||It is now well known that many governments of nations hosting international students are keen to grow their education export markets aware of both the cross-cultural and financial benefits that international students bring to their countries. The English language teaching market is an integral part of this industry; worth millions to many countries around the world. With global English language school chain, OISE, furthering its empire this year and still considering plans to float on the stock market and Study Group being sold to a private equity firm for around US$136 million (see page 6), there is every sign that big business sees the long-term potential in this industry.
And according to our annual global market analysis, the industry is in good form, with student numbers and total student weeks taught both up on 2004, and the overall revenue generated by the ELT industry estimated to be US$9.2 billion up from US$8.3 billion in 2004, although not quite as good as the US$9.6 billion estimate for 2003 (see Language Travel Magazine, October 2004, pages 22-26).
Using data supplied by the industry associations around the world and our own statistics produced in-house, as well as informed analysis, Language Travel Magazine aims each year to paint a picture of the breadth of the global market for English language study among English speaking countries and to see how it changes and evolves over time.
One observation of 2005 is that Canada is closing the gap on its neighbour and competitor, the USA, at least in terms of student numbers. For the first time, we estimate Canada to have had a higher intake of actual students last year than the USA, although because the overall average length of stay lower, the total student weeks figure was also lower than the USA.
It is difficult to obtain up-to-date figures for the US market, because the Open Doors data made available by the Institute of International Education for 2005 actually indicates trends for the 2004 calendar year. However, anecdotal reports seem to clearly suggest an upward trend on 2005 compared with 2004.
We estimate the US market to have grown by 7.4 per cent in 2005 on 2004 in terms of market share by weeks, less than Canada’s growth of 9.9 per cent. Reports suggest that the US market is continuing to improve and in 2006, the USA may have more students than Canada again. However, Linda Auzins at the Canadian Association of Private Language Schools (Capls) also observes, “2006 numbers [for Capls members] sound like they will be much higher, as most schools are reporting the best year in a long time!”
Aside from Canada notching up close to a 10 per cent rise in total student weeks taught student weeks is the best measure of the overall volume in a market several other countries performed very well in 2005, according to our analysis.
South Africa, enjoying the cheapest comparative costs of all the markets in our survey (see page 28), registered a slight rise in total student weeks taught in 2005 because of an estimated increase in actual numbers while the average length of stay remained the same at around six weeks. And at the English Language Teaching Association of South Africa (Eltasa), Meryl van der Merwe confirms, “Overall, the South African market has definitely grown in this period.”
And Ireland looks to have fared best of all in terms of market volume growth year on year, although Failte Ireland, which supplies us with the best statistics available, points out that the 2005 figures are obtained from a three-year rolling average from visitor surveys to be sure of consistency of data, therefore, the incremental rise year on year when compared with 2004 is not entirely accurate, as the 2004 statistics provided last year have since been amended upwards.
Nevertheless, the data supplied indicates an upward trend in the market and our Status survey of Ireland indicates that the overall average length of stay has also risen, from 3.1 to six weeks, meaning a higher revenue earnt in the sector and a greater volume of weeks achieved. Brian Burns, Manager of Ireland’s industry body, MEI~Relsa, notes two contributory factors a growth in junior students and year-round school group programmes and a rise in average length of stay among students from outside the European Economic Area who were keen to be eligible for part-time work rights (25 weeks stay or more).
The UK which accounts for close to half of the total market in terms of student weeks and just over half of market share in terms of revenue raised also had a good year in 2005 according to our analysis and again, this is due to a tendency towards longer stays among students in the UK in 2005, as actual student numbers were down on 2004, but average stay crept up from 6.8 weeks to 8 weeks.
Australia is the other market to be smiling at its own success. The latest 2005 survey of the market, commissioned by English Australia and undertaken by Environmetrics again, revealed that the ELT sector contributed AUS$1 billion (US$0.7 billion) to the economy for the first time in 2005, and market growth of 12.7 per cent was recorded year on year, in terms of student weeks. Seamus Fagan, Chairperson of English Australia, said that the 2005 figures represented a major milestone for the industry. “It is excellent news that Australia continues to attract increasing numbers of international students for language study,” he said. Again, the average length of stay had crept up slightly in this market, suggesting a global trend.
However, in contrast, a drop in average length stay in Malta from 2.9 weeks to 2.4 weeks meant that overall volume in Malta dropped despite student numbers actually rising, year on year.
Position by volume
While certain markets have fared well over the course of 2005 and improved their global profile, there has been little change overall in the global positioning of the major players. The UK still leads the pack and is undoubtedly the largest industry in the world, significantly ahead of all other markets. The USA remains in second position, although Canada is also looking strong.
Australia remains in fourth position overall in terms of the size of the market, but this country is also closing the gap on the USA and Canada slowly and passed the one million weeks mark for the first time in 2005, notching up 1.1 million weeks as compared with Canada on 1.6 million and the USA on 1.9 million weeks taught.
The surprises come further down the table. Firstly, this year’s analysis reveals that Ireland has overtaken New Zealand again to be back in fifth position in terms of market volume. This is a combination of the fact that Ireland’s figures are so improved on 2004 and that New Zealand’s English language teaching industry has had a very difficult few years and numbers were down in 2005 and 2004 (see Language Travel Magazine, July 2006, page 23). New Zealand’s market share in terms of student weeks is now almost half what it was in 2003.
Secondly, the seventh and eighth entrants into the league table, South Africa and Malta, are now slightly more closely aligned than in 2004, due to Malta’s contraction in terms of market share by volume, but South Africa continues to be a very small player. With EF and EC both opening schools there soon, however (see page 7), there is clearly confidence in this destination’s potential, while Malta’s new student visa (see page 6) may help boost the market potential there.
Costs and work opportunities
As stated previously, South Africa continues to be the cheapest ELT destination globally, with an average student spend per week recorded of US$532 on tuition, accommodation and extras. This figure was up on the US$492 recorded in 2004 but still below South Africa’s closest competitor in terms of price New Zealand (US$551).
Australia was the next cheapest destination, followed by Malta, Canada, the USA, Ireland and then finally, the UK (US$1,062). With the high value of the UK pound sterling, the UK has always been the most expensive ELT destination, but this alone clearly does not affect its competitiveness. There is also the issue of work rights that comes into the equation too, and the UK is one of the countries singled out by agents as popular with students because of the opportunities to earn money while in the country.
The ability to work part-time while studying is becoming increasingly crucial, as the concept of earning money while overseas becomes well established among students. This is an edge that Australia and the UK in particular have on other countries, according to our readers (see Language Travel Magazine, September 2006, page 11). And schools in the UK attest that study and work programmes are a vote winner (see page 31).
Australia, with its relatively cheap cost of student living and its work rights, certainly seems in a strong position to capitalise on current market growth during 2006. Another country that introduced work rights for English language students in 2005 was New Zealand, which now enables students who are resident in the country for more than six months to work for up to 20 hours per week. Unfortunately, there has been no positive effect on student enrolment numbers to date in New Zealand to reflect such a rule change.
In Canada, there are now part-time work rights for long-term international students. English language students cannot take advantage of this new rule, however, although it is hoped that some students, intent on further academic study, might choose Canada because of this factor. In Ireland, a work rule was amended last year so that only students in the country for more than six months could gain part-time employment. The industry was swift to react after the government contemplated axing work rights for all students from outside of the European Economic Area (see Language Travel Magazine, May 2005, page 6).
Ones to watch
Aside from financial implications, other reasons to choose to study in a particular country are rooted in factors revolving around accessibility and social trends. Ease of visa issuance, distance to travel to a study destination and the image a country has among potential students are all influential factors. The UK does well from its position in Europe appealing to short-term as well as long-term markets. Tony Millns, Chief Executive at English UK, attests, “The UK’s strengths are that its markets are more diversified, and its reputation for quality in education remains high.”
Australia has the possible disadvantage of not having a short-haul market on tap and near to hand, but nevertheless, with its value for money, working opportunities and dedicated government back-up that is helping to promote the country’s appeal as much as possible, it is one to watch in the future. Millns agrees. “The key competitor nations are Australia and Canada,” he states.
When asking agencies that promote all study destinations to their students about future trends, Australia and Canada are markets that are often mentioned as destinations that may rise in popularity in the next five years. Daniela Maccolini, Director of Coming in Italy, sums up the responses from a number of agents when she says that in the next five years, “I think Canada and Australia [will gain popularity] because the prices are reasonable and there are no visa difficulties, although the UK remains at the top in terms of my inquiries.”
In the future, it is certain that all markets will have to continue to promote their intrinsic advantages for students and work hard to gain ground on any of their competitors. Even in the USA, which lacks a coordinated governmental approach to education export promotion, with reports that the market is rebounding, countries that may have capitalised on the USA’s losses can no longer rely on this.
A positive point is that the pool of potential students seems to be enlarging again, after a slight contraction in 2004. And the total weeks figure arrived at for 2005 10,737,136 is back up after 2004’s total was lower because of a trend towards shorter stays that year.
In the long-term, the prospects are good and a further reason for this is that English language tuition is increasingly being incorporated into mainstream schooling overseas, which therefore helps create a demand for further ELT training in an English speaking country. Millns adds, “On the demand side, as wealth in nations such as Brazil and China becomes more distributed, there will continue to be new groups of students wanting an education in English abroad. This is likely to happen also in countries that are not currently major markets, from Indonesia to Chile.”
|Global English language market by student weeks, 2005
||Global English language market by student numbers, 2005
S Africa 83,010
S Africa 13,835
|Global English language market by revenue (US$), 2005
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USA $1,475, 742,678
S Africa $44,161,320
S Africa 6
|Changes in market share by student weeks taught
S Africa 0.8
S Africa 0.8
S Africa 0.8