This week, we interview Hannah Alexander, the new Chair of English UK London and Marketing and Business Development Manager at the Language Centre, University of the Arts London, talks about the association’s activities, plans, promotions and recruitment trends.


Can you tell us a little about the background, membership and aims of English UK London?

The group has been in existence in one incarnation or another since the 1990s. It started as an informal group, the London Principals group, who would meet four times a year to share state of the market information and discuss issues.

In 1999 Jane Dancaster took over as coordinator/chair, but the meetings followed a similar format. All London members of English UK were invited and so the group expanded in number of attendees, the post-meeting drinks and networking started, outside speakers were invited to talk to the members and the group started doing more lobbying. The name changed to the London Centre Managers Group. 

As a response to the growing number of official English UK regional groups it was decided that if the group wanted to do more to promote London and be more active on the lobbying side, something a little more formal with better resources would be needed. There was consultation with the current group members and English UK London was finally launched in November 2010.

English UK London is an official sub-group of English UK (EUK) and consists of 46 member schools, colleges and universities. We meet every quarter to share market intelligence and through our committee we promote London, liaising with London & Partners (the official promotional company for London), seek to change policy for our industry by working with London First at the Mayor’s Office and organise events to enhance our relationships with agents.

What has the association been up to in the last year?

We’ve had a busy year! We launched our marketing campaign called “London: All Inclusive” which highlights the hundreds of free activities we offer in London. We wrote an article about this for the EUK newsletter, did presentations at EUK workshops and produced a pdf leaflet which is available for all members to use. We sponsored the Study World quiz night, wrote a briefing paper for London First, designed banners and flags for members to use and distributed brochures at Alphe workshops and StudyWorld. We gave a presentation and had a stand at EUK Fairs in Kyoto & Antalya and a report about this was sent to all our members. We organised a very successful post StudyWorld fam trip as well as an October agent dinner in collaboration with London & Partners.

How was 2014 for member schools and London in general?

In general 2014 was a tough year with most of our members reporting figures similar to 2013. It’s not a London issue per se, and I imagine that the other regional groups in the UK are feeling this too. The lack of growth is mainly due to so many external factors affecting our industry at the moment. We have all been affected by the long recession in Europe, the Rouble, the political situations in Turkey, Russia and Ukraine as well as the bad PR from our own government which can make visitors feel unwelcome in the UK, when they are not. There’s also a general election coming up so we are witnessing politicians making ridiculous scare-mongering comments about immigration.

We need to keep positive, however! 2015 is a brilliant time to visit and study in London. This year sees the Rugby World Cup, the London ePrix, Brit week, new V&A Galleries opening, the long-awaited Alexander McQueen exhibition and Hampton Court Palace’s 500th birthday with celebrations throughout the year. 

In 2012 it seems London lost some market share because of the Olympics? What has been done/is being done to tempt students back to London?

Yes, since the 2012 Olympics, London institutions have been losing market share to cities outside London. It seems that students and agents were concerned about coming to London during the Games, chose another city and then enjoyed the savings that they made in accommodation as outside the capital housing is undoubtedly much cheaper. The problem is that the students haven’t returned in the pre-Olympics numbers we were used to. English UK London aims to promote London as the incredible study destination it is, acknowledging that accommodation may be more expensive here but reminding students and agents that there is no other city in the world where you can do and see so much for free. Our “London: All inclusive” campaign aims to demonstrate that for free art, history, culture, architecture, markets, music, parks and attractions, London is unrivalled.  We have recently set up our Twitter account to help our members retweet more about what’s on in London to inform their students and agents.

What is unique about London as a study destination?

Yes, it’s a cliché, but to quote Samuel Johnson: “…when a man is tired of London, he is tired of life; for there is in London all that life can afford."

This is a truly global city which celebrates diversity and culture. For a student, the benefit of choosing an English UK London institution is how much choice they have.  Student can choose to study in a small school in a leafy suburb, a large bustling city-centre school, a college, a university, a private language school, a state university…we have it all.

What does the association have planned for the next 12 months?

We have a busy 12 months ahead! We will be concentrating on:

  • Expanding the committee to nine members
  • Organising an event for London-based agents on Tuesday 16th April (TBC)
  • Doing a review of our website
  • Generating funds by selling advertising on our website
  • Organising a post-Studyworld fam trip
  • Conducting a survey of members regarding marketing initiatives
  • Conducting a salary survey
  • Designing and printing a new brochure
  • Promoting the group at fairs
  • Promoting our London: All inclusive campaign
  • Setting up Twitter and Facebook pages and connecting them with our members
  • Being an active part of the International Student Compliance Group, chaired by London First to ensure that ELT is seen as important as HE and FE

We know that London is the greatest city on earth and our member centres are the best places to learn English in the city, but we cannot become complacent in this challenging environment. I plan to build on the great work that has been done in previous years but with a larger committee we will have capacity to do more. 

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