By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

Isn’t April is a fabulous month? The blossoms appear on the trees, the weather warms up (in the UK at least – we are not blessed with year-round heat like some of you!), Easter heralds chocolate mania, and then a tidal wave of industry data for the previous year floods in!

And so it begins with a couple of key stories this week. Malta reported an increase in both student numbers and student weeks in 2014.

Given that Malta tends to oscillate somewhat, the moderate 3.4 per cent growth in students is probably welcome. However, the rise masked an almost 50/50 up/down split among the top 20 source countries. Indeed, the overall growth is mostly sustained by an eye-catching additional 5,000 Italian students – the only country of the previous year’s top five to register a rise in 2014.

Malta’s National Statistics Office breaks down enrolment data by age group, and the Italian rises were certainly focussed in the junior and teenage cohorts, with at least some of the rise most likely coming from Italy’s EU-funded PON scholarship.

Also welcome were inroads into the Latin American markets, most notably Brazil and Colombia with students from this region helping to increase the average stay to 3.2 weeks. Disappointingly, Malta has struggled to make further inroads into the Asian market and suffered a decline from this continent. While Malta competes favourably on price against the UK, USA and Australia, the Korean and Japanese markets also have the Philippines vying for their attention as an EFL destination – it was the fourth most popular country in our last Japan Agency Survey.   

And then we have the annual survey of language study trends among German agencies conducted by German agency association FDSV.

FDSV’s surveys generally show a great deal of stability from the German market, with the English language and the UK dominating business as usual. There was a slight decrease in average stay overall, with both the UK and USA declining – suggesting the strength of those respective currencies might have started to bite a little. Stays in longer-haul countries such as Australia, New Zealand and South Africa actually increased last year.

Some other trends identified in the survey were the growing prominence of 50+, language plus sports/culture and exam preparation programmes in German agency portfolios.

Another survey, this time of students, provided pleasing results for English Australia member colleges and their partner agents. English Australia’s latest student satisfaction tracker, conducted in 2013, recorded rises across most measures and compared favourably to global comparison points. And satisfaction with agents increased to 90 per cent in the latest poll, while agents continued to be the most important factor in the decision-making process for international students.

The role of agents was also acknowledged in Australia’s Draft National International Education Strategy, released this week. The document is pretty extensive, but luckily I’ve distilled the main points and agent-related sections for you!

Most of the measures have been welcomed by Australia’s peak bodies in the international education sector. Measures to increase access to affordable accommodation, transport concessions and health services are positive, although the use of such terminology as “the government will encourage” sounds a touch vague, but it is only a draft at this stage. A potential agent accreditation system is mentioned in the document, and we await further details of what this might entail before passing judgement.

So happy reading. I’ll get back to the chocolate before the next lot of data comes in!


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