This month we talk to Shane Wilkinson, managing director of Bournemouth Business School International (BBSI). As the name implies, this English language school helps students to develop business as well as language skills for their present or future career.
Q. What does your school specialise in?
That’s a big question – we run short and long courses all year round in Management, Marketing, Finance, Law, Hospitality and Science/Maths/IT, and all of these are available in the formats of Foundations, Pre-masters and Vocational studies. We also run Business English courses and lots of tailored courses for groups and individuals in subjects such as Logistics, Diplomacy, Aviation, CSR, and others.
Q. When did you join IALC and why?
We joined in 2003 in time for the Mexico workshop. I had been encouraged by some existing members for some years, perhaps because they could see BBSI adding a new dimension to IALC. When I was asked I didn’t hesitate, because I believe in diversity, individuality and quality, all hallmarks of IALC
Q. How is 2014 going for you, and how does it compare to last year?
Quite a good year, with the exceptions of Russia, Ukraine and Libya for obvious reasons. We have real sympathy for the agents in those countries, and hope for improvements to their situations.
Q. What developments do you expect in the UK in coming months? How will they impact the language travel industry?
There will be a general election in the UK next April, so the government will be keen to show, even more than usual, how tough they are on visa applications. However, if agents follow the regulations to the letter, there is no reason why they should fail. I think the pound will continue to be strong in the coming months, so we are trying our best to keep our fees as low as possible. Our message to agents is that it is worth paying a little more money for a lot more quality!
Q. Anything new this year?
We have been working hard this year to move a lot of our course materials onto our virtual learning platform. Both students and teachers have been really enthusiastic about the possibilities this creates for learning outside the classroom, as well as harnessing technology and doing away with paper. Also new this year, we have introduced a lower entry level for Business English (B1), and finally, we have produced a totally redesigned and simplified brochure, which has been getting spectacular comments from our agents.
Q. Where do the majority of your students come from?
The profile between summer and winter is different, with a good balance between Middle East, Europe, Far East and South America, so in summer the main nationalities are Russian, Turkish, Italian, Libyan, Brazilian, and in winter they are Saudi, Brazilian Turkish, Swiss, Libyan.
Q. What are your most popular student activities?
In fact we organise quite a few in-house weekday activities to enable the students to find new ways to improve their English, including Coffee & Conversation, Film Club, Lectures on culture, Grammar workshops, football, pub visits and more. These are the most popular and are mostly free of charge.
Q. 3 things that make your school special for your students?
1) There is a friendly, serious, professional atmosphere, which the students seem to find different from other schools.
2) The school is situated right in the heart of Bournemouth, which is so convenient for everything.
3) the students seems to appreciate our flexibility, and readiness to listen to their requests regarding their studies, and because we have so many different courses running, there are many options for students to try.
Q. How did get started in the industry? How did you reach your current role?
I started as an English language teacher in the 70’s, travelling the world, and soon specialised in business courses. From there I became a teacher trainer, centre director, director of studies, and eventually founded BBSI in 1992.
Q. Languages you speak or would like to speak?
I studied French and German, can speak a little Spanish, Japanese, Italian and Arabic, but I would love to speak Russian and Dutch. I still sometimes revise my Kanji.
Q. Favourite travel destination?
The Far East and the Mediterranean – I can’t decide !
Q. Favourite pastime?
Q. Favourite meal?
Definitely seafood, mezze style
Q. Dream dinner guest(s)?
Mahatma Ghandi and Richard Branson, original thinkers both.
Shane Wilkinson, Managing Director of Bournemouth Business School International (BBSI)