English UK highlights agency markets

11, February, 2015

The English UK Marketing Conference gathered around 200 representatives from member schools in London last week for sessions focussed on market trends, working with agents, the power of branding and other marketing techniques.

Henry Tolley of Trinity College London, sponsors of the event, delivers the welcome speech. Photo - English UK

Student recruitment opportunities in Latin America were on the agenda in a session delivered by Samir Zaveri, CEO of student fair and agent workshop provider BMI, who explained that growth was strong across the region and highlighted the potential of the Spanish-speaking countries, where more than half the population is under 25.  

Agents in Brazil saw a decline in business in 2014 with the FIFA World Cup among the reasons, but a return to growth is expected this year, according to Zaveri. The country’s study travel agents have also highlighted that the ‘C’ social class is now the most significant strata for study abroad, and domestic English tuition is comparatively very expensive, he said. The March issue of Study Travel Magazine will feature a recently conducted Agency survey article on Brazil.

The Becas Chile government scholarship scheme for postgraduate study overseas has fuelled interest in the English language, Zaveri explained. He added that Chile has the largest ratio of direct bookings in Latin America, but the agent sector is highly professional. Other student markets highlighted by Zaveri included Ecuador, which has the only loan programme in the region that can be used for English language programmes.

Italian agents and their role in the EU-funded PON scheme for high school groups were raised in another session delivered by Henry Tolley, Head of Business Development at Trinity College London, which sponsored the conference.

As recently reported, €3 billion (US$3.4 billion) per year has been allocated for PON funding across Italy for the next seven years, meaning agents in the north of the country will be able to get involved in the scheme. The highlighted benefits of using agents for PON groups included setting realistic expectations, the likelihood of continued relations and business, the fact that agents hold liability insurance, and the offsetting of some risk related to payments.

An external language exam is required for PON groups, and Tolley said agents should be aware that a Trinity College GESE exam will be 50 per cent cheaper in the UK than in Italy.

In a session on marketing in China, Samuel Vetrak of StudentMarketing said that China is the fourth largest source country for ELT students globally, with around 100,000 students – 70 per cent of these pursuing pathway programmes.

Vetrak said using study travel agents was essential in order to see return-on-investment in a short-term strategy, and that using one or two large agencies was necessary for brand recognition. He also explained the typical selling cycles of Chinese agents, highlighting that September-to-November is the promotional season for winter camps which take place in January and February, meaning China is a relatively late market for summer camp promotion, which occurs from March through to May.

Elsewhere at the event, delegates were told that branding is the most important part of business in an opening plenary session by branding expert Rita Clifton. Clarity, coherence and leadership were key virtues in branding, she said. “You have to make sure everybody in the organisation knows how different you are, what you offer, what you stand for and believe in and that they care about it too.”

Reflecting on the event, Huan Japes, English UK’s Deputy Chief Executive for Professional Services, said, “Rita got us off to an excellent start with branding and thinking about the identity of our language centres, and we’ve had some very useful reports on specific markets: Hannah Alexander [University of the Arts London Language Centre] talking about ego states, and Adrian Liley [British Study Centres] giving us some fundamental strategies on marketing, as well as other interesting sessions on PON students and more. And to finish it all, we had a session on health and welfare, which I think was worth doing and seems to have struck a chord with many of our delegates.”

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