English UK supports the ELT sector to prepare for Brexit
29 October 2019

Audience and Pat News Article

English UK helps ELT sector prepare for Brexit

Hundreds of ELT schools from all over the UK have benefited from English UK's free training days to prepare for Brexit.

English UK's advice for ELT on Brexit – made possible after we applied for a substantial grant from the Government's Brexit Readiness Fund – was available to the whole sector and run in London, Bristol, Manchester and Edinburgh.

"We want to ensure the entire UK ELT industry is as well prepared as it can be for Brexit, with or without a deal," said Huan Japes, membership director of English UK.

The slides and recordings of the sessions will be available on the English UK 'Get Brexit-ready' webpage.

The sessions covered key elements people need to know and do in areas such as student immigration, the employment of EU nationals, EU-funded courses, health insurance and the treatment of VAT.

Huan said: "We have also looked at business development post-Brexit, including an interesting survey of agent sentiment both inside and outside the EU."

Fergus Lury of English UK member Mill Hill International, attending the London event, said: "I'm very much enjoying it. One nice thing is finding out that everybody is in the same boat and nobody is quite sure what to say or think and that's reassuring in one sense."

Noel Ensoll of LanguagesUK thought the Government needed to understand that work rights in competitor markets such as Ireland were attracting students from growth markets such as Brazil, and added: "It's been very impressive. The Government needs to understand how important our industry is and that the reason we get less," he said.

Rebecca Harrison and Jeanette Felton of Stages Ltd, who had found getting Erasmus+ contracts increasingly tricky, said they had found the information on Erasmus+ particularly useful. Jeanette said: "The funding agencies need to start sending out more positive messages and information."

Contributions included an afternoon from Patrik Pavlacic, director of research at English UK's insight partner Bonard. He presented research suggesting markets which might be fruitful for UK ELT centres, rather than relying on mature EU markets. The results of an agent survey were also revealed. It showed that 82% of EU agents would look for more partnerships with providers in non-UK destinations, compared with 62% of non-EU agents. Their customers were "concerned" or "very concerned" about Brexit, according to 77% of surveyed agents in the EU and 56% outside.

"If I was a school, I would not diversify because of Brexit, but because of the numbers. EU markets are in decline," Patrik said.

"Looking into the future, what are the countries that will help you offset those numbers, particularly in student weeks? It's very important to make sure the messaging is right and I also want to encourage you to leverage the market information you have at your hands – it's really critical to reassess multiple times in the year if you have right market and the right pricing and are always looking out for new opportunities. The world is a very dynamic place and doing it once a year is really dangerous."

He said it was a good idea to spread the word about new development and leverage the Government's international education strategy in conversations with agents and other opportunities.

He added: "Communication is important – when we surveyed agents, it became obvious to us that the main concern was lack of information and uncertainty and people not being driven by facts. It's important to have these conversations and key messages aligned across the board."

In other sessions, immigration lawyer Pat Saini of Penningtons Manches Cooper reassured delegates that whether there is a deal or not, EU students can continue to enter the UK as they do now on ID cards as well as EU passports until Thursday 31 December 2020. Pat also encouraged our delegates about the importance of communicating with staff, students and partners, as they may need to apply for European settlement or European Temporary Leave to Remain (Euro TLR) from January 2021.

Carla de Abreu from Ealing, Hammersmith and West London College had found most of the advice on the ELT market post-Brexit very useful. "All the information about EU nationals working here, for instance – I'm going back to college and encourage them to do more."

Thomas Mobee of Buzzacott reminded delegates to ensure agent contracts were separated by the service paid to agents (i.e. the commission) and the services supplied to students (e.g. the language course), as the supply of services from agents is taxable and counts towards your £85,000 threshold after which you must register for VAT with HMRC.

There were also sessions with advice for the ELT market post-Brexit on GDPR, VAT and Erasmus+.

We received some great feedback from the event with 73% of delegates feeling that they had left the training with implementable actions for potential Brexit outcomes, while 69% of respondents said they felt more prepared for potential Brexit outcomes.

Some sessions will be available to watch soon. We will also follow up with updates, including our response to the findings of the agent survey and a factsheet on GDPR post-Brexit. Providers should keep themselves informed via our Brexit updates and make sure their agents are informed as well.

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