||While consumer confidence about study abroad and Japan's economy is still shaky, agencies are nevertheless seeing increased business, as career motivations influence Japanese clients.
|Agencies placed between 100 and 7,000 students on language courses per year
Nine of the 11 agencies in our survey placed 16,650 students in 2001 (two did not answer)
Average growth of combined agency business in 2001 was 23 per cent
Estimated average spend per week for tuition and accommodation was US$432
Commission from schools ranged from 15 to 25 per cent, averaging at 20 per cent
An estimated 51 per cent of Japanese students studied in June, July and August
Two-thirds of agents charged clients a handling fee
Individual bookings accounted for an average 84 per cent of business
The number of countries represented by agencies ranged from one to 26
Sixty-two per cent of students were aged between 19 and 30 years old
||Most popular courses
New Zealand 13%
Junior progs. 12%
Lang. + work 9%
Summer vac. 7%
Academic prep. 6%
Language plus 2%
|Reasons for language travel
||Age range of clients
|Studies overseas 38%
Studies at home 20%
Current work 10%
|Most popular languages
||How do agencies find new schools to represent?
Other (incl. direct contact from schools) 17%
|Percentage of agents who recognised each of the following organisations
CEC Network 38%
Education New Zealand 88%
British Council 88%
Bookings rose steadily in 2001 for the 11 agencies that took part in our Agency Survey this year, in line with our Agency Survey last year (see Language Travel Magazine, October 2001, pages 16-17), when a similar average growth in business was recorded. This year, our survey showed an overall increase in business of 23 per cent. Last year, this figure was 27.5 per cent. Yet, one agency bucked the figure this year by reporting a 120 per cent increase in bookings in 2001. Otherwise, growth was more muted, with two agencies reporting a decrease of 10 per cent in business and a further two reporting that business levels had stayed the same.
Japan's economy remains unstable, and this, coupled with the decrease in consumer confidence due to September 11, is affecting trends in student demand and motivation. Two agents pointed to September 11 dampening demand for study abroad, while others claim the state of the economy is encouraging clients to further their skills and enhance career opportunities. A relatively low 18 per cent of clients were studying for current work purposes. Studies overseas, at home or studying for pleasure were more prevalent reasons for students enrolling on a language course, perhaps with future career goals in mind.
Language and destination trends
English remained the dominant language requested amongst clients, while destination choice was quite varied. The USA, Australia, the UK, Canada and New Zealand all polled between 13 per cent and 30 per cent of the vote for student preference.
Some of our agency respondents represented large agencies with more than one branch. One agency was also affiliated to a mainstream travel agency. Therefore, the number of institutions represented by agencies ranged from 50 to 731. On average, our agent respondents established 32 new partnerships with schools in 2001. In terms of client consultation, 30 per cent of students changed their mind about their country of choice after counselling, while 25 per cent chose a different city and 35 per cent a different school. Only six per cent had a fixed idea about institution prior to agency advice, 26 per cent had chosen a preferred city while 75 per cent had opted for a particular country to study in.
Forecast for 2003
Two agents forecast increased interest among younger clients, as English language learning is introduced at primary school-level and parents seek to invest in their children's education.
There have been slow signs of Japan's export-led economic recovery, but with a 0.4% contraction in GDP growth from April to June this year, economists are still worried about the economy's resilience, especially given continued economic uncertainty in the USA.
According to the International Monetary Fund, Japan's GDP growth is estimated to be -1.0% overall in 2002 and 0.8% in 2003.
There are signs that confidence is returning among Japanese consumers. The Cabinet Office in Japan announced a rise of 0.9 points in the quarterly consumer sentiment index in June, up from a record 1.5 points rise in March. But the index remains, at 39.3 points, at a low level.
Source: Reuters News Service, International Monetary Fund.
Thank you to the following agencies for taking part in our survey: ACE, Acosta, International Exchange Support Centre, ICC, ICS, K-Max Japan, Madore International, Network Communications, Ryugaku Moushikomi Centre, Ryugaku Times, Youth Exchange Service.
Japanese agents named a range of language programmes they work with, including, in Australia: East Coast College of English, Brisbane; Melbourne Language Centre, Melbourne. In Canada: Canada Language Centre, Vancouver. In Italy: Linguaviva, Florence. In New Zealand: Dominion English Schools, Auckland; Seafield School of English, Christchurch, Edenz Colleges, Auckland. In the UK: Stratford-upon-Avon School of English, Stratford-upon-Avon, House of English, Brighton. In the USA: FLS International, Pasadena, CA. Worldwide: Aspect ILA, Internexus, Study Group, ELS Language Centres.