Although described as a micro-event with much smaller numbers in attendance, the “directors only” association said it was delighted with feedback from its Market Intelligence Seminar, which featured regional experts talking to a membership mix predominantly representing educators about how to grow business in the region.
Delegates at the event, which dovetailed with the ICEF Dubai Workshop, praised the strategic and practical insight into how to build students numbers. Speakers included Peter Arnold of Study Link International, Tim Kerr-Dineen of Kings Colleges and Omar Madanat of education agency Educom, which has offices in Lebanon, Erbil in Iraq and Uzbekistan.
Arnold delivered practical advice – such as how to cope with the heat and noting that the weekend in Saudi Arabia is Thursday/Friday – as well as personal insight about how to market to decision makers, building up strong personal bonds and delivering presentations.
Kerr-Dineen, who has specialised in the Middle East for many years, focused some of his time on Iran; a market with good potential for self-funded university-oriented students although recent financial sanctions are proving difficult.
He regaled the audience with stories of shoes melting on the pavement
He also regaled the audience with stories of shoes melting on the pavement and a 24-hour service culture. He touched upon regional scholarship programmes which deliver significant opportunity: the Human Capacity Development Program (HCDP) in Kurdistan, northern Iraq, which has US$100 million allocated; and the King Abdullah Scholarship Programme (KASP) in Saudi Arabia, which began in 2005 and will run until 2020.
Madanat talked about Lebanon and Oman as well as Kurdistan, having broad experience in the region. He explained that HCDP was keen to avoid problems incurred with other scholarship schemes and ensure applicants had some good level of English before applying, although one year of English study could be accommodated within the scholarship award. He also gave details of more small-scale scholarship programmes in Oman.
ALTO Member, Justin Quinn of CES, said the event had made him decide to amend his marketing focus already – and focus on more countries that the “big two”: Saudi Arabia and Libya.
David O’Grady, CEO of MEI, which represents English language schools in Ireland, noted that one clear message he would now be sharing with his membership is that sales & marketing initiatives were a “slow-burning” process and that time and commitment was needed to grow market share.