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New student statistics report: UK ELT's slow but steady recovery could accelerate with the right support

  Publisher : Bernice   16 May 2023 06:55

According to the English UK 2023 student statistics report, the post-pandemic rebound accelerated in 2022, with a doubling of student weeks and a "impressive" three-fold rise in enrollment.

Overall, English UK member centers regained 51% of full-time students from the prior year and 60% of 2019 student weeks, with junior enrollment increasing to almost 50% of the total.

Patch and Uneven Recovery

However, even in the private sector, where it is concentrated, the recovery is weak, and the UK is falling behind its main rivals. While a third of private providers only achieved half of their 2019 volumes, a sixth of them did so. Teachers in the public sector had 22% fewer students and taught 33% fewer student weeks than in 2021. The paper cautions that continued collaboration between all stakeholders, including the government, is "crucial."

The English UK intelligence partner BONARD's chief intelligence officer, Patrik Pavlacic, says that "we note that the overall pace of recovery in the UK appears to be slightly lagging that of key competitors, primarily because its traditional markets in Europe are not recovering strongly enough."

"Building a plan for student recruiting has significant consequences given the unequal recovery and market trends in China and Russia. In this situation, it is wise for the industry to concentrate on both source markets that are recovering quickly and those that may not be recovering as quickly but have long-term potential for the UK ELT sector. In the upcoming year, ongoing collaboration between stakeholders, including the government, and their targeted marketing initiatives in potential target markets will be key. If such coordination is successful, we are confident that the ELT sector will be able to accelerate its recovery.

Pockets of excellent but also worrying news

English UK CEO, Jodie Gray, stated: "These are the data we've been waiting for, answering the critical issue about how the UK is rebounding from the epidemic despite changes to visa laws making it more difficult for our major markets to visit here. Our quarterly statistics had already informed us that, overall, things were good and that, for the most part, our members' efforts were paying off. However, there are some good and concerning news nuggets, and the loss of ID card travel makes it difficult to predict when and whether our big EU markets will fully recover. She added:

"I'm so proud of what our industry has achieved in difficult circumstances. We will continue to support our members' hard work and innovation with marketing drives such as the return of the China Roadshow and StudyWorld London and campaigning for vital tweaks to the immigration system to make UK study easier for junior groups and more attractive for other students."

The report on student statistics for this year contains fresh information that provides more specifics regarding the market and recovery. It compares the number of students in 2022 to the pre-pandemic year of 2019, as well as the degree of recovery attained by specific providers. According to a recent regional analysis, Brighton and Manchester are the next two largest cities, with London remaining the top study destination.

239,576 full- and part-time students were taught across all English UK member centers in 2018, down from 535,049 in 2019.

Some source markets are experiencing a swift recovery

The report identifies source markets that are recovering quickly, including Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia, as well as countries that are not recovering as quickly but have long-term potential for the UK ELT industry. These are European nations where students are more likely to choose one of the competitors to the UK for their study abroad location.

Download the English UK 2023 student statistics report – executive summary  

Download the English UK 2023 student statistics report - full report [member login required] 

2022 in numbers: what the student statistics report tell us 

- In 2022, English UK's 329 member centres taught 225,641 full-time English language students, for a combined total of 973,716 student weeks. 93 English UK member centres taught part-time English language courses to an additional 11,913 students.  

- Total student weeks were more than double the 2021 figures (+111%), while student numbers showed an impressive 320% increase. This growth was driven mainly by the private sector. These figures do not reflect fluctuation in English UK membership.  

- The absolute overall year-on-year growth in student weeks was driven mainly by the fastest growing source markets: Argentina (+1329%), Brazil (+567%), Italy (+502%) and Ukraine (+413%). China and Russia, traditionally key markets for UK ELT, sent fewer student weeks (-25% and -20%, respectively).  

- From data from the 308 centres reporting in both 2019 and 2022, the sector has now recovered 60% of its 2019 student week volume and 51% of its student numbers. Recovery rate was uneven, as 13% of providers exceeded their 2019 student weeks.  

- The mode of tuition for most students (97%) had reverted to being face-to-face  

- For the first time since the start of the pandemic, juniors returned in volume, making up 49% of all students, compared to 9% in 2021. 

- London was back as the top study destination in 2022, accounting for 29% of all student weeks.  

- After London, cities with the highest share of student weeks were Brighton (9%), Manchester (9%), Bournemouth (8%) and Oxford (6%).  

State sector member centres  

- The 34 state sector member centres taught 10,175 full-time English language students, a 22% decrease compared to 2021. They delivered 95,077 student weeks, 33% fewer than 2021. These percentage changes do not reflect fluctuations in the size of the membership.  

- English UK's state sector members additionally taught 5,875 part-time English language students (+20% increase on 2021).  

- From like-for-like data from the 32 state member centres reporting in both 2019 and 2022, on average student weeks have recovered to 35% and student numbers to 43% of pre-pandemic levels.  

- Adults made up 97% of the state sector members' student weeks, similar to 2019 (98%).  

- Emergency remote modes of teaching continued for longer than in the private sector with 32% of students studying online. 

- Adult students' courses dropped from a high of 11.6 weeks in 2020 to 9.6 weeks, lower than the pre-pandemic average of 10.9 weeks. The average stay for junior students more than doubled to 5.0 weeks.  

- China remained the top source market for the state sector with 38% of student weeks, despite a drop of 36%. Next biggest markets were Saudi Arabia (9%), Romania (8%), Japan (5%) and Kuwait (4%).  

Private sector member centres  

- The 295 private sector member centres collectively taught 215,466 full-time students (+430% increase compared to 2021) and delivered 878,639 student weeks (+174% increase on 2021). These percentage changes do not reflect fluctuations in English UK membership.  

- From like-for-like data from the 274 private sector centres reporting in 2019 and 2022, the average student week volume recovered to 66% of 2019 levels and student numbers reached 52%.  

- 41 private providers exceeded their 2019 student weeks, a further 24 experienced 80 - 100% recovery but 99 providers recovered less than 50% of their 2019 volumes.  

- Juniors made a dramatic comeback in 2022, making up 51% of all students compared with 11% in 2021. 190 private sector centres ran junior ELT programmes. 

- The average stay for adults and juniors combined was 4.1 weeks, another return to pre-pandemic norms.  

- For the second consecutive year, Saudi Arabia was the biggest source market for private sector members with 15% of total student weeks. Traditionally strong Western European countries experienced a rebound: Italy (12%), Spain (6%), France (5%).  

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