YEDAB held a webinar on Thursday, April 22 to discuss the current state of the international education industry. Below is a brief account of discussions and decisions taken at the meeting.
The meeting started with the opening speech of Osman Yılmaz, the Board Chairman of YEDAB. Deniz Akar and Gözde Gursoy were two moderators of the webinar. After Mr. Yılmaz’s opening speech, Mr. Akar briefly talked about the purpose of the meeting as all international education experts coming together to discuss and analyze the current situation of the international education industry with a focus on language courses and summer schools. Ms. Gursoy explained the outline of the meeting and introduced the first topic.
The attendees were:
Alpedia and Kaplan International – David Fougere – Chief Operating Officer – CEO& Ugo Toselli – GM
CES- Centre of English Studies – Justin Quinn- CEO & Jonathan Cockayne – Managing Director
EC English – Andrew Mangion- CEO & Lisa James – Summer School Director
Emerald Language School – Mauro Biondi- Managing Director
Enforex – Antonio Anadón- CEO &Domenico Oppizzio Regional Manager
ILAC International Language Academy of Canada- Jonathan Kolber CEO
ILSC Education Group – Chris Nolan –Vice President
LSI Education- David Immanuel – CEO
Oxford International –Gary Palmer – UK Managing Director, Sharon Curly – Canada Managing Director& Marina Silva Senior Sales & Marketing Manager
St Giles Colleges- Mr. Mark Lindsay- CEO and Ms Hannah Lindsay- Marketing Director
Scuola Leonardo da Vinci – Guido Angiolo Poggi – CEO
Sprachcaffe – Alberto Sarno –CEO
Stafford House School of English – Cam Harvey CEO
IALC –Robin Adams – President
The first topic to discuss was the future of adult language learning programs in the times of the coronavirus. EC English Schools Executive Chairman and CEO Andrew Mangionsaid, “The best way to learn a language is really to immerse yourself in the language.” All speakers agreed with him and remarked that the best way to learn a language is to participate in immersive language programs. Restrictions and border closures due to Covid-19 made it hard for adult language learners to join in immersive programs, but speakers agreed that there is still a big market for immersive programs and after the restrictions are lifted, it is commonly believed that the market will survive the crash. However, ILAC International Language Academy of Canada CEO and Co-Founder Jonathan Kolberadded, “The adult short term ESL market will take a long term to recover.”
There is a certain trend among language schools that plan on offering hybrid programs which would allow students to continue their studies online or offline. The common belief among the speakers is that the high numbers of the previous years may not be achieved until 2023. However, it is commonly expected by all participants that a solid recovery will be achieved by 2024. Depending on the vaccination this process may take shorter than expected. Until then, some institutions are expected to survive the Covid-19, whereas some other are expected to close its doors. Mark Lindsay said, “Whether you survive depends on what your financial position was when you entered Covid. If you had a strong position pre-Covid you will probably make it.”Justin Quinn said, “Language schools came together in Ireland. A lot of our survival depends on subsidies including rental support etc. When they lift the furlough subsidies in the UK, there will be a lot of schools closing doors. Ireland and Canada give great subsidies which keep us surviving at the moment.”
The second topic to discuss was on product strategies, prices, and promotions. The participants commented that product diversification is key to keeping business afloat during the times od pandemic. It is hard to make money if your business only focuses on face-to-face education, however if you offer hybrid programs there is a good chance your business may survive the crisis. Diversifying the experiences offered to students also allow businesses to attract a more diverse group of students. Some agents commented on their newly started group classes, and summer school programs. They stated that diversifying their programs helped them gain a new student audience and grow their business despite the pandemic.
Regarding prices and promotions, the common idea is that there will be a lot of schools who will make huge discounts and promotions to attract audience and sell their programs to keep their business alive. However, many speakers agreed that this would be a wrong approach which would result in lessening of the quality of education as well as unfair competition for the industry.
The speakers also agreed on the importance of focusing on where your business is the most successful. Most businesses have good audience in some markets and not so good audience in others. That is why it is crucial to focus on selling and promoting your programs to the markets where your business shines. This approach allows the business to get revenue without much marketing expenses. Therefore, its importance was discussed during the meeting.
All agents and institution representatives agreed that the crisis can be turned into a big opportunity. ILSC Education Group Vice President Sales and Marketing- Chris Nolanstated, “I think many organizations ourselves included use this opportunity to improve our internal processes including marketing and ensuring to support our partners.” With the big shift to the online programs, most education institutions made great changes to their curriculums and teaching styles. Teachers had to improve themselves not only with the latest technologies and how to use them, but also how to teach students online and still be as efficient as face-to-face programs. Using this opportunity to rebrand and improve their services, most representatives agreed that the pandemic may be regarded as an opportunity to get better at what you are already great at.
Regarding online programs and the future of them, most agents agreed that online has a place in the future even when the pandemic ends. However, face to face, immersive education is still considered the most effective method and they do not see one replacing the other since both of them has their own pros and cons and attract different audiences.
CES Sales and marketing Manager Johnny Cockayne added, “You need to know what demand there are to supply it. Young people feel like they lost 18 months of their life and despite the wide online education opportunities, there is still demand for studying abroad through face-to-face education. We need to make sure we can supply the education tourism. We have to make sure when students come to our school, they are getting that experience that they can’t get online. We are very optimistic. Our teachers picked up new techniques and improved themselves during the pandemic as well, so we are fully ready for restarting face-to-face education after Covid-19.”
Emerald Owner and Managing Director Mauro Biondisaid, “Talking about the crisis, there is one thing that we do not speak about often, which is the risk to waste the crisis. We all desire to go back to normality. We, language schools, we are to change in the crisis. Now, obviously with the crisis this becomes even more important to take for granted what our students need and what is our desirable outcome. We need to make partnerships with agencies to find solutions and make sure our students have what they need. The crisis increased the need for that. The crisis is a very agile tool to find out new opportunities, so the crisis is a great opportunity to help each other, to identify the new needs of the young people and the new needs which are emerging because of the crisis.”
Regarding the role of agencies during the pandemic, Enforex Regional ManagerDomenico Oppizzio said, “The role of agency is crucial. Despite lockdowns the agencies made great job to keep everything under control. I feel nowadays the role of agencies is becoming more important compared to the past. They can make a big difference. We will never be able to substitute the online programs but if people are willing to go away from home, we will be here.”
There was also a survey conducted during the meeting. The survey results show that: Do you think the demand for adult language schools will be increasing in 2022?
The meeting ended on a positive note where all participants agreed to collaborate and support each other during these difficult, unprecedented times. Alpedia and Kaplan Language Group Chief Operating Officer David Fougeresaid, “Our strategy is simple, we all need to support our partners. We have done that in a number of different ways, and we will continue to do that. We want to be there for you and emerge from this together”. Stafford House School of English CEO Cam Harvey added, “Everyone is optimistic because we have to be optimistic. In 2022, we will start to see a stronger return. Until then, we need to keep supporting each other to survive the pandemic altogether.” Despite all restrictions, lockdowns, flight and visa issues, the agents and institution representatives are hopeful that the situation will improve in no time thanks to the worldwide improvements in technology, vaccination, and hygiene awareness.