By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

It has been another very busy week at the news desk of Study Travel Magazine with several interesting stories since I wrote this column last time.

First up, we had confirmation from New Zealand of their full-year international student data for 2013. It was another year of decline – students were down 1.8 per cent in the fourth consecutive year of falls – but there was certainly some positive news for the country.

The data split 2013 into three trimesters and showed that the declines were concentrated in the first four months of the year. The May-to-December 2013 period saw growth compared with the same section of 2012. This was especially true of the English language sector, which was down nine per cent in the year as a whole, but up 11 per cent across the last two trimesters – a trend that Education New Zealand (ENZ) speculates could be partly attributable to the introduction of work rights across the whole country for English language students.

There was positive enrolment news in the university sector, especially at postgraduate level, which was no doubt responsible for the overall increase in tuition fee income recorded in 2013.

However, the report provided a salutary lesson in the value of diversifying markets. The Korean market is reported to account for some 80 per cent of the overall industry decline. Although there were increases from Japan and China, New Zealand providers would do well to cast recruitment efforts further afield from Asia to buffer against future losses.

Also, the ENZ report notes demographic changes in Korea and government attempts to increase in-country provision of English language teaching have hampered New Zealand’s recruitment in this market. But it is worth drawing the parallel that Australia’s Elicos sector increased Korean students in 2013, with many attracted by the country’s working holiday package – some 45 per cent of Korean students came via this visa route.

Elsewhere, we had an interesting report from the Canadian Association of Public School International (CAPS-I), which is exploring greater promotion of its members’ French language programmes. CAPS-I commissioned research, including agent surveys, into global demand for French, and the report found that Canada’s bilingualism was a primary motivating factor for the majority of agency clients choosing Canada for French programmes. The report also recommended closer cooperation with agents in the promotion of French-language high school education.

And today we have confirmation from Ireland of the generous offer from language school association Marketing English in Ireland to English language students displaced by the closure of several colleges over recent months.

It does seem that the Irish government has been sparked into action by the number of negative news stories in the local press of stranded students, and reportedly phone calls from concerned ministers in other countries.

It is not clear how many of the students registered at the colleges were genuine, and how many will take up the offer, but it is a firm action from the government and the language school sector that also puts a framework in place for further anticipated closures over coming weeks and months.

Beyond dealing with the immediate issue of displaced students, the government would be wise to follow through with its stated intention to establish a full regulation framework, with student visa powers only granted to colleges offering courses approved by Irish regulatory bodies, rather than some of the non-Irish validations that some of the closed colleges were relying on.

Before I sign off, could I draw your attention to the agency survey that English Australia is currently running, which is designed to gauge agent recognition of the association and improve communication with agents?

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