This week, we interview Matej Benus, secretary of the European Association of Quality Agencies (EAQA) about recent trends and activities.

What has EAQA been up to in recent months?

“The past few months have mostly consisted of ‘behind-the-scenes’ work to prepare for the latter stages of 2014. Making the necessary changes to our organisational structure and online presence were all necessary and have allowed us to move forward properly, while ensuring that EAQA is progressing as we have planned.

This included promoting one of our members to the position of EAQA Board Member, which was done via a member-wide remote online ballot system. We are happy to announce that Jeroen Bastiaansen, Director of Study-Globe from the Netherlands, has been selected into the position.

Another important step was upgrading the EAQA website, which has been transformed into a modern platform containing all necessary information regarding our association for both members and non-members in an easy-to-read and accessible format.

Our membership base has also grown from 15 to 23 member agencies, currently spanning 15 European countries. This means that EAQA’s quality mark has expanded to countries such as Portugal, Lithuania, Slovenia and many others. We are very happy to say that all of our member agencies uphold the quality standards that we aim to promote in the pan-European region.”

In your opinion, how is the study abroad market in 2014 for member agencies, and more widely across Europe?

“We are happy to say that the vast majority of our members have experienced growth in terms of total student numbers – something we hope continues in the future as well.

A trend that has been emerging is the growing independence of students in their search for study abroad programmes, which has led to growing concerns regarding the future of the role educational agencies play in the recruiting process. We have not, however, noticed any significant decrease in that regard in the European market.

This is closely tied into the growing role of social media and online marketing, which has shifted the focus of recruitment and looks to play a growing role in how agencies, as well as educational providers, approach student recruitment.”

Are there any particular trends that you see emerging?

“One change that we are anticipating is a decrease in the volume of new agencies. We do not think the establishment of new agencies, which has been a prominent aspect of the European agency market in past years, will continue at the pace of recent years.

Inquiries made into EAQA membership also show the desire of European agencies to operate from a more consolidated position and join bodies of established agencies, thus furthering their position in the market.

We expect to see a growth in the number of self-regulatory bodies emerging in this regard as well.”

You have released your first market intelligence package recently. Please tell us more about this.

“The market intelligence package is something we aim to regularly bring our members as one of the benefits of being a part of EAQA, as it delivers exclusive insight and data analysis of the student travel industry, which in turn allows our agents to make more informed decisions moving forward.

This volume includes an industry analysis of the changes we expect to see in student recruitment for 2014 and a look at Australia as a re-emerging study destination. It also includes an interview with our friends from English UK, in which we have a look at the activities they are planning, our recent cooperation as well as an analysis of the UK market and the changes they expect to see in 2014.”

What other activities do you have planned for the coming months?

“Preparations are already underway for our first meeting of 2014, which will be held during the Alphe UK conference. We have decided to slightly alter the format this year and will be organizing a Business Breakfast on the first full day of the conference, which will allow the sure-to-be-busy agency representatives to stop by for some breakfast and have a closer look at EAQA. The meeting will also feature a diverse range of speakers and will cover a wide range of subjects, both EAQA and non-EAQA related.

The summer months have been devoted to working out a specific framework for our Partner Category, as we wish to start cooperating with potential partners as soon as possible, having set Q4 as a target for a mutually beneficial and fully functional Partner Category.

We will also be organizing a webinar this October, which is preliminarily titled “How to Run a Successful Agency” and will feature expert speakers that will be there to deliver an overview of how to prosper in this increasingly competitive industry. The webinar will precede our AGM at ICEF Berlin, which we are looking forward to as well.”

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