Facts & figures

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ELT industry facts and figures 

We collect data about the students who come to study English in the UK to provide robust intelligence for our members and support our campaigning. 

We also conduct member surveys and commission research to assess the impact of policy changes and external events on the UK English language training (ELT) sector. Our insight partner BONARD is an ESOMAR member.

Who comes to study English in the UK?

Our annual student statistics reports give detailed information on who comes to study English in the UK.

Our 2024 Student Statistics Report contains the latest annual data. Our 2024 report provides an analysis of students studying English in the UK in 2023.

The report shows that in 2023:

  • 360,500 English language students (343,300 full-time and 17,200 part-time) studied at our member centres - a 52% increase on 2022
  • our 320 member centres taught 1,153,868  full-time student weeks, up 19% on 2022 - and for the first time since 2019, they topped one million
  • juniors returned in volume - 60% of all students were young learners, surpassing the 54% share recorded in 2019
  • the top 20 source markets accounted for 84% of both student weeks and student numbers
  • the UK ELT sector's recovery reached 71% of its 2019 full-time student week volume and 76% of its student numbers

Top 20 source markets for UK ELT in 2023

1. Italy
2. Saudi Arabia
3. Spain
4. Brazil
5. Turkey

6. France 
7. China
8. Japan
9. Switzerland
10. Germany
11. Kuwait
12. South Korea
13. Colombia
14. Thailand
15. Oman
16. Chile
17. Mexico
18. Taiwan
19. Mexico
20. Ukraine

For the UK's English-language learning sector, post-pandemic recovery continues at a steady pace - with total student week volume up 11% and numbers 25% higher than in 2022. But the rebound was uneven and was also weaker than in some key competitor countries. 

How many students studied English in the UK before the pandemic and the end of freedom of movement?

In the years before the pandemic and Brexit, people travelled from over 100 countries to learn or improve their English in the UK. In 2019 over 535,000* international students came to study English in the UK, making it the world's most popular UK ELT destination. Over half** (54%) were under 18 years of age. 

*The 2019 figure includes 508,600 full-time students and 24,400 part-time students
**Based on full-time students

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

What is the value of ELT to the UK economy?

In 2018, an English UK report on the value of UK ELT found that:

  • the UK ELT sector generated around £1.4bn income for the UK each year
  • around 35,700 jobs were supported by ELT, 19,300 in ELT and the remainder in associated sectors such as tourism
  • the report noted that ordinary families benefited culturally and financially from welcoming students into their homes
  • 80 per cent of students told us that they planned to return to the UK

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In September 2020, VisitBritain published a report on inbound visitors who take an English language course. The report found that in 2018:

  • 614,000 visitors – 1.5% of the total number of visitors - took an English language course during their stay
  • English language students accounted for 3.5% of visitor spend
  • Over 2 in 5 visitors coming to the UK to study take an English language course
  • English language students stayed for three times longer than average visitors, spending over twice that of other travellers
  • The report concluded, ' This group is a key target for UK tourism due to the value of their visits, the opportunity to encourage repeat visits to the UK for young travellers and the English language training industry's contribution to the UK economy.'

Read the reports:

If you are an English UK member, visit our member campaigning resources page for more useful facts and to download our campaigning toolkit. 

 Our data in more detail:

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