Key ingredients to ensuring sustainable growth in Australia’s language sector

Today’s exclusive video interview is with Sue Blundell, CEO of English Australia (EA). EA is the national peak body for the English language sector of international education in Australia, representing over 100 of the leading English language colleges. Together, they deliver courses to approximately 80% of all English language students in Australia.

Providers in Australia are naturally keen to protect and promote both the quality of education and the student support offered, as well as the overall experience international students have when they come to Australia. And as “the voice” of the English language sector in Australia, EA is the go-to resource for “quality, professional support and great data collection.”

Listen to our interview with Ms Blundell, as she talks about how the industry can sustain its recent growth, where it’s coming from, the role of effective, unified top-down marketing strategies, and what opportunities are ahead now that the country has a new government in place.

Lately there have been signs of a recovery for the international education industry in Australia, and the English language training (ELICOS) sector is shining, with commencements up +19.6% at YTD August 2013 (see graph below).

Ms Blundell enthuses,

“After four years of falling enrolments, it is fantastic to see that we are bouncing back and on the road to recovery.”

She explains that the growth is spread evenly across the sector – in university and private providers, stand alone as well as pathway providers; however, the mood on the ground in Australia is one of “cautious optimism.”

new-commencements-ytd-august-2013

China, Japan, and South Korea continue to remain Australia’s strongest origin markets, but Latin America also holds much promise for the future, with Brazil and Colombia as key source nations.

top-10-source-countries-for-elt-students-2012

As Ms Blundell outlines, “Sustainable growth is based on good quality underpinnings in the sector, a strong regulatory framework that supports that quality, a good visa system that allows access to study… it’s about getting a balance between access for students, and quality and rigor in the process of making sure the students who come into the country are genuine students.”

There are a number of reasons why international students choose to study in Australia; work and travel flexibility is a key driver for many of them.

visas-for-english-language-study

Quality in education and student satisfaction are essential, and as the graphs below show, results from Australia’s 2011 English Language Barometer were up over 2009 (2013 results are currently being processed).

australia-learning-elt-student-satisfaction-survey

australia-living-elt-student-satisfaction-survey

Putting students first is something the country prides itself on. All colleges are required to provide orientation and access to student support, with consumer protection built into legislation for all student visa holders. The national Overseas Students Ombudsman deals with complaints, and EA can also act as a mediator for issues between agents/students/parents and member colleges. Furthermore, EA also provides tuition assurance for non-student visa holders studying with one of their member colleges.

Agencies have long been a fundamental part of international student recruitment in Australia; the government recognises this and has produced a guide for education and training providers on working with agents, and supports training for agents.

As Ms Blundell explains, the new government has shown initial strong support for international education, which is a promising sign for the future. Positive changes to the student visa programme include the expansion of streamlined visa processing and simplification of the Assessment Level (AL) Framework as well as reduced financial requirements for AL3 student visa applicants.

Ms Blundell concludes by stating:

“I look forward to the new government as being very positive for international education… We can look forward to a year where this government will be examining how much they can pull back and let business do business… it’s an opportunity for us to see a decline in the kind of regulation that constrains an industry, that constrains innovation, that constrains opportunity.”

Additional resources which readers might find useful include:



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