Quality language schools worldwide

Meet Richard Gorst, Business Manager at St Clare’s Oxford


This month, we speak with Richard Gorst, Business Manager at St Clare�s Oxford.
St. Clare�s is unique in so many ways. It is an educational charity now celebrating its 60th Anniversary; it occupies 28 large buildings in North Oxford; and it offers an unparalleled range of courses throughout the year: from English Language and English plus Academic Subjects to University Access courses (International Baccalaureate and University Foundation).

Q. You joined IALC this year ? What do you like most about being part of this exclusive global community of quality language schools?
I was very excited when the opportunity came up to join IALC earlier this year. For me the most important reason for being an IALC member is gaining access to many really good quality agents who prefer to send their students to IALC member schools. Even though we only joined in February 2013, we have already established new links with several really excellent agencies thanks to the meetings we had in Lisbon. I think IALC instils a bond of trust between partners which is so important in our industry.

Q. How did 2013 go for you, and how did it compare to last year?
2013 was another good year for us. It began with two highly successful inspections: for membership of IALC and for government recognition under the ISI scheme (and the award of EEE for the second year in a row). Academic progression lies at the heart of our educational philosophy and it a pleasure to be able to report on the success of students as they move from one course to another and achieve success in both internal and external examinations. Investment in accommodation and facilities has continued apace with extensive renovations to our college accommodation and classrooms as well as the fabric of one of our lovely Victorian buildings. Participants on this year�s Christmas "Fam" trip will be able to experience the changes first hand: staying in our own student accommodation and enjoying hospitality arranged by the college catering team.

Q. Anything New this Year?
Now in our 60th Anniversary year, the college has clearly stood the test of time, but we continue to develop and evolve. Over the last year teacher training has focussed on learner autonomy, blended learning sequences and the cross-college themes and events. As a small community of approximately 100 students, we have worked together to promote integration across course and across college, whenever possible. Monthly themes provide the framework for classroom activities, study visits, excursions and special events and, in turn, allow learners at different levels and on different programmes to interact with each other. Big successes in 2013 include the following cross-college events: Welcome Dinner at Pembroke College, The Facebook Competition, Lunar New Year, the 60th Anniversary Quiz and Winterfest.

Q. What are your main aims for St Clare�s in 2014?
Our College Development Plan for the next three years (2014-16) sets out a number of targets. These include the consolidation of the re-branding of the site, the harmonisation of facilities, processes and procedures and the delivery of the overall mission of the college in innovative ways. Specifically, we have plans to develop the 1:1 teaching suite for Personal Language Training; to create stronger direct links to universities; and to update our digital resources.

What are the most popular student activities?
As a university city just an hour from London and other major attractions, there is so much to see and do around Oxford. Our programme includes activities each week and most weekends, and many other events are organised at cost. Paintballing, London Musicals and Harry Potter World are popular weekend excursions, while camel-riding in Marrakech and surfing in Newquay are memorable long-weekend experiences!

Q. Finally, what would you say are the main benefits of learning English at St Clare�s?
Oxford and St. Clare�s: it is a wonderful combination. You become part of a truly international community, you make friends for life and, most importantly, you acquire skills that boost your prospects at university and in your career ... it is life-changing !

About yourself

Q. How did you get started in the industry and when did you join St Clare�s?
I joined St. Clare�s ten years ago and have enjoyed every minute of my time here. It is a wonderful place to work, and study for that matter. My first job in EFL was a teaching position as a "Lettore" at the University of Salerno in the south of Italy. It was heaven; wonderfully friendly people, a fantastic location near the stunning Amalfi coast and the best food in the world.

Q. Languages you speak or would like to speak?
My Italian is still pretty good and I still use it quite a lot because we have quite a lot of Italians doing the IB now. My French used to be ok but I don?t use it enough. I worked for a German Company some years ago and thought I might pick up some of the language but all I learned to say was "Can I speak to Albert please"!

Q. Your favourite travel destination?
One of the truly wonderful things about my career has been the opportunity to travel the world (on expenses) often staying in super hotels. My favourite destination will always be Italy, I still have a passion for it and the Cipriani Hotel in Venice, which I discovered twenty-five years ago, is my idea of unadulterated bliss and I was even paying my way that time.

Q. Your favourite pastime?
Being at home ! We live in a delightful small village in the Cotswolds. Having a barbecue on a hot summer�s day for friends and my family with a glass of red in one hand and a home made burger in the other is just fine for me.

Q. Your favourite meal?
I really enjoy cooking but can?t cook my favourites. They do a wonderful dish in Japan called Shabu Shabu. You dunk thin slices of very special beef with your chop sticks in a boiling broth, dip them in sauce and straight into your mouth. Yummy! Spaghetti alle Vongole, ideally cooked somewhere in southern Italy, and Russian blinis with proper Beluga caviar and soured cream. I first had this in Teheran before the revolution when the caviar was affordable and the blini "sandwiches" oozed the most wonderful black and white mixture imaginable, sadly just a beautiful memory now.

Q. Your dream dinner guest
Peter Sellers for certain. He would bring a whole range of wonderful different characters to the table and we would fall about laughing together for hours on end. I love laughter, it does you good, needs no translation and comes from the heart. If Britt Ekland and Susan George were there as well then that would be a bonus!

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