New Europe Future Outlook report helps ELT centres plan for recovery
1 July 2021

Europe Future Outlook 2021 600x230New Europe Future Outlook report helps ELT centres plan for recovery

Our new research into the future of Europe as an ELT market is exclusively available to centres accredited by the British Council.

The research is the latest in our market report series funded in partnership with the British Council and produced by insight partners BONARD.

The new report covers UK ELT's biggest source region, Europe, in response to recent events including the pandemic and Brexit. It has been designed to help ELT centres navigate their recovery from these challenges.

The research report reveals that 62% of UK ELT providers see Europe as their dominant source of language learners and believe this is likely to continue. Until Covid-19, Europe was the key market source for UK ELT member centres, providing 60% of students and 38% of student weeks, despite concerns about the ending of free movement.

Over half (54%) of study travel agents surveyed by BONARD saw the UK as the primary study destination for their ELT students, while 29% believed it would give way to other destinations. The most common reason given was the additional costs from visas and health insurance. The need to have a passport, rather than being able to travel on a national ID card as is the case until 1 October 2021, is not thought to be an issue. Longer-term students are seen as being more likely to choose other ELT destinations.

Around half of educators and agents expected European student numbers to continue to decline, though agents suggested the introduction of work rights in the UK may not only reverse the trend, but increase demand by up to 30%. Work rights would appeal to the student group aiming to get practical work experience in the UK.

The report also suggests that junior students are likely to become younger: this will be most obvious in the 12-16 age band, which has already seen an increase in the proportion of 12- to 13-year-olds travelling.

"Accredited ELT centres have faced extreme challenges in the past 18 months. This research was commissioned to support them in their rebuilding efforts. The report reveals resilience and pragmatism on the part of educators and agents in navigating their recovery. This will take close collaboration and communication with international partners. English UK and the British Council are helping UK ELT to achieve that." said Jodie Gray, Chief Executive of English UK and Patricia Vickers, Director Marketing and Sales, English and Exams at the British Council.

At a webinar to discuss the research, industry experts discussed the findings and offered their own perspectives. The panel was slightly more optimistic than the report indicated with Andrew Mangion, CEO of EC English and Catrin Diamantino, CEO of Bell English both anticipating a more robust short-term recovery, especially in 2022. 

On the subject of Brexit, Krister Weidenhielm, of large pan-European student agency ELS, highlighted the removal of work rights for European students as the main issue – removing "something from the storytelling that makes the package of the UK".

The panel saw Brexit as being a more short-term issue, with the impact being felt in the next 18 months but long-term the UK remaining an attractive place for ELT students. David Brown, President and Co-Founder of Oxford International Education Group reinforced the findings in the report that agencies remain central to the recruitment of students to the UK, and all panellists agreed that good communication is central to recovery and growth in the European market.

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