UK ELT’s slow but steady recovery continues at the expense of competitors
17 May 2024

 Student Statistics Report 2024 web article 03 600x230

2024 Student Statistics Report: UK ELT's slow but steady recovery continues at the expense of competitors  

Our latest student statistics show that 2023 was UK ELT's best year since the pandemic.

Plenty to celebrate 

Student numbers rose to 76% of 2019 levels and student weeks to 71%. Recovery was more evenly distributed than in 2022, with twice as many of our members exceeding their 2019 student weeks - 26% compared with 13%.

Overall, our 320 member centres taught 360,517 English language students in 2023. Of these, 343,324 studied full-time courses, and 17,193 studied part-time. This means that the number of students studying on full-time face-to-face courses rose by 52% compared to 2022.

The increase in student weeks for full-time face-to-face courses was 19% compared to 2022. This is the first time our members have topped a million student weeks since 2019.

Italy has returned as the top sending market for private sector members, and 60% of all students in 2023 were young learners, compared to 49% in 2022.

But also concerning news

All growth was in the private sector with colleges and universities experiencing a decline in both student numbers and volume.

Our state sector members reached just 27% of pre-pandemic student weeks in 2023, compared with 79% for private sector member centres. Some of this decline is due to structural changes in the state sector. We are working hard to support state sector members to maximise their potential for growth.

Importance of targeted government support 

Jodie Gray, our chief executive, said: "It's great to have better news in this year's student statistics. The story of 2023 is one of promising but steady recovery. Global ELT is a maturing industry, with student numbers static or falling. It's a zero-sum game. Destinations compete for a stable or shrinking pool of students. One destination's gain is another's loss. 

"The government can make a huge difference to our success, as recent clampdowns in competitor markets have demonstrated. Right now, the UK's approach is more welcoming than that in some of our competitor destinations. Canada and Australia are currently grappling with high visa refusal rates and caps on international student numbers.

"These statistics not only help English UK members take individual marketing decisions but also demonstrate how and why targeted government support is needed."

The report was compiled by English UK's insight partner, BONARD, from trading data supplied by the association's 320 member centres.

Selected topline facts

  • In 2023, English UK's 320 member centres taught 360,517 English language students (343,324 studied full-time courses and 17,913 part-time).
  • For the first time since 2019, student weeks surpassed the one million milestone (at 1,153,868 student weeks).
  • Student numbers rose to 76% of 2019 levels and student weeks to 71%. 
  • Recovery was more evenly distributed across individual providers. Twice as many English UK members exceeded their 2019 student weeks – 26% compared with 13% in 2022.
  • But all growth was in the private sector. Overall ELT figures for colleges and universities have continuously declined since 2019. In 2023, student weeks recovered to 27% and student numbers to 38% of pre-pandemic volume.
  • Junior students increased to 60% of all students, up from 54% in 2019. But their average stay dropped to 1.8 weeks. Adults still dominate student week volume at 66%.
  • The recovery rate was uneven across host regions and in individual source markets. 

> Download our 2024 Students Statistics Report (exec summary)
> Download our 2024 Students Statistics Report (full edition) Agencies Members Corporate members [member login required]

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