September 2010 issue

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Agency Survey
Market Report
Direction I
Direction II
Special Report
Course Guide
City Focus

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Students speak out

In this issue’s Special Report we take a look at the results of a survey we conducted of language travel students who had booked their courses through language travel agents. The results, as Gillian Evans finds out, reveal that students expect a very high level of knowledge and support from agents.

It is often said that good agents are worth their weight in gold, and this is true for both the schools they represent and the students who book through them. For students, agents take the stress out of the selection and the booking process, guiding them seamlessly through the maze of choices to ensure their requirements are met. Language Travel Magazine conducted a survey of 59 students studying in a selection of schools in various locations to find out whether their agency had lived up to their expectations.

Initial encounter
First, we asked students how they had found out about their agency. Interestingly, in spite of the prominent role of the Internet in our lives, the Internet was not the main way in which most students had found out about their agency. In our survey, 45 per cent of students said they had found out about their agency through the recommendation of a friend. This is far more significant than in a similar survey we carried out in 2008 (see Language Travel Magazine, July 2008, pages 24-28) in which only 27 per cent had used an agency following a personal endorsement.

In addition, a number of students reported that they had visited their agency in person to gauge whether they wanted to use them. Korean student Cindy, who was studying at New Horizon College of English in New Zealand, said she chose her agency after visiting two local agencies. “[My Agency] focused on me so I chose them,” she says. Another student, Luiz Elena from Colombia, who was studying at Language Studies International (LSI) in Australia, felt the agency was reliable when she met them. “It is a good agency,” she asserts. “The people are friendly and trustworthy, they gave me good information and they helped me with my requirements.”

Students also seemed to appreciate the fact that most agencies offered a range of locations and courses. Indeed, five per cent of students said that this was the main reason why they chose to book through an agency. Another important factor for booking through an agent – after personal recommendation, which was the reason behind why 14 per cent of students booked through an agency – was the fact that agents offered competitively priced courses, which was noted by 12 per cent of students. Three per cent of students said they had booked through an agency as it was more convenient, and a further three per cent wanted to benefit from the agency’s industry experience.

Illustrating once again the importance of personal contact in the language travel industry, 65 per cent of students said they had had a face-to-face consultation with an agent during the time they were enquiring about and finalising their bookings. This was either combined with online communications and phone calls, or solely a personal meeting.

Role of the website
In general, agency websites are used as either the first port of call for the student – 40 per cent of students said they had found out about the agency through its website – or as an information source only, with a number of students saying they had only visited the agency website to order a brochure. Students who had only used online means to book their course accounted for only nine per cent of survey respondents.

Given the importance of the website as an information source, the content and layout should be accurate and easy to navigate. We asked the students in our survey to grade the agency websites on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the highest score. The average grade given was 6.9. A Belgian student at ETC International College in the UK reported that the agency he used had a “clear website that answered all my questions”, while another student from Turkey, who was studying at ETC, said the agency website was very up-to-date, and therefore gave it a score of eight. Where websites were criticised by the students, it was mainly to do with out-of-date information. ”The website was well organised but not up-to-date enough,” claims Korean, Seonyeong Jeong, studying at ETC, who gave the website a score of five. A Japanese student studying at LSI, who gave his agent’s website six marks, said, “The agency website had good information but it was difficult to find.”

Extra advice
A real selling point for using an agent was the extra information and advice they can give the student. Colombian, Luiz Elena, says of her agency, “[They] told me about this city, like [the fact that] it is safe, comfortable and relaxing and [has] friendly people. This agency gave me all information that I needed to live here, and we are still in communication by Internet.”

Leandro from Brazil, who was at LSI in Australia, said that his agency also mentioned job opportunities and gave details of good places to visit. Other information students valued was the size of the school and classes, nationality mix, activities on offer, nearby attractions and typical local weather.

These factors were pivotal for many students’ choices. Swiss student Tanya said she specifically chose the school because of its location, the small size of the school and the fact that the residence was close by. Harry from Korea, who had enrolled at New Horizons Language School in New Zealand, said he chose to study in Napier because it has similar weather to his hometown, and fellow Korean, Anna, who was studying at EC Boston in the USA, said she was advised to apply for a course of more than six months to benefit from a discount.

Students also valued the advice agents gave them about courses. Julia from Spain, who was at ETC in the UK, recounted that her agency suggested she did a Cambridge exam course so that she would have a recognised certificate after her studies. However, Silvia who is also Spanish but was studying at LSI in Australia, said that she booked a General English course as advised by her agent but once she’d arrived at the school she decided to change “as other courses were more interesting to improve my English in a short time,” she says. This suggests that some agents could give more information on the range of courses available to ensure the clients are appropriately matched to their requirements and expectations.

When it came to accommodation, many students felt the information they were given was patchy. Min-Yang from Korea, who was studying at Clubclass Residential Language School in Malta, said that although the agency gave her a range of accommodation choices she was “not satisfied because they didn’t know [much about them]”. Colombian student Constanza, who was studying at ETC in the UK, echoed this. “The agency could have given me more advice and information above all about the accommodation and courses,” she complains. However, Swiss student Philipp, who was studying at New Horizons Language School in New Zealand, was one of the contented respondents. “I told them what type of host family I would like and I am satisfied [with my accommodation],” he relates.

Accurate information
Accuracy of information is also important. Cindy from Korea reported, “I was counselled by the agent about many things. I thought she knew everything but when I arrived in New Zealand many things were different from what she told me.”

Many agents spent a considerable length of time with each individual client. When we asked students how long in total the agency had taken to confirm their study trip, the highest proportion of students (34 per cent) said one month. When we asked students to rate the efficiency of the agency on a scale of one to 10, with 10 being the best, the average was 7.3.

We also asked students if they would recommend their agency to others and a majority of 64 per cent said they would. Annina from Switzerland, who was studying at New Horizons College of English in New Zealand, said she would recommend her agency. “They have a big variety of places to study and [offer] good assistance,” she explained. Korean student Harry also enthused about his agency. “I would recommend them because they helped me so much with living in Australia easily,” he says. However, Swiss student Philipp says that although his agency in Switzerland was good he would recommend using an agency in New Zealand for anyone planning to study there. “If I had to use an agent again I would use one in New Zealand because they know lots of information,” he explains.

When asked if they would use an agency again, 59 per cent said they would, while 24 per cent said they would not (17 per cent did not reply to this question). Swiss student, Helga, who was studying at Education en France in France, recommended the use of an agent as, she says, “It is the easiest way and less stressful than booking yourself.” Similarly, Ozge from Turkey, who was at ETC in the UK, commented that he would book through the same agent again as “I’m really satisfied with the service”.

But in some cases, agents are victims of their own success. Some students who booked through an agent for their first trip said that they would book directly via a school themselves next time. Iris from Spain, who was at LSI, commented, “[For this language travel trip] at first I thought I could [book the course] by myself, but just the procedure can be more convenient using an agency. [But] if I have to book another course I will do it by myself.”

Swiss student Anthea, studying at Education en France, pointed out that because her English is now better following her first language travel programme, she would book directly via the school next time. However, for those students having to negotiate through the visa issuance procedure, good agents can be invaluable. “Using an agent is an easy way to get a student visa and to find a good course,” said a Saudi Arabian student studying at ETC.

Those agencies that stood out from the crowd were those that went the extra mile to ensure their students were satisfied with their language travel packages. Forty-seven per cent of students said their agent had been in touch with them since they had been overseas. “I am still in contact with [my agency] – they meet me frequently to know how everything is going,” comments Spanish student Silvia. Cindy from Korea also appreciated being contacted by her agent. She said, “[The agency] tried to contact me very often and they gave me lots of information so it was really helpful.”

Where improvements could have been made seem to be surrounding the issue of up-to-date and accurate information. Swiss student Tanya, who was studying at Education en France, asserted that the agency should have known more about the accommodation, while Francisco from Chile, who was studying at LSI, said he would have appreciated more information about visas, and Andres from Colombia, studying at ETC, mentioned that he would have found more general information about the culture helpful.

Despite the information-rich age in which we live, students expect agents to be well informed with the most up-to-date information about language travel. Keep your finger on the pulse of the industry and you too could receive a high accolade such as this from ETC student, Andreina, from Venezuela: “Everything was great. I don’t think [the agency] needs to improve anything – they are amazing.”

Tips for agents

Know your stuff – students expect agents to know much more than what is merely written in a school brochure or that can be found by searching the web. You should have in-depth knowledge about the school, town or city and the country in general.

Give accurate information – some students mentioned that some of the information they received from their agent was inaccurate, so they said they would not rebook through the same agent. Make sure all the information is up-to-date.

Know your client – whether the consultations are made by phone, online or face- to-face, make sure you know what clients really want so you can devise a tailor-made package that exactly matches their specific requirements and expectations.

Course information – you must have a good knowledge of what courses are on offer and what they entail. This benefits not only your client but also your agency as you may receive a higher fee from the school by selling a more expensive course.

Keep your client informed – let the client know what is going on. There is sometimes quite a delay between the client booking a course and receiving confirmation. Keep them up-to-date with developments, especially if a visa application is involved.

Keep in touch – students really appreciated agents who made contact with them, either via email or phone, to check that everything was going well while they were at the school.

Loyalty – your business thrives on strong customer loyalty, which is achieved when you provide a great service, so keep focused on customer satisfaction.

Means of recruiting students by country
France 2009
Agents 60%
Internet 19%
Local bookings 7%
Other means 14%
Australia 2009
Agents 74%
Internet 7%
Local bookings 11%
Other means 8%
Ireland 2009
Agents 55%
Internet 21%
Local bookings 8%
Other means 16%
Canada 2009
Agents 67%
Internet 4%
Local bookings 16%
Other means 13%
USA 2009
Agents 23%
Internet 19%
Local bookings 11%
Other means 47%
New Zealand 2008
Agents 80%
Internet 4%
Local bookings 5%
Other means 11%
UK 2008
Agents 50%
Internet 9%
Local bookings 16%
Other means 25%
Malta 2008
Agents 69%
Internet 7%
Local bookings 4%
Other means 20%

Nationality breakdown of student sample How did you find out about the agency you used?
Korean 24%
Swiss 12%
Colombian 10%
Saudi Arabian 9%
Spanish 7%
Belgian 5%
Taiwanese 5%
Brazilian 3%
Thai 3%
Turkish 3%
Other 19%
Recommendation 45%
Website 40%
Advert 5%
Other 1%
Unknown 9%

Has your agency been in touch since you arrived at your school? Did you have a face-to-face consultation or use online resources?
Yes 47%
No 40%
Unknown 13%
Face-to-face 47%
Face-to-face / online / photo 17%
Online / photo 14%
Online only 9%
Face-to-face / phone 1%
Unknown 12%

How long before you were informed of your confirmed place at a language school? Were you presented with a choice concerning accommodation?
Under 1 week 10%
1-2 weeks 5%
3-4 weeks 9%
1 month 34%
2 months 5%
3 months 9%
4 months and over 9%
Unknown 19%
Yes 64%
No 10%
Unknown 26%

Were you satisfied with the range of courses offered by your agency? Would you recommend your agency to others?
Yes 74%
No 5%
Unknown 21%
Yes 64%
No 26%
Unknown 10%

Would you use an agency again? Thank you to the following schools for canvassing students at their school for this feature: am Language Studio, Sliema, Malta; Canadian as a Second Language Institute, Vancouver, Canada; Christchurch Language Centre Christchurch, New Zealand; Clubclass Residential Language School, St. Julian’s, Malta; EC, Boston, USA; Education En France, various, France; ETC International College, Bournemouth, UK; Language Studies International, Brisbane, Australia; New Horizon College of English, Napier, New Zealand; NSTS, Valletta, Malta.
Yes 59%
No 24%
Unknown 17%

Asian recruitment trends

Many countries in Asia are keen to maximise their international recruitment of students, but how are most of the involved institutions going about putting themselves on the map? The answer is predominantly via agencies, together with direct marketing efforts.

“We recruit mainly through participation in education fairs and partnerships with local recruitment agents and education consultants,” reports Dylan Ong, Marketing Officer for the International Marketing & Recruitment Team at Swinburne University of Technology (Sarawak Campus) in Malaysia. The university offers a range of foundation, diploma, degree, Masters and PhD programmes as well as supplementary and intensive English courses.

Ong explains, “Following initial correspondence by email, we will follow up with a visit to the operating premises [of agencies]. Generally, we work well with agents in every country we visit, but our most established partnerships are in Indonesia, Sri Lanka, and Bangladesh.”

Ong’s experience is similar to many providers throughout Asia. Vernon Sim at SSTC School for Further Education in Singapore relates, “We engage recruitment agents who meet our criteria and will abide by our code of conduct. Through these agents, we participate in exhibitions, roadshows and conduct seminars.” Meanwhile, Stuart McCutcheon Barrett at Q Language in Hong Kong details, “We have agencies in several countries and use virtual agent referral sites. Plus, we have direct applications via our website. Also ‘word of mouth’ [is important], as some of the applicants already have friends or family studying/working in Hong Kong so they take the opportunity to join them.“

In Singapore, however, there is one difficulty that agencies working with institutions in the country are now facing. Graham Sage, Director of Inlingua Singapore, explains, “New regulations in Singapore are making it more difficult for educational agents overseas to recruit for private educational institutions here, as the government no longer allows the agent to collect course fees from the potential student to pay to the institution. The student must now pay the course fees directly to the school.”

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.






Britannia Student
Nido Student Living  
Sara's New York
      Homestay LLC  

English Australia 
Groupement FLE 
IALC International 
International House
      World Organisation
Languages Canada /
      Langues Canada  
Perth Education City
Quality English
The English Network

Alphe Conferences  
English Australia  
Globus Education
IALC International  
IEFT- International
      Education Fairs of
International House
      World Organisation  
      Educational Fair  

Cambridge Esol  
Pearson Education  

Bright World

Dr. Walter GmbH  
Student Guard


Malta Tourism

Bond University  
Carrick Institute of
La Trobe
      Studies International
Pacific Gateway International College  
Perth Education City
      International College
Universal English
      (Global Village
University of
University of
      Western Australia  
University of
      Western Sydney

CERAN Lingua

Bow Valley College
East Coast School
      of Languages  
English Bay College  
English School of
Eurocentres Canada  
Geos North America  
Global Village  
      Language School of
      the YMCAs Quebec
Language Studies
LSC Language
      Studies Canada  
National School
      of Languages  
Niagara College  
Queen's University  
Richmond School
      District #38  
Saint Mary's
SAIT Polytechnic  
Stewart College of
Study Abroad
Thompson Rivers
University of Victoria  
Vancouver English

      Language Training
Mandarin House  

IH Cairo  

ABC Languages  
Bury Language
      Education Group  
Camp Beaumont  
English Language
      Centre Brighton &
English Studio  
Hove College  
INTO University
Kaplan International
Kings Colleges  
LAL Central
      Marketing Office  
Language in Group  
London Metropolitan
Malvern House
      College London  
Pearson Education  
Quality English  
Queen Ethelburga's
Shakespeare College  
Spinnaker College  
St Giles Colleges  
Study Group  
SUL Language
Thames Valley
      Summer Schools  
The English
Twin Group  
University of
      Cambridge ESOL
University of
      Essex -
Wimbledon School
      of English  

Accent Francais  
Alliance Française
      Paris Ile de France  
Alpha B - Institut
College International
      de Cannes  
Ecole PERL  
Ecole Suisse
Education En France
Institut de Langue
      et de Culture
      Françaises - ILCF  
Langue Onze
LSF Montpellier  
Lyon Bleu
Paris Langues /
      Club CEI des 4
Universite de
      Paris Sorbonne  

      International /
      Languages Plus  


Media Langues

      Education Group  

Alpha College of
Centre of English
Horner School of

      Language School  

      Language School  
EC English
      Language Centre  
English Language
Global Village  
Malta Tourism

EAC Language
      Centres and
      Activity Camps.  

EC Cape Town  
EF - SA  
English in Africa
      Language School  
Eurocentres Cape
Good Hope Studies  
inlingua Language
      Training Centre
      Cape Town  
Interlink School
      of Languages  
International House
      Cape Town  
Kurus English CC  
LAL Cape Town  

Malaca Instituto -
      Club Hispanico SL  
Malaga Si  
      Internacional de

EF Language
      Colleges Ltd  

ELS Language
IH New York  
Julian Krinsky
      Camps & Programs
      International, LCI
University of
University of
      California Riverside
University of
      California San Diego  
Zoni Language