The UK ELT's sending markets varied in performance in 2018, but Brazil showed growth for both state and privately-owned member centres.
Maura Leao, president of Brazilian agent association BELTA, said the country is the strongest market in South America. Find out more information from BELTA's recent student survey and English UK statistics to gain insight into this growing market.
Key market figures
- Brazil was the tenth biggest market for the ELT sector overall, sending 63,837 students for 13,955 weeks in 2018
- The bulk of Brazilian students head for private sector centres, where they account for 62,198 student weeks, which is 4% of the market share
- Brazil was the 19th most important sending market for students in the state sector with 1,643 student weeks, up 29.4% from 2017
- QUIC Q1 and Q2 2019 data shows Brazil in the top ten markets for student weeks, with mostly adults but with significant numbers of juniors.
Be sensitive to the needs of Brazilian students
Maura Leao, president of Brazilian agent association BELTA, said Brazil's politics is “very complicated” at the moment. She said: “We struggle a lot in terms of what we face with the economy – that’s why language centres need to be sensitive to how they support partners abroad.”
She attributes a 20% growth in numbers studying abroad to the need to invest in a foreign language. “The need will always be there. It won’t die, though it may decrease in certain periods. There has been an increase and I see with positive eyes that this will continue.
"The language centres abroad are listening to us in terms of trends and the kind of programmes they should have to get more Brazilians in. A lot of language centres have special prices at certain times of the year or they give a certain discount in terms of enrolments done… they are very sensitive to help us continue growing.”
The UK is a popular study destination for students
Agent market research for BELTA showed the UK to be the third most popular destination for Brazilian students in 2019, behind Canada and the US and ahead of Ireland, Australia and Malta.
A survey of almost 5,000 students for BELTA showed around 40% had completed courses overseas. Almost half of those took language courses, with the UK as the third most popular destination. English language courses accounted for 87% of these language courses courses.
A third of students had spent up to a month studying abroad, with slightly more than a fifth spending 12 months or more. Just over half funded their studies with their own savings, while just under half received funds from their families.
Understand who influences the choice to study abroad
The BELTA research shows almost 35% of the Brazilian students’ plans had been influenced by friends who had already studied abroad.
Parents were cited by 22%, just ahead of social media, study abroad websites and student fairs, all on around 20%. Information from agencies promoting study abroad programmes was some way behind on 12.8%.
Herika Maria Pimentel de Queiroz, a business administration graduate from Brazil, said: "I had a dream of studying English abroad. Maybe because the language school I studied in Brazil taught British English. Also, I have many friends who had studied in England."
Provide your students with new experiences and cultures
BELTA’s student research asked about objectives of studying abroad. The top reason for over half of students was experiencing new countries and different cultures. The importance of learning or improving language skills was cited by around 40% of students. Both of these rationales have increased in importance during the past three years.
The primary reason they gave for choosing a country to study was quality of life (40%) followed by the country’s location (26%), its lifestyle, the natural beauty, public safety and cost of living.
Recommendation from friends or family and quality of education both came in the top three reasons for around 15% of students, as did quality of education. Around 12% mentioned favourable exchange rates and ease of obtaining a visa. 98% of the students were interested in studying abroad soon, with almost 5% interested in the UK.
Enhance your study abroad offer with short courses and January programmes
Maura said Brazilian students are looking for English programmes of two weeks or more. “You cannot work in the UK and younger adults like the longer-term programmes of around 12 weeks, so they look for countries which give the possibility of a couple hours of work each week. This is something which helps them make a decision, but for shorter programmes of around four weeks, the UK is a fantastic choice.
She added: "The thing about the UK is the cost of living abroad because of the pound – even if the programme sounds cheaper than in other countries with the currency it turns out to be expensive for us.”
Teenage programmes of two to four weeks are also popular, but the Brazilian summer holiday is in January which means few providers offer programmes then. The existing summer camps in boarding language centres are popular, especially if they include trips to the Harry Potter Studios and London, but Maura says it would be good if more January courses were on offer.
Etiene Martins, who spent two weeks studying English in London from Brazil, said: "I loved it so much. I went to the National Gallery, the British Museum, and found a very interesting presentation on Mozart and Handel at a church."
Maura said: “Something else that’s starting to pick up is people looking for higher education in the UK. When we compare to prices in other countries like the US which should be our number one destination for higher education, the UK has a more appealing price. I would say it's cheaper to stay for higher education, but I don’t think many people know about it because they are always afraid of the currency.”
What are Brazilian agents selling?
The BELTA research showed that language courses have been in the top place for three years, but closely followed by language courses with temporary work. Junior courses remain in third place. Around a third of the courses agencies sold were up to a month long, while just under two thirds were between two and three months. Around half of the clients spent $5,000-$10,000.
Get to know the agents you work with
Maura said that people think it can be easy to become an agent in Brazil but there have been business failures recently. She said: "That's where the danger is. Language centres should get references and know who they are going to work with so as not to damage their businesses.” BELTA agents have to pay a monthly fee, be in business for more than three years and follow a code of ethics, she said.
Brazilian students want the best but “sometimes don’t want to pay for it,” she says and sometimes have to be reminded that they are going to a very good language centre.
Showcase the quality of your language centre
Maura said people are looking for language centres which are not part of a large chain, but where you know the owner or the people to talk to if there is a problem. “English UK language centres are like that – you know with whom you are doing business and there is a name for everyone dealing with the student and I think that’s very important to have this contact.”
“We have a student who decided to come to the UK because she found the masters’ programme she was looking for and because of the price, but to get to that point we had to help her see this and that’s different to other countries. There is not a tradition of always sending students to the UK so we have to show why they should go because of quality and in certain cases a good price and that you can travel to Europe afterwards.”
Caroline Bueno Cabral, who studied English for six months, said: "I think the things that the school offers was an important point for me, all the activities they do and the classes they have. And the photos on the website help it a lot, of course!"