Students down, weeks up in Malta

04 April, 2014

Malta’s English language teaching sector experienced an eight per cent decline in student numbers in 2013, but a three per cent rise in student weeks, according to data just released by the country’s National Statistics Office.

Credits: Maurizio Modena,

Following a bumper increase in 2012, the number of students visiting Malta for English language study fell last year by 8.4 per cent to 74,992 – still considerably higher than the 69,297 students recorded in 2011. The decline in student numbers could mostly be attributed to the EU, which sent 6,000 fewer students in 2013, compared with the previous year.

Genevieve Abela, CEO of the Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations in Malta (Feltom), had anticipated the 2013 results in a recent interview with Study Travel Magazine, and said, “The economic adjustment taking place in Italy and Spain continues to have a bearing on Malta’s TEFL sector since both have been traditionally important markets for Malta. The significant investment in English teaching undertaken by Central European governments over the past year has also had an effect as less Central European students are now travelling to learn English.”

Despite declining by over 2,000 students in 2013, Italy remained the largest sender country in terms of student numbers, providing 13,381 students to Malta, followed by Russia (11,447), Germany (10,846), France (7,592) and Spain (4,674).

After large increases in 2012, the number of Asian students almost halved last year, falling from 5,208 to 2,840, suggesting perhaps that some students from these markets may have diverted away from the UK during the Olympic year. Contrastingly, there were increasing numbers of students in Malta last year from other European countries outside of the EU, America and Africa.

Feltom is continuing marketing efforts outside the EU this year with missions to Turkey and China.

Despite the fall in absolute students numbers, the total number of student weeks increased by 3.3 per cent from 226,360 in 2012 to 233,834 last year. By this measure, Russia (35,447) displaces Italy (23,123) as the top source market, followed by Germany (22,058), Turkey (17,441) and France (17,362).

The average number of student weeks rose from 2.8 in 2012 to 3.1 last year. Students from Korea recorded the highest average stay of 14.5 weeks, followed by those from Libya (10.2) and Turkey (7.8).

Abela welcomed the increase in student weeks which she said confirmed the growth of the mature student sector. She added, “Feltom and its members are currently embracing this structural transformation and are investing more in the adult segment by offering more courses in English for Specific Purposes, including business, aviation and medicine.”

Across the whole of 2013, incoming English language students represented 4.6 of all foreign nationals visiting Malta, rising to 10.7 per cent of arrivals in the peak month of July. Language learners made up a much greater share of visitors from several non-EU countries, including Korea (53.1 per cent), Brazil (32.3), Russia (26.5) and Turkey (22.1).

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