Present tense: Signs of hope

There’s no question that the international college sector has gone through crisis after crisis over the last two years, with the pandemic putting an almighty hole in the standard ELICOS business model.

With international borders slammed tight to all but Australian citizens (and even for them, entry was difficult), colleges relying on international students have been forced to limp along with a declining number of students, supplemented by a meagre number of online lessons.

The wheel finally started to turn late in 2021, when borders re-opened to students, skilled migrants and tourists, and the sector should hopefully see some recovery over this year and beyond. Despite that, the damage has been drastic. Year-on-year enrolments were down some 60 percent in December (and remember that December 2020 was also severely pandemic affected).

Since then, however, we’ve started to see some green shoots of recovery, with ELICOS-only enrolments in December up by nearly 70 percent. This is coming off a low base, of course – in December 2020, there were only 600 applications, with that number last December increasing by more than 1000. By way of comparison, the December 2019 figure was nearly 157,000. Clearly the industry has a long road to recovery ahead, but we can now be increasingly confident that the worst is now well and truly behind us.

Summer schools

It’s around this time of year when the summer language schools in the UK, Europe and North America start advertising for teachers. While the international student market has been impacted around the world, there are some signs of recovery in these countries too.

Commonly, private education companies hire out student accommodation at boarding schools and universities, which enables students and staff to live and study on site. This can be a huge cost saver for teachers visiting for a short time, giving the time and space to save for travel afterwards. Many teachers often dovetail this work into a year of teaching in, say, Europe or South America.

Potential schools are advertising now, and a simple internet search will provide a range of options. Pay at UK schools typically starts at the £500 per week level, with higher pay for more senior roles.

Union membership

IEU membership has never been more valuable, and your union has assisted many members in the private college sector with a wide range of matters over the last few years. These include chasing up unpaid wages, checking eligibility for government benefits, ensuring the payment of all entitlements, accessing government benefits, and ensuring that employers continue to meet their legal obligations.

With conditions in the sector beginning to improve, now is a great time to ensure your workplace ‘builds back better’ with a strong union presence. It is a demonstrable fact that unionised workplaces have better pay and conditions than those without, and you can do your bit by encouraging your colleagues (including any new staff) who are not already members to join the IEU.

How to join

phone: 8202 8900



Union fees are tax deductible.

Kendall Warren