Guido Schillig, Managing Director of Anglo-Continental, gives his predictions for the English Language and International Education sectors in 2018.
With just a few days left of 2017, the English Language and International Education sectors eagerly await the start of 2018. There is no doubt that these sectors in the United Kingdom have been contracting over the last few years and in response many institutions have been downsizing. However, downsizing should not have been just about cutting cost but discovering new opportunities while maintaining investment.
The signs are currently positive for 2018 for the UK. Stability of visas and the value of the British pound allows students to follow a more intensive course for longer and do so more frequently while they are learning in the United Kingdom. However, we must remember that students are much more sophisticated today and are seeking value for money. Therefore, the institutions that have only cut costs but not developed new programmes or invested in their schools will not attract new students.
“For the next few years I foresee that that UK will return, albeit slowly, back to being the top destination to study.”
Investment in the school is not just about new paint and carpets. It is about new equipment for students, the latest interactive whiteboards, investing time in inspecting and re-inspecting the homestay families, continual professional development for its staff and much more. Collectively, this delivers a full and complete service for its students that is professional and raises the standards of the institution.
For the next few years I foresee that that UK will return, albeit slowly, back to being the top destination to study. It will take time but over the past few years and now in the depths of Brexit negotiations, the British government has come to learn the importance of International Education and its value of an estimated £25 billion a year.
It is an industry to be cherished and nurtured much like British fashion, finance and banking, information technology, the British film industry and tourism. In recent months more members of the cabinet are openly declaring their support of International Education and recognising the long-term impact of the soft power that international education cultivates.
“It is clear that that the market does not disappear but finds alternative destinations.”
The data from Open Doors will not be available for a few years, but when Donald Trump was voted the 45th President of the United States there was instantly a heightened level of uncertainty for International Education in the Americas. Anecdotally, it has been said that enrolments have reduced to a trickle. It is clear that that the market does not disappear but finds alternative destinations. Despite its harsh winters, the most logical, alternative destination for students considering America, is Canada.
The Australian dollar and tighter controls on visas is starting to move students away to other destinations. However, Australia has been at the top of the favoured countries for many years now and so students who have studied in Australia and gained valuable knowledge and experience have returned home and become the frontline counsellors advising the next generation of students. For this reason, Australia, in my opinion, has not fallen as fast as one would have expected. This highlights the strong influence of soft power.
There will not be too much of a change in destinations such as Ireland and New Zealand and we must not forget the smaller alternative destinations such as the Philippines, Malta, Singapore and South Africa. If their market share is, say, 2% or 3% then collectively they are about 10% of the market.
Government policy and economics have increasingly important roles in shaping students’ choices. However, as educational leaders, we must play our part too. We must develop new programmes, invest and continue to raise standards to ensure that students get the best value education.
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