Concierge Service and Shorter Engagements: How IELPs Can Meet Modern Students’ Needs

As technology makes English language instruction a cheap and easy option for international students, traditional enrollments for Intensive English Language Program (IELP) courses in the United States are in decline. However, as Martyn Miller points out, IELPs provide so much more to students than grammar. In this interview, Miller discusses the challenges facing IELPs, and introduces the innovative way that EducationUSA Academy is working with American university campuses to develop new models for international language instruction.

The EvoLLLution (Evo): How has the global IELP market evolved in recent years?

Martyn J. Miller (MM): In the past two years the demand for traditional college- and university-based intensive English language programs has diminished greatly. There are several reasons for this—changing global markets and international political challenges come to mind—but most importantly, it’s because English language instruction has improved greatly throughout the world. It no longer has to be offered only in English-speaking countries, and it no longer has to cater exclusively to university students.

As a result, we’ve had to shift our focus. When we faced declining enrollment in the past, we responded by approaching new geographic markets—when the Asian financial crisis hit in the late 1990s, for example, we started recruiting more students from the Persian Gulf; but given the proliferation of language programming in international markets, that approach is no longer viable. Today, we’re addressing declining enrollment by developing new language programming that meets students’ needs beyond simply learning English.

These new programs draw on the cultural aspect of international English language instruction and prepare students for American academic environments. These programs, which we call “short-term programs,” focus on strengthening the English language skills students learn in their home country by providing the cultural and academic context in which they’ll be using those skills. While the traditional intensive language program model will not be very viable for much longer, these short-term programs will continue to grow over the next few years.

Evo: You mentioned that one of the challenges facing IELP providers in the US is the fact that English language education abroad has improved so drastically. What are some of the other challenges that you and your colleagues are coming up against?

MM: The current federal administration has implemented new procedures and policies which potentially make it more difficult for international visitors to attend intensive English language programs in the United States. In the past, one could go to a consulate or an Embassy and apply for a visa for language instruction without too many problems. Now, unless you have an admission to a language program that is tied to a formal US university admission, the chances you have of receiving a visa are lower. Federal government policies do have a serious impact on language program visas. At the same time, other English-speaking countries are undertaking very strong recruiting efforts, particularly in Australia, Canada and the United Kingdom. Recent evidence, in fact, demonstrates that both Canada and the United Kingdom have increased English language training enrollments within the past year. 

Read Full Article