Uncertainty over language schools’ fate

The fate of up to 400 language students hangs in the balance with reports that their schools’ parent company has closed its Australian schools.

This week, eight Australian schools owned by GEOS in Japan closed but the fate of the company’s schools in Auckland, Wellington, and Christchurch remained uncertain, GEOS Auckland manager Stuart Binnie said.

The New Zealand schools are owned by GEOS in Japan but registered here. Between 300 and 400 students from up to 25 countries are enrolled in the three schools, which employ 20 to 30 staff.

If the schools closed, the students’ fees would be refunded or they would be placed in another English language school, he said. “I would guess there would be a lack of confidence in the brand name.”

An industry insider said the New Zealand GEOS schools would probably lose students rapidly “now that the reputation of GEOS among the international agents who supply the New Zealand schools with students has been compromised”.

The possible New Zealand closures follow the recent deregistration by the Qualifications Authority of two private Auckland training centres for non-compliance.

Authority records show the agency has long-running concerns with GEOS New Zealand’s financial management, although it was noted in the last audit at the end of 2008 that the company had made progress addressing the concerns.

According to the company’s annual financial statement, the New Zealand branch of GEOS lost almost $900,000 in 2008 after making a profit of nearly $1.2 million in 2007.

English New Zealand chairman Rob McKay said that, even if the New Zealand schools did not close, their reputation would be damaged. GEOS was one of New Zealand’s biggest private schools teaching English to foreign students.
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GEOS’ head office in Tokyo said its schools outside Australia would operate as usual, but admitted the closures might affect its reputation and student numbers.