In the English as a Foreign Language (EFL) industry, many businesses have established themselves as agencies. In a nutshell, agents facilitate the booking process between potential clients and English language schools/hotels/bed and breakfasts, etc. They will also offer advice, take into consideration a customer’s budget, and answer any questions the customer has.
Some agents will have partnered up with more than one service provider who all offer very different things and appeal to very different markets and budgets. Think about a hotel. Not everyone can afford a 5* hotel, while those who can afford a bit more than a 3* may not want a hotel in the city centre. In the English language school industry, a potential student may be more interested in coming to Cape Town to learn a bit of English on the side, but mostly to have fun and be independent in Cape Town. Others will want to fully explore the cultural and historical side of Cape Town coupled with some English, while others will want to concentrate predominantly on their studies and are looking for a rigorous and serious English course because they want to pass their CAE exam to better their career prospects, for example.
Other agents may decide to specialise and only work with one service provider to offer something very specific. For example, group tours of short stays at specific times during the year coupled with language and cultural excursions, or young learners only, to name just two.
Agents will take the time to speak to their clients and advise them accordingly. It makes little sense for an agency to send a student who is very serious about learning, and has very clear goals to pass an exam, to a school that will not offer this type of exam preparation. Students will not be happy, the school will not be very happy (mainly because the student will not be happy) and the student will complain to the agent, and in the end no one is happy. Everyone has the same goals in these relationships, namely that the student/customer is happy!
Knowing the schools that agencies are sending their students to, and finding the perfect match between student and school, means that agents should know the schools they are working with. Have they visited the schools they work with and send students to? Have they met the staff there? Have they seen the country/city and experienced what it’s like to be a tourist there?
For agents such as Ridhaa from Cape Travel Solutions or Raed from English in Cape Town, this is easy. Ridhaa regularly comes to visit us at ELC and maintains his good relationship with all staff and teachers here. If there is anything he needs to speak to us about, or check in with his students, he makes sure to pop in. Raed was one of our first agents and we have enjoyed a long and successful relationship with him. We value these relationships that are based on mutual trust and a strong desire to make sure our students happy and continue improving where we can.
We also have the privilege of meeting many agents who take the time to come and visit us from abroad and learn more about us and the school before they send us students from their countries.
One of our partner agents in Switzerland, South Africa Stay, visited us towards the end of last year. They are specialised in ‘destination South Africa‘ and offer a whole host of different opportunities for their Swiss clientele from English learning and volunteering to travel and experiences throughout Southern Africa. We were able to spend some time chatting to Fabian, showing him around the school, campus and answering the many questions he had about how things work at the university and what students can expect and benefit from as international students of English here. Fabian is exceptionally well versed in all things South(ern) African and very professional in his dealing with language schools. His colleague on the ground in Switzerland, Jasmin, is remarkably efficient and takes the time to ensure that student bookings are handled timeously and with the attention they deserve.
Mi Sun Choi from South Korea, who is the Director of an agency that specialises in placing South Korean students at universities and colleges around the world, took the time out of her busy schedule to visit us for a week. She made sure to visit every aspect of The English Language Centre and University of Cape Town as a whole, including vacation accommodation, the UCT gym and requested to stay in our ELC student residence so that she could get a genuine feel for what it was like to be a student with us. Her objective was to meticulously film and photograph as much as possible so that she could put together an excellent presentation of her prospective university student group and inform them of as much as possible.
Most recently, Konan from the Ivory Coast who has just launched his agency (Eden Global Group), also spent a week with us. Konan chose to stay in a South African homestay family to get a better understanding of the culture, food and lifestyle here, and even joined an English lesson for an entire morning to be able to properly report back what students could expect from their English course at the UCT English Language Centre. He also made sure he visited all our tourist attractions and insisted on taking the MyCiti bus everywhere so he could get a better understanding of how the city worked for students. His aim is to promote the university and its English courses to ambitious students and businessmen/women who are interested in advancing their careers, especially in an international context.
We enjoy working together with agents that share the same vision of ethical partnerships where the student/customer is at the forefront of the exchange. We wish our partners all the success they deserve and many more years of offering customers excellent English learning experiences in the beautiful city of Cape Town!
If you are interested in finding out more about partnering with ELC, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photos (left): Ridhaa from Cape Travel Solutions and (right) Raed from English in Cape Town (ECT)-Spring Gen agency, with The UCT English Language Centre Director and Head of Department, Simon Harrison.