John Lin, former president of the Taiwan Overseas Study Association (TOSA), said that Tawian’s weak economy and a surfeit of universities made students more inclined to study at home, then gain some work experience abroad to bolster their CVs.
“Over the last year the whole Taiwanese study abroad market has gone down,” he told The PIE News. “Parents have no money to pay for their children to go abroad and study. They would rather their children got a job.”
Taiwan has traditionally been a big source of overseas students, particularly for the US, however according to the Ministry of Education, a total of 30,691 students studied overseas in 2011, down from 33,881 in 2010 and 33,629 in 2009. According to the Institute of International Education, Taiwanese student weeks on US English programmes fell 47% from 2009 to 2010.
Lin said the Taiwanese economy was primarily to blame, growing at under 1% a year and shifting the emphasis on to employment for parents and students. “They want to go abroad for appearances to help them with their job. They get a working holiday visa for the US or UK and go abroad for a short period to get some experience and even make money,” he said.
“The Taiwanese market has dropped for us and it has been significant in both the UK and USA”
He also nodded to Taiwan’s 176 universities which serve a population of just 23 million and are “easier to get into” than foreign institutions. A knock-on effect is that fewer students will take a language course abroad as a pathway to entering a foreign university.
Leading UK language school Anglo-Continental has noticed the decline. “Our numbers in student weeks for Taiwan were up by one third last year but have dropped by 40% this year – a bit of a rollercoaster,” said managing director, Guido Schillig.
He said he felt Taiwan was predominantly a postgraduate market, estimating English language teaching to account for just 20% in the UK. However, he noted that on Taiwan’s Youth Mobility Scheme, which allows 2,000 students per year to come to England to work and study, students tended to go to London for jobs.
St Giles International, which has schools in the UK and USA, has also been affected. “The Taiwanese market has dropped for us and it has been significant in both the UK and USA,” said sales coordinator, Leigh McIntyre, adding that demand for study and work placements and the juniors market was up.
“The trend suggests students are still having international language learning but they are doing so younger”
“The trend suggests students are still having international language learning but they are doing so younger and returning to Taiwan for their university education.”
Not all Taiwanese agents agree. World Education Group, which predominantly places students on postgraduate courses and a boarding schools, said business was largely unaffected.
Mark Hsu, founder of Envision Recruit, agreed working holiday was “cannibalising the language study market” but not higher study. “For degree study, there is a slight drop-off but it is not dramatic,” he said.
However, Lin claimed work placements now accounted for the “majority of agent business” and that with the economy likely to be depressed next year, the trend would continue. Agencies had to adapt and would on the whole earn less.
“With a one year internship a student can learn English, make money and get work experience. It’s a good model for students, but there’s much less commission for agents,” he said.