Improved market intelligence, practical advice on lobbying and media training, and a wider variety of specialist sessions were among the highlights of English UK's Annual Conference & AGM 2016, attended by 150 members and stakeholders.
English UK's annual student statistics report, produced with our insight partner StudentMarketing, was launched at the conference. Presenting the research, CEO of StudentMarketing Samuel Vetrak explained that the global ELT sector saw a decline on the previous year. UK numbers were also down, by 8 per cent for student numbers and 13 per cent for student weeks.
However, Mr Vetrak noted that the UK is still the leading ELT destination in terms of the volume of students and that the report revealed opportunities. He advised members to spend some time reading the report and analysing the facts to identify potential markets.
"Those of you in business as long as I have been, will remember this isn't the first time we've been hit," said Richard Day, English UK's interim chief executive. Mr Day said, "We are working with StudentMarketing to understand and identify market trends in order to help us evaluate the global market and to help members prepare for change."
Priorities for the coming months included Accreditation UK, as the contract between English UK and the British Council is up for renewal next year. There were "very open and full discussions about ways in which we can take accreditation forward and that is really quite an exciting development," said Mr Day, adding that the other priorities were encouraging members to take part in a "grassroots public affairs campaign" and also making membership a better fit for all.
Elective sessions included expert talks on young learner programmes, the pathway sector, business and partnership development, business English, making change positive, and digital marketing, and an FE focus group met for the first time. The conference closed with practical tips and comic, yet inspirational anecdotes on managing in difficult times from eminent business psychologist, Professor Adrian Furnham.
The additional elective sessions were popular with attendees. Gary Marston of Warwickshire College, a first-timer, said: "It was two of the sessions that persuaded me to come, and it's been very worthwhile." John Corcoran of St Andrew's College, said: "It's been fantastic," while Nigel Paramor of English in Chester said: "I always enjoy the opportunity to talk with everybody else, and those student figures are exactly what we need."
English UK's past and future chief executives were also involved: Sarah Cooper was introduced as the incoming leader, Tony Millns was unanimously elected its first-ever fellow, and the scholarship fund in memory of Eddie Byers was launched.
Ms Cooper was delighted that the conference had covered topics relevant to a diverse range of members, whilst Chair Steve Phillips noted the "great mix" of delegates. Henry Tolley, of conference sponsors Trinity College London, thought the mood was upbeat despite current challenges. "There is a very positive agenda, new ideas and people looking for solutions, not just talking about problems."
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