By Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine

An interesting mixed bag of stories in StudyTravel Magazine’s news this week, including the latest ambitious plans for an Asian international education hub, a new pathway programme in Scandinavia, a partnership between the two largest Spanish as a foreign language (SFL) destinations, and the pleasing integration of agents into a pilot immigration programme.

Korea has announced that it wants to attract some 200,000 international students by 2023, a theme that fits in with the cover story of the current July issue of STM. The article looks at English-medium education across the continent, and an increase in programmes delivered in English is one of the measures proposed by the Korean government, along with making transition from Korean language schools simpler, and creating international student-only departments.

The last measure might be missing the point somewhat. Most international students probably don’t want to join ‘international only’ classes. If a student chooses to study in Korea, it is likely they would want to mingle with domestic classmates, experience Korean culture and at least learn some of the language, even if the main programme is in English.

Lofty as the aims are, we have been here before. In fact, the government previously announced plans to attract 200,000 by 2020 and is shifting the target back after three consecutive years of decline to a current level of around 84,000.

As with neighbouring Japan, which has similarly ambitious recruitment goals, the missing piece in the jigsaw is the agency model of recruitment. In the ultra-competitive world of attracting international students, it is highly unlikely that the two countries will get anywhere near their targets unless they collectively and institutions individually court agents.

Given that in some target markets well over half of students are using an agent to find an institution, the two countries are missing out on a very large potential customer base if it doesn’t. But both have mature agency sectors led by Felca member associations, so the schools don’t need to go far for advice.

Sweden's higher education sector has long been offering a wide range of programmes delivered in English, so it is perhaps surprising that the country hadn’t adopted the pathway programme model until now; Cambridge Education Group has announced a partnership with Lund University.

Following on from last week’s theme of industry cooperation, we have another pleasing positive example. Spanish based school association Fedele and Argentina-based SEA – ostensibly rivals in the SFL market – have signed an agreement that will cover teacher training, accreditation and other information sharing.

Ana Cózar, Director of Fedele, said better collaboration would create a solid industry that will benefit students, agents and schools. “Of course, we are competitors in the SFL sector, but we are partners in the overall language travel industry,” she added.

And a report from Immigration New Zealand has explicitly acknowledged the integral role that agents play in the student visa application process. We all know this of course, but reassuring to hear an immigration department openly discuss and welcome that.

In the pilot programme, schools can nominate students that they believe meet the financial sustainability and genuine study criteria, and the application will be fast-tracked. Needless to say, the schools have integrated their agents into this process of verifying documents and INZ has also been courting agent views on the pilot programme’s success so far.

To sign off, a reminder to all agents that we always welcome any news or developments from your markets, and also suggestions of what kind of article topics you would like to see in the magazine. Do please get in touch.   

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