EC Australia (including EC Melbourne, EC Sydney and EC Gold Coast), EC Auckland, EC Oxford, EC Miami and EC Washington DC will be closed, the company announced today.
CEO Andrew Mangion said he felt angry and disappointed about the lack of support in Australia for businesses reliant on international clients who were stymied by a travel ban.
“I went into Australia as an investor, investing very significant amounts of money, and I didn’t expect our sole form of revenue to be cut off indefinitely,” he told The PIE.
He said there had been an outpouring of support from agent partners, with many empathising with the decision EC has taken.
“We wanted to trim out our lowest traffic destinations in the US (Miami and DC) and UK (Oxford) and focus on those centres in most demand in each country,” he explained on the other school closures.
In Australia, peak body English Australia has been warning the sector faces extinction because teaching students online – a forced pivot – was not a long-term alternative to in-country immersive learning.
Brett Blacker of EA noted that the end to economic stimulus packages in March would likely herald further closures.
Mangion told The PIE, “Governments have now decided to stop all assistance to the industry. It’s not sustainable. So we’ve made a conscious decision not to jeopardise the rest of our business and to pull out immediately.”
“[Lobbying efforts] are falling on completely deaf ears”
Signalling clear disappointment, he said he tried to understand that governments were trying to protect its population. But he added, “I think the Australian and New Zealand governments maybe need to rethink their strategies because, you know, other markets have maintained their borders open.”
Mangion acknowledged the lobbying to protect the Elicos sector being ably led by Blacker. “It’s falling on completely deaf ears. I mean, if they’re not even listening to the higher education market, can you imagine how they’re listening to the Elicos market?”
A very small team will stay in place in Australia for the next few months, he explained, “just to ensure a smooth transition. Not something we have to do, but something we chose to do.”
The business will focus on its remaining six great destinations, said Mangion.
“I’m much more optimistic about the direction the UK is taking. I am very optimistic about the direction the United States is taking. I think the United States is going to make a big comeback in the next three or four years,” he said.
The company is also venturing into VR learning for its Young Learners: “we’re also exploring ways of utilising that for adult students as well”, revealed Mangion.