Education agents say they are increasingly assisting students to find schools in Ireland and Malta as English language study destinations, as difficulties due to Brexit and visa issues continue to hinder the process of sending students to the UK.
Earlier this year, The PIE News reported that Turkish agents, in particular, were experiencing problems acquiring visas for students – and the difficulties are not easing, according to some consultants.
“Due to the serious number of visa refusals, the UK is developing a bad reputation”
“We are having serious visa refusals from the UK, especially for the short term visas up to 11 months,” director of Turkish agency Global Vizyon, Deniz Akar, told The PIE.
“Right now, our education counsellors and agents are offering students a choice of other study destinations such as Canada, Ireland and Malta.
“Due to the serious number of visa refusals, the UK is developing a bad reputation,” Akar added.
According to English UK, the impact of the high visa refusal rate in Turkey has resulted in a “significant drop” in student numbers
“We will continue to lobby UK Visas and Immigration Istanbul and the Home Office about this issue,” a spokesperson told The PIE.
English UK hopes a UKVI pilot scheme working with selected agencies in Turkey will lead to more visas being approved overall. The pilot scheme is understood to include between 10 and 12 Turkish agencies.
“It is not clear at the moment how long the scheme is likely to last or whether it will be extended to include more agencies,” the spokesperson added.
Gözde Gürsoy of consultancy Mayla Abroad in Turkey explained that Ireland is a very popular option now.
“We are trying to convert our students… because of the [UK] visa problems.
“Ireland’s work opportunities are also an advantage”
If we see some doubts about the visa… we are sending students to Ireland because the visa is very predictable there. It has basic rules, and if you obey them you get the visa, not like the UK,” she added.
Ireland’s work opportunities are also an advantage for students, Gürsoy explained.
According to Ismail Danışman, vice general manager at ELT yurtdışı eğitim, the UK is following an undesirable path the US previously trod.
“Of course we are going to forward our students and direct our students to other countries,” he said.
“For the US… nobody recruits for the language schools there, but it was one of the main markets two years ago.
“Now that the UK is doing the same thing, we have a cheaper option – Ireland,” Danışman added.
Some agencies specialising in UK study are reportedly seeing visa denial rates of 60%, Danışman continued.
“It never happened before with the UK,” he said.
Ireland has recently seen an influx of language providers opening schools. Most recently Twin Group acquired Alpha College of English. British Study Centres also opened a location in the Irish capital in 2019.
However, it is not only Turkish agents that have noted a move away from the UK.
One agent, Samuele Zerbini, who focuses on the junior market for Sale Scuola Viaggi based in Italy said Italian high schools are focusing more on Malta or Ireland because of Brexit.
“They feel the UK is not a welcoming place anymore,” he said.
“It seems Malta will likely be a favourite study destination in the near future”
Schools now ask for funding to other destinations if applying for EU granted programs, Zerbini added, because “it is not clear if funding will be available to use for the UK post-Brexit”.
Additionally, recent regulation in Malta has lowered financial proof thresholds for visas, which could draw more price-sensitive students.
“If students have accommodation booked in Malta, they needed to have proof that they have €18 per day, without accommodation it is €30. Previously they had to show they had €48,” according to James Perry CEO of Feltom.
The regulation is expected to make a big difference, particularly for Turkish students, Akar at Global Vizyon added.
“It seems Malta will likely be a favourite study destination in the near future.”