Market Analysis
The Italian language teaching market performed well in 2016 but government support and recognition is needed if the sector is to realise its full potential, reports Nicola Hancox.

There was little change to the top five source countries for Italian language providers in 2016, according to StudyTravel Magazine's latest school survey. The USA, Germany, Austria, Russia and Switzerland accounted for almost half of all enrolled students at the 17 participating schools. However, there was a definite shift in terms of source order, with the USA leaping into the lead, up 7.8 percentage points on 2015.


The USA was the best performing source market for Club Italiano Dante Alighieri Roma, according to Fabrizio Fucile, a direct result of a targeted internet campaign and several international conferences in the USA, including Nafsa.



Switzerland and Germany performed best for Accademia Italiana in Salerno, with its attractive location in the Campania region a natural lure, notes Licia Scarpellino.


Switzerland was a sizeable market source for Dilit - International House in 2016, confirms Giorgio Piva, while Germany provided a bulk of student enrolments for Solemar Academy in Sicily, notes Valerio Gruessner.


Despite featuring in our survey's top five provider countries, Russian numbers underperformed for Accademia Italiana, owing to the exchange rate and a sluggish economy, says Licia.



In contrast, Russia proved a solid source for Accademia Studioitalia in Rome, particularly in the short-stay market, notes Massimo Plaja. Spanish and British students, however, were nearly non-existent at the school in 2016.


South Korea, a market that has traditionally enjoyed studying at HE level in Italy, according to Giorgio, has decreased consistently over the years. Indeed, in our 2011 Status survey, South Koreans represented 4.39 per cent of total enrolled students, dropping to just 0.76 per cent of enrolments in 2016.


More importance was placed on social media activity, with several providers indicating that this medium had the biggest impact on international enrolments in 2016. "Not only for the students who wished to apply for a course directly, but also for new agencies," relates Massimo.



"We invested a lot of energy and resources in order to increase the presence and quality online. Internal SEO management and social media presence are our daily commitments," says Valerio.


With zero government support for the promotion of Italian language learning and no official recognition of language schools, Valerio believes the sector is yet to realise its full potential. He explains, "In the past we had some sort of recognition but since this has been delegated to local institutions, the result is that there is no general legislation anymore. Having an official 'seal' of quality and public recognition would push the industry towards higher quality standards."


Michela Gatti at ELLCI Milano agrees, adding that lack of government support is apparent in areas such as visa issuance, with some nationalities experiencing real difficulty securing a study visa. "The visa denial reasons may seem sometimes incomprehensible and show the lack of a clear law that regulates the language teaching industry."  



This is where language school associations can flex their lobbying muscles and Asils, the largest school association in Italy with 42 members, continues to chip away at relevant government bodies.


There is, according to Valerio, a slight imbalance in regards to memership, however, and he hopes the association will be more inclusive of small and medium-sized schools in the future. "Furthermore, an association should follow the successful models of other national organisations and combine lobbying with promotion abroad. This kind of strategy would be beneficial to new entries in the market, schools, students and the sector in general. Most importantly, it would gain more credibility in the eyes of the institutions."




Francesca Romana Memoli, President of the Association of Schools of Italian as a Second Language (Asils)


"We are working hard to be recognised by the Italian Ministry of Education as a sector. In Italy there is no special quality label for language schools. Consequently there is unfair competition and we have no weight in discussing important issues like visas. We of course lament the lack of government support for the language teaching sector and the mission of Asils is to be the quality schools' association."




Key points

17 schools participated
7,664 is the number of students at these schools in 2016
29,890 is the total number of estimated student weeks at these schools in 2016


Thank you to all the schools who participated in our survey: Accademia Italiana Salerno,; Accademia Studioitalia,; British Institute of Florence,; Centro Italiano,; Club Italiano Dante Alighieri,; Cultura Italiana Arezzo,; Dilit International House,; ELLCI Milano,; Institute of Italian Language and Culture Galileo Galilei,; Istituto Europeo,; Italiano & Co,; Omnilingua,; Orbitlingua,; Sant'Anna Institute,; Solemar Academy,; Studio Italiano Tropea,; Tiberius International,


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