October 2006 issue

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UK forges ahead

Language schools in the UK have been updating their course offerings to remain competitive and business seems to have been good overall as a result. Bethan Norris reports on the latest in the UK marketplace.

Innovation appears to be the name of the game for UK language schools this year as many schools report that they have recently introduced or updated new programmes in order to increase their appeal to students. “In 2006, Anglo Continental has not only developed new English courses for professionals in the world of aviation but has undergone major refurbishment of 40 of its 70 classrooms, built an entire new executive centre and a sun terrace in its gardens,” says Guido Schillig from Anglo-Continental in Bournemouth, which has seen “double digit growth” in student enrolments at the school in the last 12 months.

Jackie Gresham from the English Language Centre at the University of Sheffield reports an increase in student numbers on both their academic preparation and general English summer programmes and explains, “We have added a work experience course and hope to expand this [in the future].”

With the UK being an expensive language learning destination for international students, schools in the country are aware that they have to stay abreast of the latest industry trends in order to remain competitive the global marketplace. One particular trend that UK schools are picking up on is the growing demand for courses that combine language tuition with work experience or paid work programmes and schools that have already introduced such programmes report that they have seen a positive effect on enrolments. “Work placement courses are attracting more Eastern European students from Moldova, Romania and Russia,” confirms Helen Murphy from Regency College in Hove, while Kieley Robinson from Totnes European School in Devon adds, “Our main selling point is that we offer work experience courses.”

Academic courses are also proving popular with students. At EC English, student enrolments have increased steadily across all centres in London, Cambridge, and Brighton, says Emma English at the school. “An increasing proportion of students are booking more long-term courses such as exam preparation and academic year,” she says. “Students are also attracted by our multi-destination programme where they can experience a semester in London, Cambridge, Brighton and our centre in Malta.”

With such determined efforts to remain competitive, business was good for UK language schools last year, despite the fact that visas continue to be a problem for some nationalities. Brian Brownlee from Anglo European School of English in Bournemouth cites “continuing problems with UK visas” as having the biggest impact on international enrolments over the past year. “China is bad but Ukraine is also a big problem with visas being refused for totally spurious reasons,” he relates. “The visa situation in China has more or less ruined the market there for language training.”

Many in the industry hope that government plans to overhaul the UK’s student visa system by April 2009 will have a beneficial effect on their business (see page 6). While almost everyone in the industry has welcomed plans to simplify the visa process, debate is ongoing over the details of compulsory accreditation that will be required of all schools accepting student visa holders (see left).

However, it is expected that the changes will ultimately benefit the industry as a whole as well as open up previously closed student markets. “Anglo-Continental is very much looking forward to the introduction of the Point-Based System (PBS), which is now known as the Points, Identification and Documentation (PID),” says Schillig in Bournemouth. “This will, for example, finally allow Chinese students to come to the UK to learn English.”

Another development likely to have a positive effect on enrolments at UK language schools is plans to further increase the number of countries within the European Union, with Turkey and Bulgaria joining the trading bloc in 2007. Some schools have already been reaping the benefits, as McEwan explains. “With the proposed EU expansion we are welcoming new partners and therefore increased student weeks from Turkey,” she relates.

Accreditation debate

At present, three different bodies, Accreditation UK, ABLS and the British Accreditation Council (BAC), are recognised by the UK government as legitimiate accreditation authorities. Succesful accreditation from any of these three groups guarantees inclusion on the DfES register; otherwise an inspection of legal status by the DfES is also enough to ensure inclusion on the register.

Student visas (for long-term or non-EU study requests) are only issued to those institutions on the register, but Guido Schillig from Anglo-Continental in Bournemouth points out that the current system has not been effective at getting rid of those operators with dubious business practices, such as registering more students than there is space for and turning a blind eye to no-shows.

Clive Barrow from Beet Language Centre in Bournemouth is unequivocal in his view. “The DfES Registration Scheme is a farce,” he states. “Proper accreditation of all teaching operations in the UK is vital.” Barrow advocates one accreditation scheme for all: “A level playing field, transparent quality control, independently administered, one accrediting body”.

However, other schools stress that one-scheme-fits-all is not in their best interests. Kieley Robinson from Totnes European School in Devon, accredited by ABLS, speaks for small schools: “Although we are bona fide language schools and offering a good service, we are unable to meet the [criteria] of the British Council [co-managers of Accreditation UK].”

Contact any advertiser in the this issue now

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





Education New
       Zealand Trust
English Australia

English Australia

Malta Tourism

InterGlobal Ltd.


Byron Bay English
       Language School
CHEC English
       Language Centre
ELSIS English
       Language School
      in Sydney
English Australia
GEOS Sydney
Global Village
       Sydney (Universal
       English College)
Monash University
Sydney Institute of
University of
University of
       Western Australia

Archer Education
Vancouver English

Mandarin House

Aspect (Australia,
       Canada, England,
       Ireland, Malta,
       New Zealand,
       Scotland, South
       Africa, Spain, USA)
Bell International
       (Malta, UK)
LAL Language and
       Leisure (England,
       Malta, South Africa,
Malvern House
       Language School
Oxford Intensive
       School of English
       (OISE) (Australia,
       England, France,
       Germany, Spain,
Queen Ethelburga's
St Giles Colleges
       (Canada, UK, USA)
Study Group
       (Australia, Canada,
       England, France,
       Germany, Ireland,
       Italy, New Zealand,
       South Africa,
       Spain, USA)

EICAR- Paris
       International Film
SILC - Séjours
       Linguistiques &
       Culturels (England,
       France, Spain)

Prolog- International
       House Berlin

Emerald Cultural
High Schools
       International (HSI)
       (England, Australia,
       Canada, Ireland,

ISI Language School

EC - English
       Language Centres
       (England, Malta,
       South Africa)
Malta Tourism
NSTS (Head Office)

Education New
       Zealand Trust

Language Link,
Liden & Denz
       Language Centre
Moscow Linguistic

inlingua Singapore


EF Language
       Colleges Ltd
       (Australia, Canada,
       China, Ecuador,
       England, France,
       Germany, Ireland,
       Italy,  Malta, New
       Zealand, Russia,
       Scotland, South
       Africa, Spain, USA)
       (Australia, Canada,
       England, France,
       Germany, Italy,
       Japan, New
       Zealand, Russia,
       Spain, Switzerland,

American Language
       Center (ALCC)
Hun School of
       Princeton, The
Kaplan Educational
       Centers (Canada,
       England, USA)
Program for
       American Language
       Studies (PALS)
University of
       California Riverside
University of West
Zoni Language