Australia's Elicos sector records bumper growth

07 May, 2014

The English language sector in Australia experienced 19 per cent growth in student numbers and 25 per cent growth in student weeks, as well as increases in other key indicators, according to the survey of 2013 business results released by sector peak body English Australia.

English Australia member schools accounted for 83 per cent of Elicos students

The annual report on Elicos markets revealed that student enrolments grew to 147,828 in 2013, a 19 per cent rise compared with 2012 and the third highest total ever recorded (behind the peak years of 2008 and 2009).

Explaining the substantial growth, Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, said, “I think it is a combination of a range of things: improved exchange rates, comprehensive work rights, improved post-study opportunities, streamlined visas for packaged Elicos, and ‘negative’ developments in competitor countries. A significant proportion of the growth is in English language packaged with higher education.” English Australia member schools accounted for 83 per cent of total Elicos enrolments in the survey.

Average course length increased from 12.3 weeks in 2012 to 12.9 weeks in 2013 – the longest ever recorded – leading to a 25 per cent growth in total student weeks, which rose to 1,912,013 last year.

Elicos enrolments increased across all visa types – with the exception of the relatively minor ‘other’ category: student visas grew by 21 per cent (+16,006 students) and accounted for 62 per cent of all students (a slight increase over 2012); students holding visitor visas increased by 13 per cent (+3,160) and constituted 19 per cent of the total; working holiday visas jumped by 25 per cent (+4,303) and made up 15 per cent of all students; the other category declined by 3.6 per cent and accounted for four per cent of the total number of students.

Average course length was highest for student visa students at 16.8 weeks, while visitor visa students averaged 4.9 weeks and working holiday visa students studied for an average of 8.6 weeks.

The total economic impact of the Elicos sector increased 26 per cent from AUS$1.549 billion (US$1.446 billion) in 2012 to AUS$1.845 billion (US$1.723 billion) last year.

China remained the strongest source market in 2013 with an 11 per cent increase in student numbers, and accounted for 17 per cent of the total Elicos market; eighty-eight per cent of Chinese students used a student visa. Japan maintained second place with eight per cent growth, with the visitor visa accounting for 51 per cent of Japanese students.  Korea was the third largest source market, registering six per cent growth, with 45 per cent of Koreans using working holiday visas.

The growth from Korea came against the backdrop of declining agency business in 2013. Commenting on the Korean rise – the first for several years – Blundell said the majority of increase had come from working holiday visa holders. The growth in working holiday visas with Elicos issued to Korean students in 2013 (+20 per cent) comfortably outstripped the eight per cent overall increase in working holiday visas issued to Koreans.

The Asia Pacific region as a whole provided 64 per cent of all Elicos students last year, and recorded growth of 20 per cent – an additional 15,967 students compared with the previous year.

Two of the strongest growth countries within the top ten were the long-haul Latin American source countries of Brazil, which increased by 1,719 students (+21 per cent), and Colombia, which provided 1,475 more students than in 2012 – a rise of 24 per cent.  “A lot of the growth from Brazil is through the Science without Borders programme,” said Blundell, adding many university language centres were now receiving their first ever students from Brazil. The Central and South America region as a whole rose by 19 per cent in 2013.

The positive trends for Elicos and other international education export sectors have also continued into 2014, according to the year-to-date March data on student visa students released from Australian Education International (AEI).

The Elicos sector registered commencement growth of 30.3 per cent and total enrolment growth of 29.5 per cent compared with the first three months of 2013.

Across the entire education export industry there was a 20.5 per cent rise in commencements and 9.9 per cent growth in enrolments. All sectors recorded positive trends in both measures, welcome news for the VET sector, which continued to see declines during 2013 while other sectors returned to growth.

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