Thailand’s ELT market: the latest facts and figures
17 August 2018

Thailand is the UK's sixteenth biggest ELT market, sending just under one per cent of last year's total number of students.

Read on for highlights and insights about Thailand from our 2018 Student Statistics report and other English UK sources in our short series on our top sending markets.

How many students does Thailand send to the UK, and for how long?

In 2017, 4.502 Thais studied in the UK, staying an average 6.4 weeks and accounting for 1.6 per cent of student weeks.

There was a sharp upturn in the Thai ELT market in 2017, with private sector student weeks rising by 18.9 per cent and student numbers by 24.8 per cent, after a sharp drop the year before. (Student Statistics 2018)

Where do Thai ELT students study?

The overwhelming majority of Thais head for private sector centres: just 522 studied in the state sector. Thailand is the sixteenth most important market for privately-owned members, and in 8th place for the state sector where it is responsible for around two per cent of student weeks and student numbers. The average length of stay here is 8.1 weeks.

Who are the Thai ELT students?

Mostly a mix of young adults and junior groups.

What's the English UK view of the Thai ELT market?

Jodie Gray, English UK's Director of Strategic Development, says it's a growing market which tends to travel at a different time of year to most others. "The school year finishes in March and they tend to come in spring or autumn, not summer, which is useful.

"Many come as school groups put together by agents, and young adults come for longer periods of time. Most of the agents are based in Bangkok and that's where the market is. The students are keen on Harry Potter, visiting London, and that kind of cultural offer, and being immersed in ordinary UK schools."

How is English UK helping to support members in the Thai market?

The English UK Asia Pacific Roadshow in November will introduce members to agents in Osaka, Japan and Bangkok, Thailand. Each event will include a networking dinner, agent training sessions and a full day of one-to-one business meetings. English UK members and services providers can attend one or both events.

The English Language Market Report Thailand Members, published with the British Council, gives full and practical information on how to build or develop this market in your centre.

Author Hannah Alexander-Wright says: "The Thai market is rated as the seventeenth-largest nationality in terms of annual student weeks for English UK member institutions, and there is potential for growth.

"With the government pushing the internationalisation of their universities, the need for English language will only increase. Institutions can confidently secure a share of this through their understanding of the market conditions detailed in this report and by adopting the recommended tactics."

Insights include:

  • Price and safety are the top considerations for students - Thais tend to have an overinflated idea of costs of studying in the UK
  • Google, YouTube and Pantip are where most Thai students search for information about an institution.
  • The chat app 'Line' is very commonly used by students, parents and agents to communicate. Marketers from UK institutions should use it to communicate with their Thai agents. 

  • The visa process is the most common barrier to studying in the UK. The process was described as 'very poor', 'very long' and 'very expensive'.
  • 88 per cent of agents want a physical brochure from educators. 

  • Students are the ones who often research an institution or destination and then present this information to their parents. This could be considered when designing an institution's brochure, creating video content and asking Thai students to write recommendations on Thai youth community websites. 

  • Agents are highly trusted by students and parents and often take the role of mediator if they disagree with each other. Ensuring that an agent understands an institution, tightening up communication and answering questions from agents quickly could aid them in persuading a parent to choose a particular institution.
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