Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine
Opinion... from the News Editor

Well thankfully a little common sense seems to have prevailed in the tit-for-tat visa suspension between the USA and Turkey, with both sides rolling back to allow 'limited' visa operations.

The suspension of all non-immigrant visa services was announced last month by the U.S. Mission to Turkey after the arrest of a local employee, with local media reports suggesting the arrest was in relation to last year's attempted coup in Turkey. The Turkish authorities quickly followed suit in halting services.  


This week, citing "high-level" assurances that no further employees were under suspicion, the U.S. Mission recommenced 'limited' visa operations, with a 'reduced' number of appointments available.


The U.S. Mission made a point of contacting Turkish study travel agencies with a circular email confirming the student and exchange visas were open for business and wishing them well in their recruitment efforts.


How much the availability of appointment slots have been reduced by is not yet clear, but a U.S. Department of State Spokesperson confirmed that student visas - along with medical and humanitarian applications - would be prioritised until full resumption of service, another encouraging sign if this proves to be true.


As I wrote in my News Editor's column when the diplomatic dispute flared up, the countries at the centre of Donald Trump's much-disputed travel ban are relatively minor recruitment markets with the exception of Iran's higher education business.


Turkey is at a different level, and the US can ill afford to cut off a recruitment market like this, one where students generally look favourably to the traditional destinations of the UK and USA, as StudyTravel Magazine's regular Turkey agency surveys and Turkish agency association UED's member data surveys show.


UED were positive in their response to the limited resumption of service, noting that they certainly didn't expect full services to be back up and running immediately. On the whole it seems Turkish agents, and their students, have been calm in waiting for the storm to pass.


Elsewhere this week, we have government data from Sweden showing a reduction in the outbound language business, based on its scholarship and loan programme for adult students. The major markets for Swedish students were Spain and Japan in 2016/17.


The secondary role of English language programmes in the Swedish scheme is no doubt testament to the findings of another news story this week: the release of EF Education First's annual English Proficiency Index (EPI), which ranks the English ability of non-native countries based on the results of more than one million tests. Sweden was second only to the Netherlands in a chart dominated, perhaps unsurprisingly, by Northern Europe.


Nonetheless, the EPI makes an interesting read, and in many cases outlines market potential for agents as a number of key source markets still find themselves in the low or very low proficiency rankings.


Innovation in the language sector is an increasingly common buzzword it seems, and in our interesting 'View from the desk of.' article this week, an Ireland-based junior provider shares the findings of a survey of their agents into what kind of innovations they were looking for.


A nice exercise in utilising the market knowledge expertise of agents, which is, of course, one of the benefits of engaging agents in the first place. Common sense all round this week then! Happy reading!


Matthew Knott

News Editor