|English Australia (EA) has been busy liaising with the government to ensure legislation for the industry is well thought out. Sue Blundell, Chief Executive of the association, answers our questions.
Full name: English Australia (formerly known as the Elicos Association)
Year established: early 1980's
Number of members: 97
Type of members: Public and private colleges teaching English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students (Elicos)
Government recognition: Yes
Code of practice: Yes
Complaints procedure: Yes
Association's main role: To assist members to deliver high quality educational programmes, to promote high ethical standards, and to promote, strengthen and represent members' interests
Membership criteria: Full NEAS accreditation, public liability insurance, site visits and reports from three referees
Agent workshops/fam trips: English Australia Agents Workshop
Contact details: English Australia, PO Box 1437, Darlinghurst NSW 2010, Australia.
Tel: +61 2 9264 4700, Fax: +61 2 9264 4313
What has English Australia (EA) been up to this year?
EA has been fortunate to have regular meetings with government departments that give us the opportunity to work towards developing a legislative environment that supports English language teaching institutions and their agents. Agents have been a particular area of focus this year as EA recognises the important role they play as industry partners. The association financially supported the visits of representatives of agent associations to attend the EA Agents Workshop in Sydney and organised a roundtable meeting for them with representatives from the Australian government. We asked each agent association representative to talk briefly about key issues that were facing their members. It was the first time that we had organised such a meeting and it was very informal.
Please bring us up-to-date with amendments to the assessment levels of countries for student visa purposes.
A number of positive changes were made to the student visa requirements in December 2003, particularly in relation to the financial criteria that students must fulfil. The immigration department, Dimia, is now waiting to see whether there are any negative impacts relating to these changes before making further changes to the assessment levels.
Are EA members now generally happy with the visa issuance system and the level of input that the Australian government has in the sector?
EA members generally feel that the Australian visa system is more objective and transparent than it has been. EA is still working hard, however, to ensure that the assessment levels are genuinely related to the degree of risk [posed by nationals towards visa overstay]. EA is also pleased with current developments to enable all visa applications to be made online as this will benefit applicants who do not live near a visa issuing post.
Which markets does EA consider to be important or up-and- coming in the next year?
The English Language Teaching (ELT) sector in Australia has been experiencing surprising growth from Southern & Central Asia, particularly from Bangladesh and India. The Middle East is also demonstrating increasing numbers, particularly from Turkey, Oman, UAE and Saudi Arabia. The existing top three markets of China, Japan and Korea will, as always, remain critically important for Australian providers.
Now the new registration charges for education providers are in place, have members adjusted to the new system, and are any members hit hard by in creased fees?
Although there have been no specific complaints from members about the actual impact of the charges, EA is continuing to discuss with government bodies how this fee can be applied fairly to Elicos colleges with short-stay students. [The fee is on a per-student basis].
What other plans does the Australian government have to boost the international education industry?
Government body AEI has expanded its presence offshore by establishing new counsellor positions in Latin America, the Middle East and Europe. The four-year budget plan outlined last year is being implemented to ensure quality, improve the recognition of Australian qualifications, expand the scholarship programme and generally increase awareness worldwide of Australia as a quality study destination. Dimia is also working to expand online visa application ability.
The EA workshop went well by all accounts. Why do you think this was?
I think the success of the workshop was due to a range of factors, the most important of which was the genuine desire of all participants to maximise the opportunities presented by the workshop. A high level of planning went into ensuring that the event took place without any logistical problems and a lot of thought went into both the business and social elements to ensure it was a worthwhile exercise from a commercial perspective and yet highly enjoyable at the same time.
What are your expectations for Australia's market performance in 2005?
Growth has certainly slowed down over the last couple of years compared with the rates of growth previously experienced. We expect this to continue into 2005.