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IALC overhauls membership criteria

The International Association of Language Centres (IALC), which celebrates its 30th anniversary next year, has unveiled bold new membership rules as the association seeks to ensure it can maintain a strong membership core in the years ahead, as consolidation and expansion impact on what is an independent operators’ club.

The IALC Workshop is a highlight of the year for members and enables them to cement firm business opportunities with education agentsThe IALC Workshop is a highlight of the year for members and enables them to cement firm business opportunities with education agents

Another change is that IALC has abandoned its policy of exclusivity

In essence, the definition of what an IALC school is has been relaxed, so that some schools that are not wholly-owned by a private entity may be eligible (upon review).

The previous caps on number of schools per destination have been relaxed, rather than removed, so more schools in the same location may join (there have been many schools unable to join in the past because of this cap).

And – in a major concession by the association – members can remain in IALC even if they open a new school in a location that has already reached its ‘cap’. In these circumstances previously, the member was forced to rescind its membership. “Neither IALC nor agents like it when longstanding members of high quality suddenly have to leave the association due, in effect, to their success,” explained Jan Capper, executive director.

Members can remain in IALC even if they open a new school in a location that has already reached its ‘cap’

To remain independent in spirit, caps will be introduced on the number of associate schools any member can have (ie to halt creeping consolidation) with no new member able to represent more than 5% of the total size of the association.

Another change is that IALC has abandoned its policy of exclusivity – meaning that, as long as language schools have their own distinct brand, they can also be in other networks of schools, such as Quality English or IHWO. This could pave the way for many more schools to be able to apply.

“Unity behind one brand has distinct advantages but is no longer viable,” explained Capper. “Sometimes when an IALC school is bought by a chain, we look for a replacement in that destination and all the suitable candidates are already in other networks.”

The final change is to allow members to license, as an alternative to owning, an associate school. “What matters is that the licensed school meets our standards and delivers a quality service to agents and students,” said Capper. “We don’t anticipate many cases, but the new Estudio Sampere licensee in Cuba is an example.”

The strategic review took two years to complete and will be welcomed by many, given membership of IALC is widely reputed to be a great business asset. Nevertheless, membership will be on a “by invitation” basis.

“These changes give us more flexibility and ensure that our membership always represents what our research indicates are the top schools in each destination,“ commented Alexandra Borges de Sousa, IALC president.

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