This week, we interview Adeila Makashi, Head of the Education Department at ANDE-LM® Ltd. Agency (l/) in Albania, about the development of the Albanian outbound student market, including the agency’s recent roadshow event around the country.

How has the outbound market changed in Albania since you began operating almost ten years ago?

“It has changed a lot. When we started, nobody knew what an agency could do; people thought it was a selection process to study abroad. In June 2005 we offered a summer school, and immediately when we places some adverts, people called us and said ‘Is this real?’ Everyone was interested to apply, but thought they needed an academic profile.

Now it has changed. People have information. Now it is common for schools to come here, and students also have the opportunity to apply directly. It is a small market, but educators like it and some students apply directly.

Now there are around 10 agencies in Tirana. Students and parents know agents exist. What I still feel is that our big market has never been Tirana actually, but the other cities where there isn’t as much information. There are lots of universities here, branch campuses and international school high school programmes, so Tirana has all the information, facilities and opportunities, but not in the other cities.”

What are the popular course requests for Albanian students?

“From my own statistics, and we cover the market, we are an academic student market. The biggest market is for degrees. We don’t go for summer courses in big numbers. If parents here invest, they will invest to have the best school.

The USA, UK, Canada and are the main destinations, although now I am starting to open Australia and New Zealand more. English is mandatory from the third grade in Albania and continues until university and Master’s level. In fact, you are not allowed to get a Master’s unless you have an Ielts score of 6.5, so English is by far the most popular language. But Germany is also popular. Students like to study German more than French. They like the German education system, so invest a lot to study the German language in preparation.

Sixty-five per cent of my students are over 16. They start study abroad from high school; some go to do A-Levels or get high school diplomas, but it is always long term and with a view to looking for the greatest universities. However, Albanian students don’t like boarding schools so much, because they like cities and they don’t like being separated from the city.”

Your agency held a roadshow recently. Please tell us about that

“It went really well. We have never done one before, although we have done fairs since 2010. I saw that my market remains outside of Tirana, so the purpose was that I go to them making it easier for those students to come and meet foreigners and universities. The other cities don’t have much information, but they have great students.

We covered 2,300km in seven days, and we were always on the move. The schools liked it. My partners were so fascinated with the English and academic level. I had five educators with me, covering different markets. This was quite a last-minute thing, I only promoted it one month in advance, as I wanted to keep it small and have select partners from each market.

The success was great and we were interviewed by local TV channels, and we were also on a youth show on national TV. They called us the agency that finds your school! We had around 400 students attending; they were very motivated, had CVs and were ready to apply.”

How has the agency business developed in Albania?

“The market is not so big, but they have to focus on the other cities, not just Tirana.

Unfortunately, some agencies are including immigration work as well, which is creating some confusion. Some students come to me with stories I don’t like to hear.

The other problem is that the system needs regulation. Anybody can open an office for a few dollars. It needs to be regulated.

This has been discussed at EAQA [The European Association of Quality Agencies, a multi-nationality association established in 2011 and a member of Felca]. There are some agencies in Albania that are good, and we will be having a board meeting to discuss inviting more agencies, including from Albania, to join.”

What trends do you see emerging over the coming year for the Albanian market?

We have such a big study abroad destination in Australia, but New Zealand is only one hour away. I have been trying to show this in meetings, and I have had several students sign up.

The market will increase if you are doing something interesting. If you don’t follow others, students will be interested. Students like to feel that they are special, like they are going somewhere where nobody else is going. For that reason, I think China and Malaysia, as well as New Zealand, will emerge as popular destinations.

But we need to be prepared. These students will have lots of questions, such as ‘Who went there?’, ‘What is the ranking of this institution?’ and so on. It is very selective, so you need to be prepared.

Luli Makashi, who established ANDE-LMŪ Ltd. Agency and some of the team at the agency.

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