Three big challenges New Zealand’s English language schools are facing – and how to combat them

Media article posted by English New Zealand on 7 December 2018.

International education in New Zealand is booming. As at 31 August 2017, the number of year to date enrolments were at 106,021, with regionally based student numbers growing steadily and students coming here from increasingly more countries. There’s been clear growth in the sector, and this has been beneficial not only to our education providers, but to New Zealand as a whole.

English language schools are particularly important to the education sector, with many international students having their first interaction with New Zealand’s education system once they choose to take an English language course on arrival. This behaviour is so important that when the New Zealand government recently released its International Education Strategy for 2018-2030, it stated that it was exploring the possibility of treating English language schools as a distinct sub-sector to the rest of the market 1 .

With English language providers being such a unique entity, it’s no wonder that they face a different set of challenges to many of the other market players. Here are just some of the challenges many are facing, plus some possible solutions.

Global competition

English language providers face stiff competition globally. With a huge number of global providers offering the same short courses in multiple English speaking nations, it can become a struggle for New Zealand providers to differentiate themselves on the global stage. This means they must find another ‘hook’ to engage with students considering studying in the region.

Wayne Dyer, Chairman of English New Zealand, has spoken about this challenge, stating that the answer to this problem is for small and independently owned English language schools to focus on the tourism elements that these courses provide2 . Encouraging students to have a cultural experience, while studying English, is one way to combat these issues.

Short courses and timeframes

While universities and high schools have clear start and end dates to their study periods, English language courses are more fluid. New courses can begin each week, and students can often dictate when they want to begin their study. Additionally, these courses run for much shorter periods of time. This presents a problem to providers when they enroll international students in courses, especially when visas can take longer to process than anticipated or if tuition payments are delayed.

While the reality is that the length of these courses have traditionally posed a challenge for administrative staff, moving away from using paper-based systems to online application processes can save valuable time and resources through automating tasks like tuition reminders and visa tracking. This increases the transparency of both enrolment numbers and payments, with providers who use automation tools and machine learning more likely to effectively manage such challenges.

Small teams

Generally, smaller English language providers have smaller teams working in accounts payable and receivable, who are also required to manage outbound international payments. Processing agent payments or student refunds can become complicated when team members need to process payments across different currency types. If a payment happens to be made incorrectly, it’s sometimes the case that there’s no recourse available to these already busy finance team members, and it can be hard to pinpoint why things went wrong.

If they don’t already, providers can remedy this by moving to a centralised, online system for international payments. At Cohort Go, we work with many New Zealand based providers to support global payments, and find that having everything in the one place gives English language schools a clear picture of their unique student set and payment types.

English language providers are an integral part of New Zealand’s international education market, with team members who work hard, run on small margins and short timeframes. While the challenges that providers face are unique, the organisations who are excelling are those who think outside the box to offer courses that are tied to education and tourism outcomes, automate previously manual procedures and combine payments into an all-in-one tool.

Guy St Clair has over 15 years’ experience in finance and business management. After beginning his career at JPMorgan Chase & Co in the UK, Guy then moved to Wellington, New Zealand where he gained further finance and business experience. As New Zealand General Manager of Cohort Go since 2015, Guy is responsible for driving and supporting the company’s growth across New Zealand’s international education market.

Author: Guy St Clair

Guy St Clair is New Zealand General Manager at Cohort Go where he is responsible for driving and supporting the company’s growth across New Zealand’s international education market.

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