At the final fair in Istanbul, delegates told The PIE News they disagreed with recent comments by Levant Education Group at a British Council briefing that Turkish fairs were inefficient as a “direct route to students”. They instead said that participation was vital to building their brand in a crowded and dynamic market – and to winning student trust.
Laurie Lee, Director for International Business Development for Guard Me Insurance, (who has been coming to Turkey for 14 years) said of the fairs: “Turkey is an extremely volatile market. It could be a currency issue, or a political issue such as visas. There is also constant staff turnover in agencies. But if you don’t come and stay on top of it how do you know about it?”
She added that fairs were vital to brand recognition, especially for smaller operators, and allowed students to meet schools in person and build trust, which is important to Turkish families.
“It’s very good to be able to liaise with them… I think it gives them a sense of security”
Melissa Murphy, business development coordinator at Anglo Continental language school in the UK, agreed. “This is my fourth fair and I think they give the student the chance to speak to the agency but also come and see you. For me it’s very good to be able to liaise with them and they can ask questions directly, and I think it gives them a sense of security.”
The A2 fair passed through Kayseri, Izmir, Ankara and Istanbul from October 7-14, featuring educators from the US, Europe, Asia and Australasia, including the Universities of Manchester and California, EF and ELS.
Many praised the quality and number of students who attended, venues, services and support, and translators—although some raised doubts over opening hours at some fairs, saying the later opening and closing at Ankara and Izmir ensured stronger turnouts.
Most said the Turkish market was buoyant and that Turkey was a fun place to do business. “They offer something for everybody, and are so friendly, they organise everybody to be social and they really look after you,” said Murphy.
Eren said larger fairs offered schools vital exposure to their competition and gave students more choice
Delegates relax after the Istanbul fair
Sedat Eren, Executive Director of A2 fairs, said that boutique student events (such as those organised by Levant) had their place, but that larger fairs offered schools invaluable exposure to their competition and gave students more choice.
“Look at it from Turkish students‘ perspectives,” he said. “Usually they want to know ‘what are my options’. That’s why the fairs have to have the variety of countries and institutions.
“Many also need multiple services such as language training before a degree. Any student needs to see the options… And a fair needs to have the variety to attract the high volumes of students.”
The A2 fairs were followed by a three-day agent workshop co-run by BMI and A2 which welcomed around 120 international agents, schools and universities. A recurring theme was the rising interest in Turkey as a study destination; read our feature here.