planning to introduce a quality mark in 2011. We welcome this and look forward to it giving clarification as to what organisations can receive visa-requiring students. Such clarification has been hitherto lacking.
• Budget airline, easyJet, is creating 36 new routes across Europe for 2010. As part of this, it is adding a fifth aircraft to its Manchester service as well as three new routes to Menorca, Sharm el Sheikh and Zurich. This expansion will make easyJet the largest airline in the North of England, a feat that will see them fly around six million people to and from the area in the coming year. It is hoped the venture will help easyJet emphasise its commitment to the UK where UK Regional General Manager, Paul Simmons, says its aim is to provide “greater access to our famously low fares”.
• Qantas, Australia’s largest airline, has revealed that it is actively seeking to expand into China with its budget airline, Jetstars. Despite China being far behind the USA and UK in terms of the number of passengers, Qantas are looking to capitalise on the massive potential that the market holds. This comes after Qantas’s net profits fell by 4.3 per cent this financial year. The company, however, has stated that the situation is improving.
• Iceland’s low-cost airline, Iceland Express, has added two new routes to its list of services. Flights will now be travelling from London to Chicago and Boston via Reykjavik. The already established New York route will also be changed to become a daily service with one-way ticket prices starting at as low as UK£224 (US$345).
• UK-based airline, Jet2.com, is set to expand its routes from Manchester airport for 2011. This will include a flight to Brive in France, a destination that Jet2.com hope will be popular with holidaymakers as well as those English natives living in the region.
• The Thai government has approved plans to go ahead with an expansion of Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport, Thailand, that will cost around US$1.98 billion. The expansion will include a new terminal, car park and connecting tunnel. This will create capacity for a further 20 million passengers. Construction is expected to have finished by 2016.
• The UK government is currently considering making changes to the current tax system that could be favourable to travel companies. The current system requires that if a British company’s overseas branch pays a lower rate of tax in their country, they must pay a ‘top up’ tax to the UK government. However, the new proposals contain no such clause. Travel companies will be hoping that this will help them stay afloat in the current economic climate.
• Virgin Blue Holdings Ltd and Etihad Airways PJSC have signed an agreement that will allow Virgin Blue’s ‘V Australia’ to make direct flights to Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates in 2011. This will make Virgin Blue the first Australian carrier to fly to the Middle East since 1991. In the next few years the airlines will begin operating services between other cities with a joint network of over 100 destinations.
• Frontier Airlines has announced its intent to expand its international service to include a second Costa Rican destination, Liberia. Daniel Shurz, Vice President of Strategy and Planning at Frontier Airlines said this addition would be “a great compliment to our successful service to San José”. Frontier is now the only carrier to fly non-stop from Denver in the USA to San José and Liberia. Seasonal flights to Liberia begin in February 2011.
• STA Travel Group, best known as specialists in adventure holidays for young people, are set to expand to cater for the over 50s market after taking over the Bridge the World brand from Stella Travel Services UK. STA aims to use Bridge the World’s enduring popularity for long-haul flights to give its customers “somewhere to migrate to”.
• Qatar Airways has announced that it will be implementing a 20 per cent increase in the number of flights to Indian cities, including Delhi, Cochin and Amritsar. People from the UK can connect to these flights through a Qatar flight from London to Doha. This change means that in the last year Qatar has increased the frequency of its flights to India by 57 per cent.
Please see the digital issue of Language Travel Magazine for the Grapevine section