Market insights: Europe

This content was published in June 2021 alongside our latest report on Europe as a source market for UK ELT. As such, it offers a snapshot of the market and expectations for recovery at that time. While some statistics are now outdated, it does offer insights relevant to recovery in 2023. 

Market insights: UK ELT and Europe

Europe is traditionally the largest source region for the UK ELT sector. The on-going pandemic is, however, disrupting student mobility and the possible impact of the new post-Brexit points-based immigration system is yet to be seen. 

Research paper: Europe Future Outlook - Europe as a source market for UK ELT in 2021 and beyond

Europe Future Outlook is a joint research initiative, produced in collaboration with the British Council and published in June 2021 exclusively for British Council accredited ELT providers. The research was conducted by our insight partner BONARD.

BONARD were commissioned to assess the emerging needs of European students and study travel agents in order to outline a range of practical recommendations for increased engagement in the post-Brexit and post-pandemic world. 

Key areas covered in the research include:

  • Current demand from, and future outlook for, European countries
  • Impact of the pandemic and the implementation of Brexit on European source markets
  • Product and marketing optimisation relevant to emerging European student preferences
  • Perceptions of the UK in European source markets
  • Challenges in promoting the UK as an ELT destination in the region and any external support needed.

Research methodology

For the purposes of this research, 'Europe' or 'European countries' refers to the following selected countries, based on their sending power within the ELT sector to the UK: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. 

To create a comprehensive picture, accredited centres were invited to take part in an educator survey. The 150 centres that participated taught 41% of the total number of EU students that came to learn English the UK in 2019.  Over 100 European agencies responded to the agent survey. 

The insights from these agent and educator quantitative surveys complement desktop research, and in-depth interviews. Bonard conducted 44 qualitative interviews with pre-selected educators, agencies and other key stakeholders (agency associations, governments, British Council regional staff).

The report was launched in a webinar on 17 June. Both the webinar and the report are exclusive to accredited centres.

Webinar recording: Europe Future Outlook

Thursday 17 June 2021 | Jodie Gray, Ivana Slobodnikova, Catrin DiamantinoAndrew Mangion, David Brown, Krister Weidenhielm and Patrik Pavlacic.

2021 is a transformative time for UK ELT, especially in this vital source market. As part of our shared mission to support UK accredited English language teaching centres with tailored market intelligence, English UK and the British Council commissioned new research on the future of Europe as a source market. This webinar launched the research paper exclusively to British Council accredited centres. 

Ivana Slobodnikova, senior research manager at our insight partner BONARD shared a snapshot of the key findings. This was followed by a panel of experts discussing the research and their strategies for the changes in the market. Their insightful conversation supplements the depth and detail of the research paper.

Key figures on Europe and UK ELT

  • In 2019, over 508,000 international students came to study in the UK, making it the world's most popular UK ELT destination, 57% of these were students from the EU who represented 35% of all student weeks

  • In 2020 the impact of Covid-19 on UK ELT was devastating with a year-on-year decline of -83.6% in student numbers and -71.1% in student weeks

  • In 2020 individual European source markets faced substantial year-on-year drops with italy declining by -89%, Spain by -83%, and France by -64%

  • In 2019 three European markets were in the top five source markets for UK ELT - Italy, Spain and France:

Top 20 source markets for UK ELT in 2019

1. Italy
2. China
3. Saudi Arabia
4. Spain
5. France
6. Japan
7. Turkey
8. Switzerland
9. South Korea
10. Brazil
11. Germany
12. Russia
13. Thailand
14. Kuwait
15. Colombia
16. Oman
17. Poland
18. Taiwan
19. Romania
20. Argentina

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