Satisfaction of former and current IALC school students in the IALC Study Travel Research Report 2017
IALC releases student research findings

The International Association of Language Centres (IALC) has released the results of a student research project, highlighting student expectations and satisfaction throughout the customer journey, and showing differences by age, booking channel and language studied.

The IALC Study Travel Research Report 2017, entitled The Student perspective on language study abroad and conducted in partnership with StudentMarketing, is based on survey responses from 4,755 former and current students at IALC member schools from 136 countries, expanding upon initial findings presented at the IALC 2017 Boston Workshop in March.


Thirty per cent of participants said their expectations of their booking were exceeded and a 45 per cent said their expectations were met. Overall, school atmosphere, experiencing another culture and teaching were the best performing factors, while accommodation aspects (location, facilities and meals) were the lowest.


Students learning Japanese and Spanish were the most likely to say their expectations had been exceeded, both achieving around 50 per cent for teaching and school atmosphere.


Judging the student experience, students in Ireland rated the quality of their course the highest at 8.8/10, followed by Japan at 8.7, but only minor variations by country were identified.


For former IALC students, Japanese schools scored highest for experience of support, teaching materials, teaching staff and quality of the language course, with English schools top for accommodation and activity programmes and Germany rated highest for school facilities and technology.


For current IALC students, those studying Spanish had the highest-scoring experiences for activity programmes, school facilities, support, teaching staff and quality of the language course.


Benchmarking progress on a course on a scale of 0-to-5 [0 = no progress; 5 = 'I was delighted by the progress I made'], students generally reported making slightly more and much more progress than anticipated, with listening skills the highest average at 3.71. The benefits of longer programmes (10 weeks or more) were apparent in the research, with all measures achieving higher rankings of progress, and writing skills showing the biggest difference between short- and long-term courses.


Broken down by language, Japanese students had the highest average progress score across all measures at 3.6.


Satisfaction levels of students in the research showed a clear distinction between former and current students, with the time lapse appearing to create more favourable reflections on the course. As such, 93 per cent of former students were satisfied with their course overall and 47 per cent stating they were "much more satisfied than expected". This compares with 83 per cent and 30 per cent for current students.


Overall, nine in 10 students said they would choose the same language school, with Chinese language students ranking the highest at 94 per cent and those in Australia lowest at 81 per cent. Eighty-eight per cent of students would choose the same course, with Chinese, German and Italian students ranking above that.


In terms of pre-arrival information in shaping expectations, the authors said that school website (32 per cent), local agents (26) and friend/relative (20) were essentially the only main sources of information for students.


Breaking down the data further, the authors said that agents were the primary source of information for the under-17 and 18-to-24 year-old students, but became less integral as the student age increased. By language studied, agents were the top source of pre-departure information for students heading to English programmes (38 per cent), but not for other languages.


The authors said, "With less than 40 per cent of students actually utilising school-produced resources as their main source of information, it is imperative for schools to safeguard the flow of information to the end customer."


Almost 95 per cent of respondents said that the pre-arrival information on course price and fees was accurate. Most measures analysed were above 90 per cent, but the number of activities and excursions, nationality mix and use of technology in teaching were considered the most inaccurate. The authors said that students that had used agents as their main sources of information reported slightly higher levels of inaccuracy.


The authors said that the fact that 94 per cent of students would recommend their school was a powerful marketing tool for IALC. "Due to the strong word-of-mouth tradition in the industry, the importance of satisfied students who can be effectively brought on board to become brand ambassadors is ever more significant."



The full report is available on the IALC website.


By Matthew Knott

News Editor