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Agents and schools explore Covid-19 solutions in YEDAB event

Turkey-headquartered association of study abroad counsellors YEDAB hosted an online forum for schools and agents recently, discussing the Covid-19 impact on agencies and possible solutions in different education sectors, including fees, communications, vouchers and online programmes.

21 Mayıs 2020 Perşembe 11:55
Agents and schools explore Covid-19 solutions in YEDAB event

 The two-hour conference event, hosted on Zoom by YEDAB  (the Association of Study Abroad Counsellors), attracted more than 200 participants, with agencies and schools from across Europe and Asia present, addressing questions and points released by YEDAB beforehand.

With regards to higher education, most participating agents expressed the view that partner universities should outline all possible scenarios so that agents can give precise information to students and parents.

Participants in the discussion suggested that full tuition fees for online higher education programmes were too high, and that there is little information currently on scholarships or discounts for the absence of face-to-face tuition. One agent participant, Farhan Ali Syed of Celtic Consultants  in Pakistan, commented that it was very difficult to convince students to accept full fees for online study.

The YEDAB Zoom meeting attracted more than 200 participants.

The potential for visa refusals after students have paid up front and commenced online was also identified as a concern by agents. Caner Otrakci of highlighted that most consular services are closed, so asked if students commence online, what will the process be after they open again?

YEDAB said, “Many agencies emphasised the fact that travel and experience are the core elements of any sort of educational activity, that is why online courses might only be a substitute in such a period but it will not be permanent. Many school representatives have agreed on this sensitivity as well. They also reminded again that, for schools with thousands of current students, offering online programmes was the most effective and the least harmful solution.”

Guido Poggi , Director of Marketing Director of Scuola Leonardo da Vinci  in Italy, commented that schools had no option but to provide online courses as a service for existing students because of sudden closures, but added that they were just one more opportunity for agents. When schools are fully open, online language learning can be dedicated to a different clientele he suggested.

Johnathan Cockayne , Principal of Centre of English Studies  (CES) Edinburgh, said, “We need to ensure we offer something to take part in. They [online courses] are complementary, but will keep the market alive and the keep the desire to learn a language.”

With regards to refunds, YEDAB said, “Agencies spoke with a single voice about that refund policies of language schools should be re-evaluated. It was also repeated that refunding should be the very last option for all sides; however, we should create a common policy considering each student’s local legal regulations in case of this demand.”

Many school representatives in the meeting were receptive to discussions around vouchers and some reiterated a commitment to full refunds.

Subsequent to the meeting, Spanish language provider Hispania, escuela de español  contacted StudyTravel Magazine to advise that it had altered its policies based on feedback from the YEDAB session and updates from Turkish agency association UED, and was allowing agents to transfer credit notes to be used for other students during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Scott Wade , Director of StudyTravel Ltd, was invited to speak during the conference and said that communication and collaboration between agency and school associations was essential at this time, highlighting the regular meetings taking place between the Federation of Education and Language Consultant Associations ( Felca ) and the Global Alliance of Education and Language Associations ( Gaela ). 

He addressed a number of the points in YEDAB's pre-conference release, and said that a voucher system should act as a virtual currency within the sector. He commented that if schools and agents don't work together via their associations on refunds and vouchers, agents may start sending money later to avoid issues, which will in turn affect schools' cashflows. While associations can't tell members schools how to run their businesses, they can allow and promote certain helpful practices, he added. 

Seher Neöz, Business Development Manager at ICEF , was also a guest speaker and commented that now was a time for empathy between agents and schools.

Representatives from schools and agencies around the world joined the YEDAB meeting.

Commenting on the success of the event, Osman Yilmaz , President of YEDAB and Chairman of Aktif Education Abroad Agency  in Turkey, said, “The great interest in our forum was a real motivation for all of us to see the unity of the sector from all over the world. After meeting, we have been quite happy to see some informative forecasts sent to agencies by universities as discussed in the meeting, and we have received many promotional prices for the first possible intakes from language schools since that date. It shows us the added value of this kind of programmes and the altruism of all the members of our big family. We are proud to see the consequences.”

He added, “We have also had some other good news from some member agencies saying they started to work in the offices with maximum precautions and a limited number of counsellors this week, and began promotional activities and already received some inquiries during this week. We are proud to feel as if we could somehow manage to contribute by this fruitful event for our sector.”

Deniz Akar  of Global Vizyon  agency in Turkey said the conference was an important opportunity for agents to express their views. He said that agents understood the problems that language schools were facing and that most had been really helpful, but that some had unfortunately closed communication channels with language schools.

YEDAB (The Association of Study Abroad Counsellors) comprises of 85 members in Turkey and more than 180 worldwide.


By Matthew Knott

News Editor

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