The potential implications of Brexit and government immigration policy, keeping agents informed, the value of data, storytelling and adding value beyond courses were among the seminar topics at the annual English UK Marketing Conference in London last week.
Prefacing a panel discussion on Brexit and ELT, Chief Executive of the association, Sarah Cooper , outlined the impacts for the sector in the government’s Immigration White Paper, planned to come into effect in 2021, principally: the proposed implementation of an ETA for all visitors; that short-term visitors will receive a visa on arrival; and that ID cards will be phased out ‘in due course’.

Emma Meredith, International Director at the Association of Colleges (AOC), argued that the 2021 timeline of the White Paper proposals gave schools and agents time to prepare for changes such as passports. Lucy Horsefield , COO of International House World Organisation (IHWO), added that agents are looking for clear information and direction, and that schools have an opportunity to shine and make a positive impact during a period of uncertainty.

 Commenting on the potential of success for industry lobbying, Sarah advised that the government has indicated there will be a bespoke forum for ELT in consultations on the White Paper, with recognition that the needs of the sector are distinct from higher education. Pat Saini, Head of Immigration at law firm Penningtons Manches, highlighted that the sector was previously successful in lobbying government for the 11-month Extended Student Visitor Visa.

One practical piece of advice given to delegates by Pat was that in the event of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, schools should ensure that staff and students that are resident in the UK before March 29th avoid getting a stamp in their passports when they return to the UK from overseas trips after that date. She said schools can provide a letter that indicates that they were resident prior to Brexit and therefore have rights protected under the EU Settlement Scheme.

During a separate panel discussion on the use of data in marketing, Patrik Pavlacic, Head of Research at Bonard (previously StudentMarketing), presented an overview of a pilot project conducted last year with 20 members of English UK in the north of England, which involved in-person interviews and analysis of factors such as capacity, staffing, peak times and agent relationships. Patrik said that the 20 participant schools had a total of 162 active agency partners – defined as an agent that has sent a student in the last year.

Stephan Roussounis , Managing Director of Bayswater Education, and Spencer Fordham , Managing Director of Capital School of English, then commented on the use of industry data, with both agreeing that for small-to-medium-sized schools data insights can be critical in deciding where to allocate resources. Spencer added that detailed regional data on areas such as nationality mix can be useful for agents in deciding where to recommend.

Jackie Kassteen , Founder of Jackfruit Marketing, delivered an opening plenary on storytelling, urging delegates to utilise storytelling – as distinct from testimonials or blogs – in their marketing mix. She said that studying a language overseas is an emotional process with a rich source of material for storytelling, and she added that this can also engage agents, who build strong relationships with schools.

Elsewhere at the conference, industry consultant Mick Davies presented on adding value within learners’ journeys, urging that language schools should articulate the transformative effect of language programmes with notions of aspiration, achievement, confidence and safety in their messages, arguing that agents would find schools that address these concerns an easy sell to their clients.

As previously reported, English UK unveiled a refreshed brand image prior to the conference, with member schools, agents and corporate partners invited to update their materials.

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