Satisfaction rising for English Australia and agents

07 April, 2015

Student satisfaction at English Australia member colleges has increased across most measures, according to the results of the association’s latest student feedback report, while the role of agents in the decision and application process also scored highly.

The 2013 ELT Barometer Report received 10,654 student responses from 49 participating institutions and was benchmarked against the previous English Australia surveys conducted in 2009 and 2011 as well as the Global English language Barometer (ELB) – comprised of responses from students in the USA, Canada and New Zealand.

The report found that 88 per cent of students were very satisfied or satisfied with their Australian English language experience, an increase of seven per cent compared with 2009 and slightly above the Global ELB.

Overall learning satisfaction levels decreased slightly from 91 per cent in 2011 to 89 per cent in 2013, equal to the Global ELB, and all bar one of the 21 individual elements were higher than the worldwide comparison mark. Meanwhile, overall support satisfaction levels rose strongly to 92 per cent – compared with 76 per cent in 2009 and 83 per cent in 2011 – and again all except one individual measures within this sphere were above the Global ELB.

Satisfaction with the arrival process – including measures such as registration, welcome, pickup and orientation – was surveyed for the first time in the Australian 2013 report, but was high at 91 per cent and above the Global ELB.

Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, told StudyTravel Magazine the improved performance reflected strategies adopted in the competitive times of the previous surveys to improve Australia’s offer. “We knew that were battling a range of factors that were working against us – in particular the exchange rate. Whilst we couldn’t control that, we could work harder to deliver more ‘value’ to students.”

At a sector-wide level, English Australia provided two main areas of support to member colleges that were pursuing their own strategies, said Blundell: producing the Maximising the Elicos Student Experience report to help colleges focus on their own areas of weakness; and providing opportunities to share good practice, mainly at the annual conference and through the association’s awards programme.

Eighty-two per cent of respondents said they would recommend others to apply to their school, up from 78 per cent in the previous survey, and there was an increase in participants that said they would “actively encourage people to apply” – up from 28 per cent in 2011 to 32 per cent in 2013.

Blundell said this would assist agents in their marketing of Australia. “Research like this shows agents that we care what their students think – and that we act to improve student satisfaction with our courses and services.” She said the increase in the “actively encourage” rating was particularly important in this regard.

Agents were the most important factor in the decision-making process, with 60 per cent of respondents indicating an agent helped them choose a college compared with 52 per cent in the previous survey. The survey found that 63 per cent applied via an agent, a decline compared with 68 per cent in 2011. However, 10 per cent of survey respondents were already in Australia before commencing a course.

Satisfaction with agents also increased, with 90 per cent of respondents saying they were either very satisfied or satisfied with the services of their agents, compared with 87 per cent in 2011 and 82 per cent in 2009.

“English Australia has always been strongly focussed on the importance of agents to our member colleges – the further students have to travel, the more they rely on good advice from agents before they leave their country,” said Blundell. “High satisfaction levels can only come from students having realistic expectations and agents are key partners in providing this accurate pre-departure advice. Our new Partner Agency Program is about helping students to find the quality agents who will provide this service.”

There was no great change in course of study among participants, with 48 per cent pursing EAP courses and 36 per cent enrolled on General English programmes – exactly the same ratios as recorded in 2011. Ninety per cent of respondents held students visas, an overrepresentation compared with 62 per cent of Elicos students overall in 2013. There was also a slight decrease in family or private funding of study, with a concomitant rise in government scholarships, perhaps reflecting a sizeable increase in Brazilian students among the responding cohort.

Reflecting the prominence of EAP courses among respondents, preparation for further study was the main motivation for students, cited by 56 per cent, followed by ‘to improve future employment opportunities’ on 24 per cent.

Measures with room for improvement identified by English Australia in the report included extra English language or study skills support, non-classroom activities and help & support with visa applications. Visa processing accounted for some of the highest rates of disapproval, with 18 per cent dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with this.

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