Industry issues - advisors speak out
Q. Which is the most popular suite of language exams with your student clients?
Garry Littman, The Language House, Switzerland
“The Cambridge exams, both general and business are definitely the exams of choice in Switzerland. Many Swiss companies recognise the Cambridge exams and our students want the exam initials; FCE, CAE and BEC Vantage or Higher on their CVs. Five-to-10 years ago, the FCE (First Certificate in English), which is a high intermediate level, was sufficient. The Certificate in Advanced English (CAE) is low advanced level and rising in popularity as companies demand a higher level of English. Ielts is becoming more popular as more Swiss students study overseas and it seems to have eclipsed Toefl as the preferred academic English exam. We test almost all our exam students before they leave, so that they and our partner schools have confidence in their study plan.”
Brunella Belluomini, Language Data Bank, Italy
“The exam prep request depends on the client’s age. The most popular among juniors and teenagers is the Trinity exam. Among our adult clients Ielts is, at present, the most requested, although it wasn’t known until a few years ago, while Toefl was already popular. Our website contains one page dedicated to the international certifications with a detailed description of each exam and I am sure that this helps students get more familiar with them. We receive many enquiries, our staff are well trained and can give advice. We were a Toeic exam provider for a while but we had to stop as this was too engaging for a small agency, but I would like to consider a partnership again. I would rank the exams in the following order of preference: 1) Ielts, 2) Cambridge Esol, 3) Toefl, 4) Toeic, 5) BEC Vantage, 6) ILEC, ICFE and Bulats and 7) GRE and GMAT.”
Francine Mendonça, London Help4U, UK and Brazil
“In the first quarter of 2012, 32 per cent of our students travelled for an exam preparation course, and many had already done so before. The most well-known exams among Brazilians are Ielts and Toefl. Toefl seems to stand out (still) because Brazilians have always gone to America more than Europe. But times have changed, and Ielts has grown in popularity. In Brazil, students are looking for it much more due to the fact that many universities do recognise its validity. We are now a City & Guilds testing centre in São Paulo, Brazil, and will be working to foster the quality of this exam, and help. Students do require some kind of prep course to apply for their English qualification, and this will happen either in their home country or abroad. Now we are able to help them due to our partnership with City & Guilds.”
Karen Ong, Language International, USA
“Overall, test preparation courses for exams such as Toefl and Ielts are not as popular as general language courses. Only three per cent of all our bookings are for test preparation programmes. This number has stayed the same over the last three years. Because test preparation courses are such a small part of our business, we have not explored offering preparation courses for exams other than the widely accepted Toefl and Ielts. It’s interesting to note that students booking test prep courses are a lot younger than the average student (23 years old versus the average student age of 28). The reason is that these students need to take these exams for university or graduate school admission. Most universities in the USA and the UK only accept Toefl and Ielts scores, making it unnecessary for us to offer less widely accepted exams to our students.”
Boelo van der Pool, Babel Idiomas, Spain
“We mainly have standard course clients. It is true that I do encourage long-term students to organise their dates in such a way that they can finish their course with an official exam. Most of them haven’t even thought of it when they come to our office, but I explain to them the importance of having an official diploma. I always encourage them to sit the Cambridge Esol exams, mainly FCE and CAE. Some of them do FCE halfway through their programme and finish with the CAE exam. I think it is very important that students are aware of the fact that a simple course certificate is usually not enough to certify their level of English.”
On the move
Following the opening of its fourth language teaching centre in Canada, Sol Schools International has made changes to its management team, resulting in Houman Nikmanesh moving into a strategic role focusing on the development of new destinations and programmes and Sam Stephen joining the team as Marketing Director. Ms Stephen has over 10 years of experience within the industry, as both a teacher, business development and Marketing Manager and more recently School Director with International House Dubai.
Paul Thwaites has joined Melton College, York, in the UK as College Manager. The position is new and is in response to the steady expansion of the college and its courses. Mr Thwaites will be in charge of the day-to-day management of the college, including its Ielts department. Principal Andrew Hjort will be concentrating on marketing, promotion and course development. Mr Thwaites was previously Group Operations Manager at Partners in Training and before that was a teacher and management consultant.
English language teaching accreditation and quality assurance body Neas has welcomed Independent Director, Denise Taylor, as Chair following Professor Millicent Poole’s retirement after four years of service. Ms Taylor, who joined the Neas board in February 2012, is an experienced CEO and director with a background in quality assurance both in the private and government sector, including TIH Child and Family Services, Uniting Care Children’s Services and the National Childcare Accreditation Council.
Brazilian Educational and Language Travel Association (Belta) has elected Carlos Robles, Director of IEP Brazil, as the new association President. Mr Robles aims to support the work of its members and build brand recognition among Brazilian consumers. The association also recently announced a new board of directors for the triennium 2012-2015 that comprises Fred Tiba as Finance Director, Silvia Bizatto as Operations Director and Betty Woodyatt as Director of Institutional Relations.
Danny Bartlett is the new Media and Public Relations Manager for Into University Partnerships (IUP) working across the UK, USA and China. Mr Bartlett will be responsible for engaging with the press on stories relating to IUP, promoting partner universities and commenting on issues around international tertiary education.
Q&A Advisor association
This month, Saijai Srijayanta, Manager of Tieca, tells us about the association’s recent activities.
Full name of association: European Association of Quality Agencies
Year established: 2011
Number of members: 5
Type of members: Education consultancy agencies in Europe
Association’s main role: The mission of EAQA is to assure a quality brand for its members, to guarantee high standards, and to promote the trustworthiness and quality of European agencies.
Code of practice: yes
Complaints procedure: yes
Contact details: Jozefina Krnacova, EAQA Secretariat
E: firstname.lastname@example.org. W: www.eaqa.eu
What has been the focus of EAQA in its first year?
EAQA was established in 2011 with the main goal to empower cooperation between European agencies. There are numerous national agency associations, although not all countries have one. EAQA filled this void and seeks to create a platform for better communication, quality standards, and know-how between the players in the sending education sector in Europe. The main focus was to create a well-established system with a code of practice that would guarantee the quality of EAQA members. We have also supported EAQA activities among European agencies. We currently have five members and welcomed two new members in the past year. We also have admission applications being processed that we hope to finalise soon. Our expectations until the end of 2012 are to have 10 new members, and to start promoting to government bodies while raising awareness in this developing market. We are also striving to increase our profile at workshops...and we released a market intelligence report with critical information and insights about the industry. The secretariat organised a webinar that presented an overview of this report in June. We believe that the first year of EAQA has been very successful in increasing the number of member agencies, as well as acting as a support for members.
Where do you stand on accreditation?
As we aim to be a ‘quality mark’ guarantor, EAQA has created its own code of practice which is very strict for every associate or full member. It is based on the Felca Code of Conduct which EAQA strongly respects. EAQA has applied to become a Felca member. We firmly believe that there is a strong need for industry support and with Felca as a partner we will achieve EAQA’s goals in a shorter timeframe and more constructively. As agencies work with young students, their accreditation is the prerequisite sign of quality.
How important ARE agency training schemes?
Agent training is crucial and must be of good quality. It prepares agency staff to be prepared for all eventualities, to understand the market and education systems better, and to develop accordingly. Every agent needs to be well prepared for the job and its related activities, as well as having the knowledge and insight to identify optimal training opportunities. We believe that it would be beneficial to have one accredited training [scheme] that is respected by the majority of agency associations, which would avoid agencies having to choose the most suitable training from the diverse market range. In the past year it has been up to our agents to select the most suitable training system individually, and this is still the case.
What challenges do member agencies face?
The industry is growing and becoming more competitive as information increasingly goes online. This is creating opportunities for every kind of agency to be established and created easily. In the case of members...it will be increasingly difficult to get the rights to be able to send students abroad, both in the agents’ country of origin and the country where the agency is sending students. Exchange rates will present a challenge and accreditation via international bodies and governments will make the survival of agencies more difficult if they don’t develop and adapt.
Agency of the month
In a series appearing each month in Study Travel Magazine, we ask a different language teaching institution to nominate one of their preferred agencies or agent partners, and to explain why this person/company is worthy of their nomination.
This month English Language Academy (ELA) in Ireland nominates Silvia Utrini Intercambio in Brazil. Therese Fagan from the school explains this decision.
“I would like to recommend Silvia Utrini Intercambio in Brazil for Agency of the Month. Silvia and her team have worked with us since 2008 and we find them extremely professional from the initial order, right through to efficient payment and administration matters. They always match their students with the right course and accommodation and offer a personal service to each and every student. Furthermore, they inform their clients about what to expect as a student in Ireland. They are quite adept at flagging any special requests in relation to courses and accommodation with us, so that there are no surprises or disappointments. I also notice that they remain in touch with the students long after their arrival in Ireland. Their loyalty to ELA is exceptional and we have received many quality students from this agency. It is for these reasons that I would like to nominate Silvia Utrini Intercambio as Agency of the Month.”
“We have had several students attending English Language Academy (ELA) in Ireland [and they have given] very positive feedback [about the school]. They have told us that studying at ELA Ireland is like being among friends. There is nothing more rewarding for an agent than hearing from the client how grateful they are of our advice. That makes ELA Ireland our number one school in Dublin.“
Silvia Utrini, Silvia Utrini Intercambio, Brazil