This week, Farman Kaveh, Chair of the English UK Central regional association of English language providers, talks to us about the group’s role and activities.

Can you explain a little about English UK Central’s membership and role?

There are currently 11 full members of English UK Central, covering a geographical area from Nottingham in the north to Cheltenham in the South, and Shrewsbury in the West to Stratford-upon-Avon in the East. We meet up three times a year to discuss promotional ideas, shared bids, visa regulations and inspections, in-country agents, exhibitions and workshops, and listen to invited individuals presenting to us, including industry leaders and executives from educational tool providers and entertainment destinations. The biggest, and costliest, activities are our incoming fam trips, whereby we invite agents from all around the world on a fully-paid tour of our schools, normally lasting four-to-five days. One of the great benefits of the group is that we have such variety in our membership – rural and city-based, high-end and low cost, small specialised language schools and large Further Education colleges, private and public – so agents can get a great feel for what is available across the industry when they take part in our fam trips.

What has the organisation been up to in the last 12 months?

We had our main incoming fam trips in November and March, as well as a smaller pre-Alphe UK visit in August. In total, more than 40 agents attended, from almost 20 different countries. We cover all costs, from airport collection to departure…except for pocket money! We’ve continued to raise awareness of the group at industry workshops and online, and negotiated some group discounts for the schools at tourist attractions due to our group purchasing power. The opinions and experiences of member schools in their marketing activities have helped to shape individual schools’ strategies and help to avoid potentially costly blunders.

How has the last year been for schools in this area? What issues do you currently face in terms of student recruitment?

Our member schools are doing well on the whole. There are of course concerns that are no doubt shared by schools across the country – such as ever-changing visa regulations (and consequentially overseas perceptions of the UK as being less welcoming to students than it used to be), increasing international competition and the challenges of the constantly evolving digital age.

What does the area offer to international students, distinct from other EFL destinations in the UK?

For us it’s all about promoting ourselves as the ‘real England’– the one students have heard about at school. Whether it’s Shakespeare’s home town, Robin Hood, the Cotswolds or typically English towns and villages, there’s a great mixture of attractions that students can associate with us. Being central, it’s also easy to get around to other parts of the UK. Day trips to most parts of England and Wales are viable for our students, including London. At the same time, it’s an area that doesn’t attract the numbers of tourists and students that perhaps it should, which reinforces that feeling of being the authentic England.

What does the group have planned for the coming year?

We will continue to run our fam trips as our main activity. These will be in November and March, and we welcome applications from agents for these. We would also welcome interested new member schools to the group. British Council accredited schools who are English UK members within our region are welcome. Full membership, which includes fam trips, is £1,500 (US$2,500) per year, with associate membership excluding the fam trips at £300 (US$505).

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