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In-depth analysis of evolving Saudi Arabia ELT market published by British Council and English UK

Published Bernice on Thursday, November 16, 2023 7:20 AM

 In-depth analysis of evolving Saudi Arabia ELT market published by British Council and English UK

Fifteen recommendations to attract Saudi students to learn English in the UK are now available in a report published exclusively for British Council-accredited ELT centres.  

English Language Market Report: Saudi Arabia is co-produced by English UK and the British Council, researched and written by specialist market research organisation BONARD.  

“The importance of acquiring proficiency in English language extends beyond the needs of individual Saudi citizens; it is now essential to the broader economic transformation and development of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.  

“Building on extensive primary research, this study represents a comprehensive resource for accredited English language centres in the UK on how to navigate the most recent trends in student recruitment in Saudi Arabia. The report also offers in-depth marketing and recruitment strategies that resonate with Saudi students’ needs and preferences,” says the executive summary. 

The introduction concludes: “Building on first-hand views of leading organisations and market experts in the field, Saudi and UK organisations can work together to ensure Saudi students receive the best possible learning experience in the UK.” 

Jodie Gray, chief executive of English UK, welcomed the report’s publication. “This is exactly the kind of evidenced, practical market information our members need to thrive as they and grow rebuild after the twin shocks of Covid and Brexit. We’re very pleased with the report and we believe they will be too. This is one of our biggest markets, but it is evolving in new ways we all need to understand. 

“This is part of our commitment to support our members and UK ELT in understanding and reaching valuable and potential markets in a variety of ways, including market intelligence, scoping visits, workshops and reports.” 

Mike Welch, the British Council’s Director Global Operations, Teaching, added: “We have been delighted to work with English UK on a series of market reports to support our accredited ELT centres and this one, disrupted by the Covid pandemic, has proved very timely. I’m sure it will be very useful to centres already welcoming Saudi students as well as those hoping to enter this market.”   

The report says: “A key objective driving developments in the education field is to transform Saudi Arabia from a petroleum to a knowledge-based global economy. This is defined in Saudi Vision 2030, which was first announced by the Saudi government in April 2016.” 

It adds: “Saudi students are increasingly pursuing higher education abroad and taking English language programmes to facilitate this. The shift will encourage more students to look for ELT classes independently and pay for their education.” Driving factors include the end of the King Abdullah scholarship scheme in 2020, more demand for ELT skills, the UK’s electronic visa waiver for Saudi nationals and growing desire for international study experiences.  

Saudi Arabia ranks relatively low in English language proficiency: 102 out of 111 countries on the EF English Proficiency Index, indicating a ‘very low’ proficiency level with a score of 406, compared to the global average of 502, says the report. 

Presenting evidence on evolving market trends around scholarship and self-funded students, the report “evaluates Saudi students’ needs and preferences while 
offering practical recommendations to accredited UK language centres seeking to expand their presence in this market.” Its 15 recommendations are in three categories:
awareness building and marketing, recruitment, and facilitating strong bilateral relations.  

The report says Saudi Arabia is the fifth-largest ELT source market in the world, accounting for 297,787 student weeks in 2022, and was one of the fastest-growing markets for the UK pre-pandemic. In 2022 it was the UK’s top source country in 2022, delivering 177,610 weeks - 15% of the overall total. English UK member centres taught 13,483 Saudi students in 2022 compared with 8,750 students enrolled in higher education. Historically, most were sponsored by Saudi government or business, but the changes have led to increased demand from self-funded students.  

The study included a comprehensive literature review as well as a survey completed by 142 accredited language centres, in-depth interviews with 26 of them plus education agencies, English UK staff and UK government representatives.  

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