ELT centres need to be highly effective student recruiters, statistics report shows
23 May 2019


UK ELT showed a mixed performance in both the state and private sectors in 2018, according to the annual student statistics report.

Universities and colleges performed strongly, with a rise in ELT student numbers of 10.5% and student weeks of 11%. However, 60% reported more student weeks and the remainder a decline.

English UK's 360 private sector ELT member centres welcomed 470,073 students – 1% more than in 2017 – with a 3% drop in student weeks says the report, published by English UK and Bonard.

"The downward trend in length of stay seems to be a challenge globally: the UK is not alone in facing it. Tackling this issue might be essential for language schools worldwide going forward," says Samuel Vetrak, CEO of Bonard, in his introduction.

He notes that growth is being driven by well under half of the 114 sending markets – 39 in the state sector and 42 in the private sector. "This underlines the need for UK ELT centres to be (or become) strategic and highly effective in their international student recruitment activities," he adds.

Sarah Cooper, chief executive of English UK, welcomed the report at its launch during the association's annual conference in London. "It's pleasing to see the strength and resilience of our industry in what has been a challenging period, with the continuing uncertainty over the UK's relationship with the EU.

"The data repays very careful reading, with rich and detailed insights which member centres can use to target their marketing and identify regions and countries where there is growth."

She added: "It also gives us much to reflect on in the student weeks trend – we will be looking at this carefully and encouraging members to consider this as part of their business development."

Main points of the 2018 Student Statistics report

Overall statistics

  • In 2018, the 419 English UK member centres taught 504,868 students and 1,866,835 student weeks
  • Student numbers in English UK member centres rose by less than 2% while student weeks dropped by 0.9% compared to 2017. This development was partially caused by English UK membership contracting by 15 members
  • The UK attracted 5% more adult students but under-18s declined by 1% - but still represent 51% of all enrolments at English UK member centres
  • London retained the highest regional proportion of student weeks despite a market share decline of two percentage points to 26%. The strongest growth of 9% was seen in Northern England
  • Non-European Union countries sent 43% of all students and generated 63% of all student weeks.

State sector ELT statistics

  • 34,795 students spent 308,387 weeks learning in colleges and universities
  • The proportion of juniors rose by three percentage points to 13%, representing 3% of total student weeks
  • Course duration increased from 8.8 weeks to 9.2 weeks, with adult students staying for an average of 10.3 weeks and juniors for 2.1 weeks
  • Top five sending markets for the state sector were China (42.8% of total student weeks), Poland (7.8%), Japan (6.9%), Saudi Arabia (6.8%) and Spain (4.1%)
  • Top-growing markets for the state sector were China (+17,058 weeks), Romania (+2,929) and Poland (+1,528)
  • The biggest drops in student numbers came from Taiwan (-1,049 weeks), Panama (-427) and Kazakhstan (-412).

Private sector ELT statistics

  • 470,073 English language students enrolled at the 360 centres last year, a 1% growth. Student weeks dropped by 3% to 1,558,448
  • Junior numbers dipped by 2%, but still made up 54% of the overall student population
  • Adult students' stays decreased from 5.3 weeks to 5 weeks, with juniors staying an average 1.8 weeks, down from 1.9 weeks in 2017
  • Top five source countries were Italy (16.2% of total student weeks), Saudi Arabia (9.5%), Spain (7.2%), China (6.1%) and France (5.6%)
  • Top-growing markets were Saudi Arabia (+15,154 weeks), Argentina (+4,776) and Chile (+4,095)
  • The biggest drops in student numbers came from Italy (-13,355), Turkey (11,949) and South Korea (-8,087).
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