April 2005 issue

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UK tertiary sector

Larger class sizes, a heavier reliance on Asian student markets and higher student satisfaction rates characterised this year's Feedback survey on the UK tertiary language teaching sector.

UK feedback at a glance
Total number of students: female 54, male 37 (Unknown 3) 94

Average age in years: 26.1

Average length of programme in weeks: 17.1

Average number of students in class: 10.5

Average number of hours language tuition per week: 18.4

% of students who found their course through an agent: 39

% of students who booked through an agent or adviser: 28

% of students who had been on another lang. programme: 20

% of students who would recommend their school: 94

Respondents by world region of origin Top nationalities
W Europe (7%)
C & E Europe (6%)
Asia (65%)
Middle East (14%)
C & L America (2%)
Africa (1%)
Unknown (5%)
Chinese 24%
Japanese 19%
Korean (11%)
Thai (5%)
Lybian (4%)
Saudi Arabian (4%)
Taiwanese (3%)
French (3%)
Iranian (3%)
Spanish (2%)

In my class there are... How will you use your English in the future?
Too many students (19%)
Too many students who speak my language (14%)
Too many students from one other country (10%)
None of these (53%)
Unknown (4%)
For college study in the UK (67%)
For college study in another English speaking destination (1%)
For college study at home (10%)
For current/future work (20%)
For pleasure only (2%)

How did you find your programme? Standard of your social programme
Recommended by an agent 39%
Recommended by a friend/relative 28%
I found it on the Internet (28%)
I saw it advertised (5%)
Excellent (3%)
Good (49%)
Satisfactory (33%)
Poor (5%)
Unsatisfactory (3%)
Unknown (7%)

Standard of your academic programme Standard of your accommodation
Excellent (15%)
Good (56%)
Satisfactory (19%)
Poor (1%)
Unsatisfactory (1%)
Unknown (8%)
Excellent (15%)
Good (24%)
Satisfactory (28%)
Poor (12%)
Unsatisfactory (3%)
Unknown (18%)

Standard of the teaching What is your accommodation while in the UK?
Excellent (49%)
Good (47%)
Satisfactory (2%)
Unknown (2%)
Host family (14%)
Residential/single room (44%)
Residential/dormitory (8%)
Other (34%)

Before looking for your course, did you know where you wanted to study?
Yes (82%)
No (9%)
Unknown (9%)

Yes (54%)
No (35%)
Unknown (11%)

Yes (43%)
No (46%)
Unknown (11%)

Student nationality
UK tertiary language programmes are increasingly relying on Asian markets, according to this year's Feedback survey, with 65 per cent of respondents coming from this world region, compared with 57 per cent last year when we profiled university-sector language teaching centres (see Language Travel Magazine, April 2004, pages 14-15). Numbers of European students were down, while Middle Eastern students increased from seven per cent to 13 per cent this year.

Student motivation
Accounting for 67 per cent of student responses, learning a language for further studies in the UK was, understandably, the most popular reason for taking an English language programme. This is, in fact, an increase on last year's results when just 33 per cent of students said that they were learning English for this reason. Improving current or future work prospects was a less popular motivation this year, making up 20 per cent of responses compared with 53 per cent last year. The average age of respondents increased to 26.1 years, up from the 24.2 years, while overall, the student age range varied between 17 and 42 years.

Student enrolment
Agent usage among students has increased, although it is still low compared with results from other markets. Thirty-nine per cent of respondents found their course through an agent and 28 per cent booked their programme via an agency. In last year's survey, just 22 per cent of students found out about their course through an agent and 15 per cent booked with one. Asian students were most likely to use the services of an agent when finding a language course (46 per cent), followed by Middle Eastern students (31 per cent), Central and Eastern Europeans (17 per cent) and Western Europeans (14 per cent). The Internet was the preferred method of finding a language course for 54 per cent of Middle Eastern students, while just 21 per cent of Asian students relied on this research tool.

Standard of the schools
Satisfaction rates among students on UK tertiary language programmes increased this year with 94 per cent of respondents saying that they would recommend their school, compared with the 86 per cent who said the same last year. Despite the dominance of Asian students in the nationality mix, the majority of students were satisfied with the number and nationality range of students in their classes. Of those who said that there were too many students of their own nationality, 62 per cent were from China. The average class size increased from five last year to 10.5 in this year's survey, and ranged from five to 16. Of the students who said that there were too many students in their class, the class sizes ranged from 11 to 16.

Living in the UK
With an average cost of UK£267.5 (US$500) for a week's course and accommodation fees, the cost of living in the UK was found to be higher than at home for 89 per cent of students. Just two per cent of students said that the cost of living in the UK was cheaper and a further seven per cent said that it was the same. The majority of students, 60 per cent, found it either quite hard or very hard to practise English with local people while just six per cent said that it was very easy.

Thank you to the following schools for participating in our survey:
Bournemouth and Poole College, Bournemouth; Coleg Glan Hafren, Cardiff; Sheffield Hallam University Tesol Centre, Sheffield; University of Birmingham, Birmingham; University of East Anglia, Norwich; University of Sheffield ELC, Sheffield; University of the Arts, London; University of Wales, Aberystwyth; University of Wales, Lampeter.
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