||Felca and Gaela focus on global trends
National language school and agency associations gathered in London recently to present key market data and trends from both sides of the study travel industry.
The Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca) was joined this year by 11 national members of the Global Alliance of Education and Language Associations (Gaela), for a special event held before the StudyTravel Alphe UK Conference.
The heads of EnglishUSA and English UK both articulated concerns about strong currencies. Cheryl Delk-Le Good, Executive Director of EnglishUSA, referred to a recent survey in which less than 30 per cent of members expected an increase in their summer and autumn student intake.
The market share of school associations was a common theme through the presentations: English Australia represents 45 per cent of all registered language schools, but 88 per cent of students; 46 per cent of private language schools are English New Zealand members, but the association accounted for 81 per cent of students; and Feltom in Malta reported 41 per cent of registered schools but 86 per cent of incoming students.
Groupement FLE, one of three non-English language school associations presenting, said there were 132,000 language students in France at schools with the Qualité FLE accreditation label in 2014, according to a first-ever survey of the 90 institutions, with an average stay of 4.6 weeks and Germany cited as the top source country.
From the agency side, Scott Wade, Coordinator of Felca, presented an overview of data from the agency associations, highlighting growth trends, opportunities and challenges faced in the respective markets.
Battling against a weakened rouble, the Russian agency association AREA registered a 20 per cent decline in business last year, but more positive trends were recorded by Tieca in Thailand at 40.7 per cent, as well as the associations of Brazil, Italy and Japan.
Brazilian association Belta has experienced difficulties in promoting the UK since the closure of the UK consulate, meaning documents have to be sent to Colombia, while Tieca said the UK’s introduction of biometric testing and the immigration health surcharge were challenges.
Taiwanese association Ieca reported on the creation of a ‘study group’ deposit committee to arrange insurance cover for group bookings, with 28 members currently signed up. And several agency associations were reported to be benefitting from government study abroad initiatives, including those of Russia, Japan and Italy.
(see StudyTravel Magazine, September 2015, page 83).
LILA* London school closes
UK-based language provider LILA* has announced the closure of its London school after one year, citing challenging market conditions.
LILA* Director Leanne Linacre said, “After exploring other options and after much consideration we decided to close. It was a very difficult decision. However, we couldn’t see the market changing in 2016.”
Leanne told StudyTravel Magazine that the strength of the pound was impacting across most markets to dampen enrolments at the London school, with many partner agents unable to send as many students to the capital as they had anticipated. She added that enrolments at LILA*’s original centre in Liverpool had held their own during 2015.
The LILA* team is working with students and agents impacted by the closure to find suitable replacement schools in London.
Director, Victoria Lee said, “It’s really unfortunate we’ve had to close as the feedback we received from students was fantastic, they loved the location, facilities and staff; however, we couldn’t reach the numbers we needed to make it work.”
Marketing Manager, Sarah Hamilton, said, “We’ll be welcoming more groups to Liverpool throughout 2016 and expanding our adult and junior group portfolio.”
LILA* Liverpool has recently unveiled a new Live In Language programme to its portfolio, offering one-to-one tuition at a teacher’s home.
Leanne said, “We have a healthy pipeline in Liverpool, and we’re using this as an opportunity to refocus and direct our efforts on ensuring an excellent experience for agents and students alike.”
New pathway agreements for CEG and Study Group
Global providers Cambridge Education Group (CEG) and Study Group have made new pathway announcements.
CEG has unveiled California State University Monterey Bay (CSUMB) as the latest partner institution in the USA for its Oncampus pathway brand, with the first student intake due in January 2016.
Upon completion of the University Transfer Program at Oncampus Cal State Monterey Bay, successful students will progress into the second year of a degree course at CSUMB, where 23 majors are on offer, ranging from Business Administration and Psychology to Marine Sciences and Cinematic Arts & Technology.
Meanwhile, Study Group has announced a 10-year extension to its agreement with the University of Sussex, continuing the international education provider’s longest-standing UK academic partnership.
The International Study Centre (ISC) at the University of Sussex provides International Foundation Year, International Year One and Pre-Master’s programmes to transition students into full study at the university.
Study Group has already unveiled a new-look ISC on campus as part of the new agreement, and said it would launch new academic programmes.
Study Group’s collaboration with the University of Sussex, its first public-private partnership, dates back to 2006 and has already been renewed twice.
Visas damaging South African EFL, but hopes of reform
South Africa’s EFL sector is feeling the full impact of student visa regulations introduced last year, with school association Education South Africa (EduSA) reporting a 34 per cent decline in student numbers and a 26 per cent drop in student weeks for the first half of 2015.
EduSA’s 23 member schools welcomed 3,589 students from January to June, compared with 5,419 in the same period last year. Measures introduced by the Department of Home Affairs last year mean that language study is no longer considered a valid reason to apply for a study visa.
The Q2 (April to June) EduSA member school data shows an even more visible effect, with student number and student week declines of 46 per cent and 23 per cent respectively.
Johannes Kraus, Chair of EduSA and Director of Kurus English, told StudyTravel Magazine the visa regulations had clearly impacted on some key markets. “For example, we had a 55 per cent decline in student numbers from South America, one of our most popular long-term booking markets. Also Africa is down 37 per cent in the first half of the year. The decrease in student arrivals from Angola has affected most of the schools in South Africa.”
Within the 2015 Q2 figures, student numbers from all five of South Africa’s top source markets in 2014 declined by at least 30 per cent. Brazil, the largest source market last year, fell by some 60 per cent in Q2.
Moreover, the lack of straightforward travel visa entry has also dampened marketing efforts in certain key markets, said Johannes. “Basically, the markets that need visas from day one for coming to South Africa: Angola, Libya, Saudi Arabia and China.”
On a more positive note, Johannes said there were encouraging signals that the government was listening to the sector’s concerns.
“Actually there is movement at the moment, and we are full of hope that the Department of Home Affairs and the Department of Higher Education and Training are meeting any day now. Both departments are aware of the problem, and both have expressed willingness to find an interim solution that would give us, as EduSA, the time to find our place in the South African educational landscape,” he said.
Another factor impacting on the South African industry is the current low oil price, which has dampened demand for company investment in ESP programmes in the oil and gas sectors, particularly in Angola, which saw student numbers fall 30 per cent in Q2.
Gavin Eyre, Managing Director of IH Cape Town, which has a branch school in Angola, explained the Angolan budget was based on US$100 per barrel, leading to a shortfall at the current rate of US$48.
Howard Johnson, Centre Manager at Eurocentres Cape Town commented, “There has been a huge decrease in Angolans to South Africa. The main reason is visas, but many companies are tightening their belts because of the low oil price. We even had a mail from one company clearly stating no training will be happening in the first half of 2015 until further notice.”
Chinese agents unperturbed by downturn
Member agencies of Beijing-based association Bossa have said they are not concerned about the country’s slowing of growth or weakening currency.
Jon Santangelo, Communications Director at Bossa, said, “Overall, the recent economic downturn hasn’t affected agents or the demand to study overseas. Parents with intentions to send their children to study abroad often secure their overseas expenses in advance.”
Jon said a wide array of Bossa member agencies, from small to large, were unanimous in stating they were not worried. “One member agency said, ‘Though the recent plunges in the Chinese stock market might have caused shrinkage in lots of families’ savings, Chinese households are generally conservative and tend to invest only a small part of their savings in the stock market.’”
Other agents said that the state of the economy is rarely a key consideration in deciding to study abroad. Indeed, Santangelo said business has been increasing during this year for Bossa’s member agencies.
Speaking in the Times Higher Education recently, Vincenzo Raimo, Pro Vice-Chancellor (Global Engagement) at the University of Reading, said British universities were now in a much more dangerous position than when the Asian financial crisis of 1997 impacted on recruitment from South East Asia.
However, Jon said, “The market will stay strong for at least another three-to-five years; studying abroad has deeper value among Chinese families, and the current economic downturn in China is not comparable to the 1997 Malaysian crisis.”
Felca unveils new board and President
The Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca) has elected a new board, with Maura Leão becoming President of the global agency alliance.
The Felca board is completed by: Chairman Masaru Yamada; Vice Presidents Paolo Barilari and Eren Göker; Treasurer Penprapa Vudhivate; Advisory Council Juan Manuel Elizalde and Pascal Carré; and Secretary General Hannah Dao.
Maura, who recently returned for a second spell as President of Brazilian agency association Belta, said, “It is truly an honour to be among leaders from several countries with great knowledge about our industry in their markets. And to have the opportunity to represent them is a very enriching experience for me professionally.”
Commenting on the main objectives for the next four years of her presidency, she said, “We want to advocate for a better and more fruitful understanding between educators and agents, bring innovative ideas for the trade and have more national associations from other countries around the globe as part of the federation.
“We should be aware of and sensitive to the global changes that negatively influence our industry and therefore help the associations find solutions to face them.”
Maura said it was more important than ever that Felca acted as a unified voice for quality agents. “Felca can advocate for the industry interests and for helping to find solutions to maximise the flow of students going abroad. With Felca’s vision, we can try to work closer to collaborate with governmental policies on international education. We can keep an eye on global mobility trends and help each association, depending on what they are looking for.”
She added, “The best thing about Felca is to be able to share best practices, considering the diversity of countries that are members of the federation.”
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