Facts & figures

Our latest annual Student Statistics Report, published in May 2021, showed an 83.6% drop in student numbers in 2020 as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Happy teacher outside classroom 600x230

Last updated: 22 June 2021

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. The report covering 2019 provides a pre-Covid-19 snapshot of the industry.

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

In 2019, 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. 

English UK 2020 Student Statistics Report membership overview market size


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?

Two reports in the last three years have confirmed the economic value of the UK's ELT industry:

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

value to UK English UK 600w

In 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 Covid-19 impact report, 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)
Our latest Student Statistics report, published in May 2021, covers the first year of the pandemic and found:
  • An 83.6% drop in student numbers and at 71.1% drop in student weeks
  • 83,446 full-time English language students taught for 530,756 student weeks 
  • An unprecedented fall of 69 member centres, from 415 
  • London was the most popular study region, with one in four weeks, followed by Northern England
  • State sector members lost 59.5 per cent of students and 53.5 per cent of student weeks, with course length rising for both adults and juniors
  • 294 private sector member centres taught 69,642 students for 375,351 weeks.
  • For private sector members student weeks decreased by 75% and student numbers by 85%
  • The top five sending markets for state sector members were China (43.7%), Poland (7%), Saudi Arabia (6.6%), Spain (5%) and Japan (3.2%)
  • The top five sneding markets for private sector members were Saudi Arabia (19.2%), France (7.1%), Italy (6.8%), China (5.6%) and Japan (5.4%)
  • In the private sector, 57% of all students were taught face-to-face while 30% enrolled and studied on blended courses, and almost every fifth student moved online, either within (4%) or outside (10%) the UK
  • In the state sector, almost half (49%) of students attended their classes online in the UK (6%) or outside the UK (43%), and 37% of students studied via blended classes (face-to-face and then online or vice versa). English UK Covid impact report expected recovery in 2021

Market insights for members

We partner with the British Council on market-focused ELT research and reports to inform our member's student recruitment strategies.

 Our data in more detail: