Latest UK ELT statistics show a further 36% drop in student numbers in 2021
Our latest statistics report shows that the impact of the pandemic on UK ELT student numbers deepened in 2021.
The year began with a strict lockdown and - although our quarterly QUIC data shows student numbers improving through 2021 - continuing restrictions prevented last summer's hoped-for bounce back.
In 2021, English UK members welcomed 53,616 full-time English language students - about a tenth of the pre-Covid figure. Following an 84% decline in student numbers in 2020, numbers decreased by a further 36% in 2021.
The report, compiled by BONARD using English UK's member data, also shows the resilience of the sector. Blended learning, as a temporary alternative to face-to-face teaching, became increasingly important.
English UK chief executive Jodie Gray said: "It's sobering to see the concrete proof of what UK ELT has faced during the past two years, though it is much as we all suspected. The incredible thing is that most of our members have survived, and continue to do so despite the additional challenges brought by the end of freedom of movement".
"As always, the student statistics give us both valuable ammunition as we continue our lobbying efforts on behalf of our members, and also valuable information to help and support our members rebuild their businesses post-Covid. We – and they – will be using these figures heavily in the coming months."
"Almost a third of students studied using a blended model, with a significant year-on-year increase in numbers studying online, as members pivoted to provide alternative forms of tuition due to Covid-19 restrictions."
"When we shared the previous edition of the student statistics report last May, it was with a cautious sense of optimism that things were beginning to improve and we were on the cusp of a strong recovery," said Jodie's foreword to the report. "We reckoned without Covid's ability to reinvent itself. The year began with a strict lockdown and - although QUIC data shows student numbers improving through 2021 - continuing restrictions prevented last summer's hoped-for bounce back. So it will be no great surprise that this year's figures are not particularly uplifting."
How the picture compares with other major ELT destinations
Ivana Slobodnikova, BONARD's head of international education added that the UK was hit particularly hard because of its popularity amongst junior students.
"If we compare the share of English language students aged under 18 in the UK (54% in 2019) to the levels recorded in the USA, Australia, or Canada, it is understandable that the overall year-on-year declines in the UK were considerably greater. The junior segment has strong fundamentals to bounce back and continue growing the way it did in the years prior to the pandemic, yet recovery pace in key markets such as China will continue to be more volatile to external factors than the adult segment."
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