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September 2005 issue

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Terror attacks in UK have minor impact on market

Four terrorist bomb blasts brought central London to a standstill on 7 July and sent a shockwave around the world. Fifty-six people died in the three explosions on the underground and one on a bus. A further copycat attack occured two weeks later, but with no fatalities. Messages of sympathy and condolence were sent to all in the industry from around the world, and what emerged in the weeks after the attacks was a hope and determination that business would carry on as usual.

Language schools in London reported that they had all contacted their agents immediately to inform them that their clients were safe after the events on 7 July. Diane Weston, Marketing Manager at the Central School of English, spoke for all when she said they received “a lot of emails back from agents giving a lot of support and saying they hoped it wouldn’t change anything, and that it could have happened anywhere”.

At Shane Global, in central London, Reka Lenart said that they had just one immediate cancellation after 7 July, while 20 new students arrived on the Monday after. She related that Japanese agent, Yuko Takahashi Rees from Renaissance ELCC agency, had sent an email saying, “I personally talked to all of our students who were planning to go to England this summer and also their parents. All of them decided to carry on with their plans.”

At St Giles College, near Russell Square, three students and teachers were caught up in the attacks as they travelled on the underground. But Clare Montgomery at the school said all were recovering. “Students [here] have proved remarkably resilient and supportive,” she said, adding that there had been just a few cancellations or postponements and some students wishing to transfer to the south coast in the first few days after the attacks.

Lucy Heron at St Giles added that after the unsucessful second attack, students and agents did seem to be more shaken, with some further cancellations, postponements and transfers as a result. “However, we are also receiving new bookings every day,” she said, “and our colleges elsewhere in the UK are continuing to organise day trips to London, which are still very much in demand.”

At Wimbledon School of English, Jane Dancaster reported that “students appear to have been unaffected and our agents have been incredibly supportive throughout”.

News schools abound

A number of new branches of established language schools opened this summer. Enforex in Spain launched a new centre in Valencia and also began offering lessons in Alicante, through a new partnership arrangement.

The Alicante partner school is overlooking the sea and harbour, according to Antonio Anadon at Enforex, and has the latest innovations and facilities, including wireless Internet connection, with the same quality standards as all Enforex centres. He claims that the new Valencia branch is one of the most modern schools in Spain and it also has state-of-the-art facilities.

In South Africa, Good Hope Studies has opened a new school in the city centre of Cape Town, to complement the current school in the suburbs of the city. Wolfgang Graser at the school explained that the additional school was opened because we regularly had agents mentioning the fact that they lose clients who insist on studying in the city centre. Students can now study at both centres during their stay, he added.

In Australia, EF has opened a new branch in Brisbane, situated in the former Museum of Contemporary Art. Again, the school boasts modern facilities including a multimedia language lab and wireless Internet connection. The building is also a heritage-listed art deco villa dating from the early 1900s. EF School Director, Kate Bailey, said, I am very proud of our new school.

Meanwhile, EC Group has unveiled its third school in the UK, which adds London to the network of Brighton and Cambridge schools. It acquired the Cambridge School of English (CSE) in Covent Garden, which was established in 1969. It is extremely exciting for us to open an EC school in London and to work with such great like-minded people, said Andrew Mangion at EC Group, which also has a school in Malta. The London school has 11 classrooms and offers free email/Internet use, a large subsidised cafeteria with two pool tables and a home cinema.

Australia wants greater quality control

A review of policy relating to the Education Services for Overseas Students (Esos) Act has been published in Australia. Proposed amendments include the provision that institutions inform the Immigration Department of concerns over any education agent and have formal written agreements with all agents.

A peak body of Australian education agents, with provisions for overseas membership, would also be created and charged with self-regulating the local agency industry.

The report broadly calls for greater focus on uniform quality, although it does acknowledge that the Esos Act has been appreciated across all education sectors for presenting a consistent approach to welcoming international students. Suggested amendments also encompass new rules relating to course refunds and pastoral care for younger students, and a call for student contact officers or advisers to be on hand to assist students with adjusting to life in Australia.

The 288-page document was finalised with the help of industry representation on the steering committee. It notes there is a strongly held view that the Esos legislation and framework are major improvements over the situation that prevailed prior to 2000.

The Esos Act led to specified levels being given to each education sector according to nationality, leading to a transparent visa system that assured entry if applicants could meet the appropriate conditions (see Language Travel Magazine, September 2001, page 6).

At English Australia (EA), Sue Blundell said, EA welcomes the thoroughness of the evaluation process and looks forward to further discussions as to how consumer protection and quality assurance measures can be developed while, at the same time, allowing the industry flexibility to grow and respond to changing needs.

Dodgy colleges in the UK

Two people bringing Malaysians into the UK illegally have been jailed for seven and nine years respectively. Industry association, English UK, was instrumental in bringing the people smugglers to justice and provided a statement of support for the prosecution.

Joolee Torto pretended to be a school principal and obtained visas for 70 Malaysian nationals by giving a fake address as the premises of Croydon Tutorial College; in fact a legitimate institution in the same town with no connection to her whatsoever. Once in the country, the immigrants were housed by Tai Chuan Low – who received the nine-year jail term – and worked illegally, with their salaries paid directly to Low. Pat Mohan of the real Croydon Tutorial College told newspapers that he would sue Torto for using the college's name.

Meanwhile, an unaccredited school in London, trading as Bite, folded earlier this year, leaving students out of pocket. The Oxford Street school was previously part of the Lite group, but it split from the group and became Bite months before closing unexpectedly. Tony Millns at English UK said the case underlined that students had to study at an accredited school for peace of mind.

Beta wants government attention

Members of the British Educational Travel Association (Beta) met in London at the Houses of Parliament in June for what has become its annual event, the Parliamentary Reception. Beta uses the event to invite members of parliament along and highlight issues of importance to the wider youth, student and travel industry.

Don Foster MP spoke at the event which was attended by over 100 delegates and other MPs. Earlier in the year, Beta published a Political Manifesto, which was sent to political parties, calling for amendments to the changes made to Working Holiday visas, which reduced the number of hours visa holders are eligible to work.

ELS closes UK operation to focus on USA

ELS Language Centers, based in Princeton, New Jersey in the USA and owned by Berlitz, has announced that it is closing its London, UK operation from this month. ELS Managing Director, Thomas Shandorf, said the decision was made to allow the company to concentrate on its US operation, which it plans to enlarge.

ELS Language CeOur centre network now numbers 42, and is this year boosted by new campus locations in California, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota and Rhode, campus-based US programme, he explained. Our centre network now numbers 42, and is this year boosted by new campus locations in California, Idaho, Louisiana, Michigan, North Dakota and Rhode Island.

Shandorf added that campus-based ELT provision was central to the ELS strategy and full allocation of key resources to this continued US market expansion programme is crucial.

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