By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

Firstly, may I wish Happy New Year to all of our readers. I hope 2015 is a healthy and prosperous 12 months for you!

Shortly before signing of for last year, I had the pleasure of meeting several agents at our Alphe Korea and Alphe Japan agent conferences. Thank you to all those that took the time to come and see me at the Study Travel Magazine stand and share your market insights and experiences.

The outbound markets of the two respective countries seem to have been of differing trajectories over the last couple of years; our recent agency survey on Japan reported a healthy average growth rate of 14.2 per cent among the participating agencies, while our last poll of Korean agency trends painted a far gloomier picture of -7.5 per cent.

Some Korean agents lamented to me that the peak for the industry was around a decade ago, and since then has steadily declined due to demographic and economic factors. But a few agencies saw some growth areas and light at the end of the tunnel and, indeed, the Japanese example may provide some hope. Agents there might well have been saying the same thing until fairly recently, but an upswing in corporate demand for overseas-educated and English-speaking staff has boosted the industry, along with government support in the shape of scholarship funding and a publicity campaign about the virtues of study abroad.

Back in the UK, the industry received an unwelcome early Christmas present in the shape of an announcement from the Home Secretary, Theresa May, that she planned to force all non-EU international students to leave the country as soon as they have graduated and was lobbying to have this included in the party manifesto.

The plans were roundly condemned by industry figures, and indeed appear to have been shot down in flames by the senior Conservative party leadership.

The announcement came at a time when the UK is entering election campaigning mode – a general election will be held on May 7. It is quite likely that the announcement from Theresa May was a piece of political grandstanding to the right of her party rather than a realistic policy – she is thought to be a leading candidate for the leadership of the party should they lose the next election – but the international education industry in the UK could surely do without being used as a tool for the flexing of immigration muscles.

Elsewhere in recent news, we have stories of further expansion by some of the major industry players. But this week’s guest ‘View from the desk of’ column is a timely and thought-provoking piece about the enduring appeal of smaller, independent schools.





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