Facts & figures

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Facts and figures for the UK ELT industry

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

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 is ESOMAR member, BONARD.

Who came to study English in the UK pre-pandemic?

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

In a normal year, people come to the UK from over 100 countries to learn or improve their English.

In 2019, pre-pandemic, over 508,000 international students came to study in the UK, making it the world's most popular UK ELT destination. Over half (54%) of those students were under-18 years old. 

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 generates around £1.4bn income for the UK each year
  • around 35,700 jobs are supported by ELT, 19,300 in ELT and the remainder in associated sectors such as tourism
  • the report noted that ordinary families benefit 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 langugage 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 langugage 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. 

How has Covid-19 impacted the UK ELT sector?

Our latest annual student statistics report, published in May 2022, 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 improved through 2021 - Covid restrictions prevented last summer's hoped-for bounce back.
  • In 2021, English UK members welcomed about a tenth of the number of students they had pre-Covid (in 2019)
  • Following an 84% decline in student numbers in 2020, numbers decreased by a further 36% in 2021.

Our Covid-19 impact report Members Corporate members, published in March 2021, found:

  • An estimated £590m overall loss in gross revenue in 2020, for the entire English UK membership 
  • 91% of UK ELT jobs were affected, with 54% of the workforce released (an additional 18% of staff were furloughed)
  • English UK member centres were not optimistic about a recovery in 2021: 27% anticipate no recovery, 36% anticipate reaching 20% of their pre Covid-19 business volume, 29% anticipate regaining 40% of their pre Covid-19 business volume
  • Download the English UK Covid-19 impact report (published March 2021) Members Corporate members

 Our data in more detail: