The number of agents registered with the British Council in China to promote UK summer schools. Source - Demand for UK Summer School Programmes in Mainland China
English UK looks to Chinese agents for summer school growth
The number of Chinese agencies promoting UK summer school courses is growing rapidly, according to a recently released study by the British Council and school association English UK.

The Demand for UK Summer School Programmes in Mainland China report was presented by Su Si, Education Services Manager at the British Council China, during the StudyWorld conference in London, UK, last week, and she claimed that the number of agents representing UK junior programmes has doubled between 2012 and 2016.


Su said that Chinese agencies have to register with the British Council to offer student visitor visa programmes, and that the number of registered agencies grew from 1,069 five years ago to 2,056 at the end of 2016 - a figure that was now substantially higher, she added.


The number of UK short-term student visitor visas issued to Chinese students also increased by 26 per cent in 2016, according to the report, and Su added that in the year to June 2017 this had risen by 50 per cent.


"Despite China's falling youth population, there is little sign that this growth is slowing down. Instead, agents point towards increasing interest in short-term overseas study, which they link to both increasing affluence and the greater international consciousness of the new generation of parents," the British Council said in a press release.


Just over half of 95 agents surveyed for the British Council/English UK paper reported growth in UK summer courses in 2016, with a further 34 per cent stating steady business.


The UK accounted for around 28 per cent of business for contributors to the survey, but the authors noted that as all respondents were registered with the British Council as promoting the UK, the true ratio nationwide across all agencies was likely to be "significantly lower". The USA was cited as the most popular destination for summer junior courses.


More than 1,000 of the registered agents are concentrated in the Tier 1 cities of Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Shenzhen, while a further 750 are located in Tier 2 cities. Triple-digit growth cities in terms of the number of British Council-registered agencies over the last four years include Suzhou, Tianjin, Kunming and Wuhan, the authors said.


The report found that 87 per cent of responding agencies worked with local schools and education authorities to recruit clients for summer schools, followed by online advertising (45), offline events (24) and print advertising (22).


However, Su highlighted that the number of international schools in China was expected to increase from 287 last year to 436 by 2020, according to a recent Deloitte analysis of the sector, and she said that UK institutions might need to offer more specialised summer programmes in light of the higher general English language skills that participants will have.


She said that lots of new agencies were emerging in China with a younger generation of business leaders that are "more demanding and have a clear vision".


Agents reported that disadvantages for the UK were the relatively high cost of courses compared with competitor destinations, despite the recent fall in the value of pound sterling. Contributors also said the lack of immersion programmes and offerings for very young learners were a barrier on growth.


On the plus side, the UK's culture, quality and safety were recognised by contributing agents as advantages, although the authors added the caveat that the surveys took place before the recent UK terror attacks, so perceptions of safety may have weakened.


An agency panel discussion featuring Xiaofan Li, Founder and CEO of UK-based China-focused agency EdBridge UK, and Dongdong Yuan, General Manager of China Sports Leader International Education, complemented the research and fielded questions from UK schools about working with Chinese agents.


The event was one of the seminars during the new-look StudyWorld conference, which was hosted by language school association English UK and held at the QEII exhibition centre in London from September 4-7.


The full report is available to download free of charge from the English UK website for member schools, and from the British Council's Services for International Education Marketing (SIEM) website for SIEM member institutions.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor