This week, we interview Kim Renner, Operations Manager of language school association English New Zealand about the group’s activities and growth in the sector.

What has English New Zealand been up to over the past 12 months?

It’s been a very active year in all three of our key areas – quality assurance, marketing and advocacy.

A new member school takes us to 27, with several public tertiary providers in the process of meeting our quality assurance standards in order to gain membership.

Members participated as a group in several successful agents’ workshops – Japan, Thailand, Brazil, Colombia and Chile. We organised our own English New Zealand agents’ workshop in Thailand in November. Seventeen schools and staff from 42 education agencies attended. 

In Japan and Latin America, members supported the Education New Zealand agents’ workshops. Japan gave us the opportunity to celebrate over 25 years’ working with agents and show appreciation for their loyal support of English New Zealand schools. Latin America was part of a wider market development strategy, as was the Indonesian agents inbound familiarisation tour.

We’ve joined QALEN (Quality Assurance in Language Education Network) a forum for language school accreditation bodies worldwide and are looking forward to the opportunity for collaboration that will provide. [As previously reported, English New Zealand was one of the founder members of QALEN]

Advocacy work is ongoing. Five government agencies are involved in New Zealand’s international education strategy and their policies have a significant impact on our members – sometimes unnecessarily and without proper and genuine consultation. 

How did the Indonesian agent fam trip go, and are there any plans to hold more?

The trip went very well. Five agents visited six different destinations in New Zealand. It was great to have regional schools involved to highlight the opportunities for quality English language provision outside Auckland.

We’re not planning another familiarisation trip this year – our focus is more on offshore marketing and market development.

Business is going well for English language schools in New Zealand at the moment, which can in part be attributed to the nationwide rollout of work rights. Do you think business will continue to do well in 2015? What are some of the other factors limiting/increasing growth?

We’re certainly hoping to build on the increases of 2014. Ministry of Education statistics for just 22 of our members (those only teaching English) show a six per cent increase in student numbers, 24 per cent increase in tuition weeks, and an 18.5 per cent growth in tuition fee income in 2014.

Work rights has definitely been a contributor but the quality of English New Zealand member schools is also well recognised. Although members make up just under 50 per cent of private EL schools, they have 80 per cent market share. Our membership has remained stable for years and we continue to attract new members, whereas non-member private provider numbers continue to decline.

Immigration New Zealand (INZ) will play a critical role in the growth targets set by our Minister of Tertiary Education. Increased student visa demand from Latin America has affected processing times and there is concern about the assessment of bona fide English language students. We’ll continue to work closely with INZ to encourage growth and to retain the attractive and diverse nationality mix in our member schools.

What are some of the challenges associated with running a national language school association?

The challenges are mostly good – keeping up with so many new and exciting initiatives, organising/coordinating marketing events, keeping up to date with international standards and ensuring members see the value of their membership. We have a small but diverse membership – small, large, regional, major city, private, government owned, EL only, and EL + other tertiary courses. They may have different marketing priorities but the need for advocacy is common to all.

English New Zealand is the highly respected voice of the English language sector in New Zealand. Government policy can be a major challenge from time to time, but we do have good relationships with the various agencies and we have had some significant successes in recent times – e.g. work rights.

Q) What does English New Zealand have planned for the next 12 months?

A variety of things. We’re currently revising the English New Zealand Standards to ensure ongoing best practice and standards that are benchmarked internationally. As part of this we’ll also be sending a representative to the NEAS conference and cooperating in some shadowing of audits with NEAS (within the new QALEN framework) and New Zealand Qualifications Authority (NZQA).

We collaborate with Cambridge English in a number of areas. As well as our own professional development workshops for teachers, we’ll be welcoming an expert in language assessment from Cambridge English to run a session for academic managers.

Eleven of our schools will head to Europe in late September to meet with agents in Madrid, Milan and Prague. We’re working with StudentMarketing to organise these events. We also have other events scheduled on our calendar as part of our agent engagement strategy.

An abridged version of this interview appears in the June issue of StudyTravel Magazine.

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