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UK must work to retain edge in ELT market

The UK remains one of the most popular destinations for learning English in the key markets Italy, Turkey and China, according to new reports released by the British Council and English UK today. However, British schools must tackle the challenges these markets pose if they are to retain their edge going forward.

David Mitchell of Levant Education talks about TurkeyDavid Mitchell of Levant Education talks about Turkey

Despite advantages over rival destinations, Britain is the most expensive place to study English

Michael Carrier, director of English language development at the British Council, said that there were strong motivations for studying in the UK including its status as the “birthplace of the English language”, its history and its culture. However, he warned Britain was now the most expensive place to study and that it was vital for schools to have up-to-date marketing strategies. “Your competitors are not just British providers, but Japanese, American and Irish too,” he said.

The China report bears this out, showing that opportunities for ELT providers will continue to increase with economic growth but “fierce competition” is expected in the market.

“Your competitors are not just British providers, but Japanese, American and Irish too”

UK providers require “integrated marketing strategies” in order to keep expanding their market share, it states, adding that “diversified content and services” will be a unique selling point in the future. UK schools are advised to tap the growing young learners market and rising demand for English teacher training; building relations with agents and parents is also key given the vastness of the country.

For Italy, the UK is the number one ELT destination (with 25% of a sample study choosing it compared to 16% the US) but its economy could affect demand. Schools face competition in the “plethora” of online English courses offered “free or cheap” in Italy, states the report.

Author Susan Boyle, from the British Chamber of Commerce for Italy, said schools should offer “value for money” courses, and that agents were also vital. “Like it or not schools have to work with agents because the agents move numbers,” she said. “And if they want to attract individuals they have to get their websites absolutely spot on.”

“Challenging times lie ahead” for UK schools in Turkey

Turkey has been a key market for the UK for 10 years. However, more “challenging times lay ahead,” said author David Mitchell of Levant Education thanks to a weak currency; lack of government investment in education; and the removal of part-time work rights in the UK.

However, he said that there were opportunities in a new government drive to improve proficiency—and for UK schools who could navigate Turkey’s still-developing business environment. That meant avoiding mammoth student fairs – which are not sufficiently focussed on study abroad, according to Mitchell – and again building ties with agents.

“It is possible to grow business by maintaining high quality service and products, preparing staff adequately for the competitive Turkish market and ensuring that agent relationships are sound and mutually beneficial,” he said.

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