Post Covid-19 YEDAB Discussion Forum was held on 6th of May, 2020 through Zoom Platform with over 400 registered representatives and over 200 constant participants during the meeting.
The forum has been divided into 3 titles:
• Problems regarding Academic Programmes • Problems regarding Internship and WAT Programmes • Problems regarding Language Programmes
For each title agents and schools/providers shared their ideas on the issue and evaluated possible threats in their perspectives. The moderators have released sample questions for each title. The questions were:
1) What is the biggest challenge waiting for academic travels after COVID-19?
2) Will universities be open in September, if they won’t, what should be the back-up plans?
3) What do you think about scholarships or even instalments for tuition fees?
4) What do you think about online programmes as a start and the possible future risks of converting it to on-campus in the following terms? Such as visa denials.
Internship and WAT Questions
1)If the US government cancels the programme what is next? Possible scenarios, refunds etc. 2)What is the future of work and travel programme, considering the ‘new normal’ in the world? 3)We receive some online internship programme promotions recently, What do you think about online internship programmes?
1)Traditional Education or online programmes? Is it sustainable? 2)What do you think about that language schools’ current promotions for after COVID? 3)How efficient they reacted since the beginning of the process? 4)Credit letters and refunds issue? 5)We hear some language schools’ closures already. Do you feel safe? What should be done?
Participants have answered questions among these and some also have added their additional concerns.
As agreed by most of the agents, problems and expectations might be put in order as follows. (Opinions of counterparts regarding that specific concerns were highlighted with different colours right after each.)
• Universities should release near future synopses including all possible scenarios, so the counsellors may give more precise information to the students and parents. o Universities declare that they are also suffering from sudden decisions and not detailed instructions given by governments.
❖ As a solution to this both-sided problem, an instant communication platform might be created instead of following mass media from each country.
• University tuition fees considered to be high by students for online programmes. o While some universities take the absence of other expenses such as accommodation into consideration and claim fees are still acceptable; few of them shared some information about reduced tuition fees and scholarship options.
• Different normalization periods will be applied by different countries, so it brings agencies operational burdens and uncertainties in sales.
• Visa refusal rates are being another possible risk by agencies considering 2019 for some countries. The students will start their studies online by paying most of the fees. Rules and regulations should be defined clearly by all educational institutions as the sold service will be a combination of online and on-campus education. And there is a huge possibility that students will not accept a fully online programme in case of a visa refusal after they start.
• Many agencies emphasized the fact that travel and experience are the core elements of any sort of educational activity, that is why online courses might only be a substitute in such a period but it will not be permanent obviously. o Many school representatives have agreed on this sensitivity as well. They also reminded again, for schools with thousands of current students, offering online programmes were the most effective and the least harmful solution.
• There were also some differences of opinions among agencies as we should keep promoting while there are this many uncertainties or stop selling until conditions become more clear.
• For other travel programmes which have distinctive job opportunities, there is no other chance of waiting for the commencement of flights and visa processes. These programmes’ providers and agencies were mostly hopeful but also aware of the current risks of delays and cancellations. They believe as soon as the physical obstacle disappears, the programmes will recover immediately.
• Agencies spoke with a single voice about what refund policies of language schools should be re-evaluated by the schools. It was also repeated refunding should be the very last option for all sides however we should create a common policy considering each student’s countries’ local legal regulations in case of this demand.
o Some school representatives responded quite cooperative and asked the agencies to consult them for these sort of demands by the students. Some also declared their policy is making full refunds without any question as it is a force-majeure situation on the student side. And the right communication between schools and agents is the key to the solution as before.
Also, the event organisers ICEF and Alphe Conferences, and The Pie News as a sectoral media institution have contributed to the forum with their valuable ideas.
Scott Wade from Study Travel Magazine and Alphe Conferences has made a general abstraction of all the titles indicated in YEDAB’s invitation letter. Being in the sector for the last 28 years, he reaffirmed his belief in the existence of international study travel family, and even it is very difficult we do not have any chance but being optimistic, he added. Also, he stated that associations should be, and they already are, more cooperative in this period. There have been some meetings recently by FELCA and GAELA with the attendance of many associations and YEDAB should also participate in these meetings to contribute, according to Mr Wade.
Viggo Stacey from The Pie News has shared his observations through the feedback comments in their social media channels by the students and he pointed out the nervousness of the students about the near future and their current status. He also conveyed the declaration of Minister of Education in the UK, saying the universities should keep asking for the same amount of tuitions for online programmes and also said that he is curious about what will be the consequences of this decision.
Finally, Seher Neöz from ICEF has emphasized that these sort of times are not for profits but surviving, and every single one of the family should responsibly do their bests. She also commented on the opposition of the agencies from some regions to the online programmes and said she understands why that is. But she also added this is just a temporary and the only agreeable solution by education providers which is quite understandable, too.
During the meeting, there were many information transactions between the participants both from the schools and the agents through the chatbox.
Also, another guest of our forum with her valuable and up-to-date pieces of information was Ms Zeynep Kaptan from ETS Global. She contributed to the meeting by giving quite important notices about the latest policies of internationally recognised language tests which is one of the most significant determinants of the academic intakes.
We, YEDAB, sincerely thank you to all participants for this important event.