Industry issues - agents speak out
Q. How will the re-introduction of the higher language level requirement for applying for a general student visa to the UK affect your business do you think?
Dushyant Bachkaniwala, Founder & Director, Dalimit Associates Pvt, India
“I surely think that a decision to scrap the higher language level requirement for UK student visa applicants would encourage more students to apply to UK for higher studies. To date students are quite aware of the language requirements. When this policy [higher language level requirements for general student visa applicants] was introduced, students’ favourite destination changed to Canada as they have quite easy visa rules for Indian students under the Student Partner programme.”
David Duque Terneus, Langex, Ecuador
“Before March, when the UK government decided to apply this rule, our biggest market was the UK but when they took this decision our sales to the UK decreased by at least 60 per cent. Most of our clients prefer Europe and the UK because they have a lot of facilities and opportunities including the visa factor. [Recently] we prefer to offer Canada but the big problem with them is the visa issue where they just accept 50 per cent of our applications and the clients don’t like to travel there because they want to [explore] Europe after their studies.”
Heloisa Marciano, Business Director, World Language School & Internship Programs, Brazil
“My major destination in the past seven years was the UK for sure. I work with genuine students that really need to improve their English for career matters and the UK has [become less popular] for these students as a place to learn a second language. I make sure my students are aware of this new law for long-term studies and they are now asking for new destinations which are Canada and Ireland. They say that they don’t understand why [the UK government is] asking for higher levels of English if their purpose of going to the UK is to get a high level of English skills. As an agent I don’t understand how this decision has been made by the UK authorities.”
Denis Mello, M.A. Intercâmbio & Turismo, Brazil
“Requiring that a Brazilian student has a high level of English to participate in a long-term programme in the UK is not a wise decision, since in Brazil the number of students who are able to learn the English language when they’re young is very low. To reach a high English level studying in Brazil represents at least six years of uninterrupted study and this is a lot of time when it comes to seeking a better job with the need for high level language, which discourages the candidate. Participating in an English long-term programme and still being able to undertake a job, provides a great opportunity for growth as a person and as a professional in less time. The decision to once again demand the high English level shows two things: insecurity and a lack of knowledge of the real benefits they could bring to Brazilian students. The decision to go back and demand the high level of English will bring significant losses to the sales of long-term English programmes. As a destination, the Irish profited from this decision with a growth in sales. They have laws like the UK and a work permit for long-term students. The higher language level requirement for student visa applicants was not a good choice because the long-term study for an English elementary level student gives him/her excellent results.”
On the move
Churchill House Ramsgate in the UK has appointed Greg Patton as Sales and Marketing Director. Mr Patton (top) joins Churchill House from the Icelandic Investment Bank, Kaupthing Premium Finance. Mr Patton will lead the Churchill House sales and marketing activity. Churchill House Ramsgate has also promoted Blanca Kenny (below) to Summer Centres Sales Manager. Ms Kenny will promote the company’s growing portfolio of summer centres across the UK.
Stephan Roussounis has joined Stafford House part of the Cambridge Education Group in the UK as Business Development Director. After many years leading sales at one of London’s most successful colleges, Mr Roussounis is responsible for growing the Stafford House brand into other cities, adding to Cambridge Education Group’s growing international education portfolio.
Jeff Hutcheson is the new President of AAIEP in the USA. He has served in international education for over 20 years and for the past 19 years has worked with intensive English programmes, most recently with ELS Language Centers, where he serves as District Director and Director of Regulatory Affairs. He is looking forward to continuing the advance of IEPs in the USA in their growth/recovery after a decade of decline and slow growth, and to advance the growth of the EnglishUSA brand.
Astrid Wargenau is the newly appointed Alto Association Manager at the Wyse Travel Confederation. After having worked as a German language teacher in the USA, Ms Wargenau moved into the events and conference organising industry, previously organising ITB Berlin and moving on to successfully launch ITB Asia in Singapore.
Cambridge Education Group (CEG) in the UK is delighted to announce the appointment of David Collyer and Fiona Caldwell as Regional Managers for Latin America. With a combined 33 years’ worth of industry experience, Mr Collyer and Ms Caldwell will significantly bolster the group’s expertise and presence in the region. Both had previously worked for Study Group and more recently, Ms Caldwell had acted as a consultant for Bright World Education. She said, “CEG has such diversity in their programme range, meaning there is usually something for everyone from Art & Design to Study Abroad”.
Tefl Lab London opens in Bloomsbury
The Director of the English Studio in London, Mairead Fanning, has set up a new teacher training facility offering a range of courses for students wanting to teach English. Tefl Lab London is situated in Bloomsbury Square in the heart of London and offers an intensive four-week Trinity-accredited Tesol course as well as one and two-day courses for students volunteering on projects overseas.
Course Director, William Tichener, said, “We bring a rigorous academic approach to all our teaching, whether it’s a Trinity-accredited course or a one-day Tefl taster. All our courses are designed to be of real value in the outside world, whether you are helping out on a charity project in Tanzania or teaching at a top London academy.”
The school also offers a 150-hour distance learning Associateship in Tesol, which is delivered through a mix of downloadable video files and specially written workbooks. Fanning said, “The owners of Tefl Lab London also run one of the UK’s most successful language schools and can therefore offer a number of guaranteed jobs throughout the year to Tefl Lab London’s most promising students.”
New student accommodation block in Manchester
Manchester City Council in the UK has granted planning permission to property developing firm, Student Castle, to build a 33-storey student accommodation block in Great Marlborough Street in the city.
Designed by Hodder and Partners, the new building will cost UK£45 million (US$70 million) to build and will house 520 students in self-contained study apartments with cluster-style communal accommodation. The tower, which will be the second tallest building in Manchester, is scheduled for completion in 2012.
Student Castle Chief Executive, Edward Cade, said, “We are delighted to have been awarded planning permission for this landmark scheme in Manchester. As a new expert developer within the sector, we are pleased to have this opportunity to make a positive contribution to the regional economy and higher education sector in one of the UK’s most vibrant cities.”
The property developer is being backed by Carphone Warehouse founder Charles Dunstone. Student Castle is also targeting London, Bath, Birmingham, Brighton, Bristol, Cambridge, Durham, Edinburgh, Exeter, Leeds, Newcastle, Oxford and York for student accommodation developments in the future.
UK approves exams for student visas
The UK government has approved a number of English language tests that will be accepted by the UK Border Agency when processing Tier 4 student visa applications.
General student visa applicants studying on a course that is below NQF Level six have had to provide evidence that their English proficiency is level B1 or above on the Common European Framework of Reference since August 12 this year. The approved tests that must be completed by students include Toefl, Pearson Test of Academic English, Ielts and Cambridge Esol.
A notable exception to the list of approved exams is Toeic, an exam taken by over four million candidates a year.
LSI offers Cambridge computer tests
Global English language school chain, LSI, has signed an agreement with Cambridge Esol to deliver their computer-based tests at its network of 19 schools.
Under the agreement LSI, which has schools in the UK, Canada, USA, Malta, New Zealand, Australia, France, Germany, Switzerland and Saudi Arabia, will offer students a range of language tests from Cambridge in a computer-based format.
David Immanuel, Director of LSI, said of the development, “We have been working with Cambridge Esol for many years, and we are delighted to expand this cooperation. Computer-based testing is growing and I am sure that the Cambridge Esol CBT, which has been very well researched, will ensure that Cambridge Esol remains a leader in English language testing worldwide.”
Cambridge Esol’s Chief Executive, Dr Mike Milanovic, said, “English tests significantly boost individuals’ prospects, so it’s essential students have access to good quality testing regardless of where they are based. By working together, we’re able to offer this benefit to even more ambitious students from around the world.”
Education South Africa’s Chairman, Craig Leith, talks to us about the group’s activities over the last few months and talks about how the recent Fifa football World Cup has affected world views on the country.
Full name: Education South Africa
Year established: 2003 (Eltasa)
Number of members: nine
Type of members: English language schools in South Africa. Associate membership is also available.
Association’s main role: to encourage quality and professionalism in the industry and undertake marketing activities overseas.
Government recognition: no
Code of practice: yes
Complaints procedure: yes
Agent workshops/fam trips: yes
Contact details: EduSA
PO Box 51120
Cape Town 8002
After rebranding as EduSA from Eltasa in October 2009, what has EduSA been up to as a group lately?
At this stage we have still been focussing on increasing our membership. We also had a delegation representing South Africa at the Belta Fair in São Paulo, Brazil, earlier this year, which was funded by the national Department of Trade and Industry.
What marketing activities are you planning for the near future?
We are placing joint adverts in various publications and magazines. We are wanting to host another familiarisation trip with a group of Spanish agents, which should happen towards the end of 2010. Last year, the group hosted a fam trip for a group of eight Turkish agents in August and a group of six Italian agents in November, who were all introduced to the sights of Cape Town.
What factors (either positive or negative) are currently affecting international student numbers and nationalities at your member schools?
It is difficult to say. Before the 2010 World Cup, South Africa had very negative press coverage and representation, particularly in Western Europe. This negativity (rightly or wrongly) highlighted many of the social issues the country is still facing, but with the spotlight falling squarely on crime, it unfairly and wrongly portrayed South Africa as a war zone in which running gun battles and excessive violent crime was the norm. It is too early after the soccer tournament to tell if this trend will be reversed and if South Africa will get a better showing. The other factor would be the lag-effects of the global economic recession, and we think that people are still in the early days of recovery, so they are not travelling as much as they would have three or four years ago.
What effect do you think the 2010 Fifa World Cup has had on increasing South Africa’s profile as a study destination?
It’s too early to tell, but there has been no immediate, positive spin off in the EFL industry in South Africa.
• Singapore’s low cost airline, Tiger Air, is to join forces with Thailand’s national carrier, Thai Airways, to launch a new budget fleet. Fifty-one per cent of Thai Tiger Airways will be owned by the Thai contingent (and another Thai entity) while Tiger Air will possess a 49 per cent stake. Based in Bangkok, the new carrier will offer domestic services, plus international routes that are within five hours of the Thai capital. “The low cost market is growing very fast,” noted Thai Airways President, Piyasavasti Amranand. “This is a chance to help fill the hole before we lose more opportunities to rivals.”
• An independent report commissioned by national tourism agency, VisitBritain, has predicted that the total value of UK tourism is set to increase over the next 10 years. The 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games and world-renowned tourist attractions are said to be the main driving forces and should ensure the sector grows at a rate of 3.5 per cent per annum (above average) between now and 2020. The hugely optimistic report, which used average rates of inflation, warned that government intervention was key to the sectors success. “This makes it clear that tourism, already Britain’s fifth largest industry and third biggest earner of foreign exchange, is going to be central to the health of the British economy for years to come,” said Christopher Rodrigues, Chairman of VisitBritain.
• A new mobile phone application that aims to guide British Airways (BA) passengers through each stage of their journey has been launched. The app, which is available on the iPhone, Android and BlackBerry mobile phones, aims to personalise the overall customer service with busy travellers able to access current or upcoming flight details, check in and view live timetables and flight information. Passengers will also be able to download boarding passes on selected flights. Chris Davies, Head of Digital Marketing at BA, said, “We want live travel information to be available for our customers and make sure they are supported throughout their journey…Content will be tailored, personalised and relevant and we need to focus on making sure that people have the right information at the right time through their journey.”
• Oneworld Alliance members, Japan Airlines (JAL) and Finnair, have expanded their codeshare cooperation. The duo already codeshare on flights between the Finnish capital of Helsinki and Japan’s Tokyo, Osaka and Nagoya airports. Customers were also able to purchase tickets for Finnair-operated flights from JAL for European services to Oslo, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Frankfurt and Amsterdam. However, in August the agreement was extended to include flights operated by Finnair between Helsinki and seven more European cities, including Berlin, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Munich in Germany, Brussels in Belgium, Warsaw in Poland and Gothenburg the second-largest city in Sweden. The alliance partners now offer codeshare services to a total of 13 destinations on 15 different routes.
• The national carrier of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Etihad Airways, is to commence operations in the South Korean capital of Seoul in December this year. The daily service will fly passengers out of the airline’s home hub in Abu Dhabi to Seoul’s Incheon airport. James Hogan, Etihad Airways Chief Executive Officer, said, “South Korea is emerging as a key partner for the UAE, and the decision to commence services to Seoul reflects this strengthening partnership…We expect the increasing trade relations between the two countries will lead to growing numbers of business travellers, as well as people from both regions visiting friends and relatives.” It is reported the route will be utilised by the 5,000 Korean nationals currently living and working in the UAE.
• Airline profits and escalating fuel prices could spell the end for cheap air travel warn industry experts. According to the International Air Transport Association (Iata), air fares rose by 18 per cent this summer compared with the same period last year, with many airlines primed to stop offering their deeply discounted flights to clients. “There were plenty of fare sales when the airlines were struggling to fill seats,” stated global news network the Associated Press (AP). “Now those seats are in demand, so deals are less common.”
• Mexico’s largest carrier, Mexicana Airlines, has filed for bankruptcy following US$350 million losses compounded by the swine flu pandemic and the global recession. A statement issued by the airline said that it would continue to operate flights as normal including a four-times-weekly flight from London Gatwick to Mexico City, however, a number of US services had already been cancelled, with several aircraft seized by creditors. During bankruptcy proceedings the airline listed debts in excess of US$1 billion.
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