Facts & figures

Last updated: 6 November 2019

Intelligence and data on the UK ELT industry

English UK is the authority on the UK ELT industry. We research the value of UK ELT and run industry-leading data schemes that have transformed the insight available to our members and our industry. We produce an annual student statistics report and have a quarterly data cohort (QUIC). We also share stakeholder insights and and produce in-depth, practical reports on source markets with the British Council and  on source markets.


How many students study English in the UK each year?

In 2018 English UK commissioned an economic impact report on what English language students contribute to the UK. We know 550,000 international students came to the UK to study English in 2016/17, staying an average of 3.7 weeks. Over half came from EU countries.

Source: What do international English language students contribute to the UK? (Bonard, Capital Economics & English UK 2018)

student number and 1.4bil


What do English language student contribute to the UK?

English language students generate around £1.4bn in export earnings for the UK each year.

Each student's net fiscal contribution to the UK economy in 2016/2017 was £216. Overall, they supported around 30,600 jobs in ELT centres, the wider supply chain and tourism and transport. Ordinary families benefit culturally and financially from welcoming students into their homes, often sparking lifelong friendships circling the world.

And there are wider benefits too. 80% of students told us they planned to return to the UK after their courses ended, for travel or further study.

Infographic UK benefit and number of jobs

Some benefits are hard to quantify: most students will go home with warm feelings about the UK which they share with friends and family, perhaps encouraging trading and other contacts with us as they advance in their careers. 


The UK ELT industry in 2018

Students studying English language courses at English UK member centres rose by 2% in 2018, while student weeks dropped by 0.9% in comparison to 2017. This development was partially caused by English UK membership contracting by 15 members but also due to a global downward trend in length of stay for English language students.

Source: English UK Annual Student Statistics Report 2019

The English UK annual student statistics reports are prepared by our insight partner and international education research specialists Bonard, to support our members and the wider UK ELT sector with robust and sophisticated market intelligence. The reports includes trends in UK ELT, student numbers and world markets.

In 2018 it showed:

  • English UK member centres taught 500k students in 2018
  • That's 1.86 million student weeks
  • Student numbers rose by 2% from 2017 to 2018
  • Under-18s represent 51% of all enrolments at English UK member centres
  • London retained the highest regional proportion of student weeks
  • The strongest growth of 9% was seen in Northern England
  • Non-EU countries sent 43% of all students and generated 63% of all student weeks
  • read the executive summary +


What countries send English language students to the UK?

People come to the UK from over 100 countries to learn or improve their English. In 2018, 85% of all student weeks and 86% of students were from the top 20 source markets for UK ELT.

Top 20 source markets for UK ELT

1. Italy
2. China
3. Saudi Arabia
4. Spain
5. France
6. Turkey
7. Japan
8. South Korea
9. Switzerland
10. Brazil
11. Germany
12. Russia
13. Kuwait
14. Poland
15. Colombia
16. Thailand
17. Taiwan
18. Oman
19. Argentina
20. Chile

This list of countries remained largely unchanged when compared to 2017. Only Chile entered the list of top 20 markets at the expense of Mexico.

Our quarterly intelligence cohort shows how this balance of countries changes slightly quarter on quarter, however, and varies between junior and adult learners.

In Q1 2019 and Q2 2019, the top sending markets were Saudi Arabia and then Italy. While China was in the top five markets for both months in Q1 it was joined by Spain and Brazil while in Q2 it was Spain and France.

In both Q3 2018 and Q3 2017 Italy wasthe top summer market followed by China, Saudi Arabia, Spain and Turkey. The top UK ELT markets in Q4 2018 were: Saudi Arabia, China, Switzerland, South Korea and Italy.


What age are English language students in the UK?

Most English language students are adults (i.e. over 18 years old) but the proportion of junior and adult students changes quarter to quarter

The number of junior students (under 18s) is the highest in the summer (the third quarter of the year) with a ratio of 64% adults to 36% juniors. In the first two quarters of the year the ratio is around 85%:15% and 80%:20%. In the final quarter, 95% of students are adults.


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