By Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine

A veritable mixed bag of news stories in our online coverage this week, with highs, lows, new beginnings and celebrations of longevity.

Two UK-based language schools are celebrating 60 years since their establishment in 2015, a significant landmark within an industry that is still in its relative infancy.

Both companies, Bell and St Giles International, were established in a post-war period when international education and language learning was seen as a bridge to understanding other cultures and bringing the world closer together – aims that are as crucial today as they were then. Indeed, the former was established by a University of Cambridge graduate, Frank Bell, who had suffered as a prisoner of war.

St Giles International celebrated its anniversary with a special gala dinner last week, where it also received a Queen’s Award for Enterprise. Bell, meanwhile, has just launched a new portfolio where it promises to personalise courses for every single student and is also promoting a #mybellstory campaign to connect students from across its 60-year history, both through social media and physical visits back to the school.

But elsewhere we have a painful reminder of the volatility of the study abroad industry, particularly in the face of currency exchange rates. Whilst currency issues are a fact of life in international business, it does appear the UK has faced something of a perfect storm over the last few months: a strong pound standing against weak currencies in so many of its top source countries, not least the Eurozone. Such market conditions have led to the closure of the LILA* London school after one year.

Anecdotally from conversations with schools across the UK over the last few weeks, it does seem as if the capital has borne the brunt of the storm, with regional schools perhaps benefitting from London’s perceived higher cost.

The other great issue that impacts on the industry is of course immigration policy settings. Nowhere is there more threatening than in South Africa at present – indeed the Global Alliance of Education and Language Associations (Gaela) was compelled to issue a communique in support of Education South Africa and the country’s language school industry.

David Chapman, Director General of the World Youth and Student Exchange (WYSE) Travel Confederation, touches upon this issue in our ‘View from the desk of…’ interview this week on the eve of the WYSTC 2015 conference in Cape Town. Chapman hopes that the event will serve notice to the government of the huge potential of study travel and youth travel more generally.

And it is issues such as government policy and market volatility that makes the voice of Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations (Felca) more important than ever, according to new President Maura Leão. See our news story on the new FELCA board for more of my interview with Leão, including her thoughts on FELCA’s role and priorities over the term of her presidency.

I’ll sign off with a reminder that you can listen to the StudyTravel Magazine news on our weekly podcast.  

Happy reading or listening – your choice!

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