Large student weeks growth for Ireland's ELT schools

20 May, 2014

Members of Ireland's English language school association Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) recorded a 28 per cent increase in student weeks in 2013, despite a seven per cent fall in overall student numbers.

The 2013 Student Profile, released by MEI in partnership with Insight Statistic Consulting, surveyed recruitment trends at MEI’s 54 members schools, and found total student weeks increased from 440,005 in 2012 to 563,329 last year.

Growth in 2013 was driven by increases from non-EU students in the adult sector. Non-EU students with no visa required grew by 52 per cent, and non-EU students requiring a visa rose by 107 per cent, while there was also eight per cent growth in EU adult students. There was a 12 per cent drop in student weeks in the junior sector, with declines from EU students (-15 per cent) and non-EU visa required students (-13 per cent), although there was 51 per cent growth from non-EU students with no visa required – the smallest of the three groups.

In Study Travel Magazine’s recent market analysis on Ireland’s ELT sector, Jonathan Quinn, Director of Centre of English Studies, said, “For obvious economic reasons, some of the traditional European markets slowed down or declined in 2013, especially when looking at junior students, whereas there was an increase in adult business coming from the Middle East, Asia and South America.”

While the average course length in the adult sector was 8.2 weeks, there was a clear tendency for longer stays from non-EU students at an average of 18.2 weeks (no visa required) and 16 weeks (visa required), contrasting with an average stay of 3.8 weeks for EU students. The average course length in the junior market was 2.2 weeks.

Overall student numbers declined from 108,005 in 2012 to 100,523 last year, with the market once again divided along junior and adult lines: student numbers fell by 18 per cent, with declines in all of the visa subsections; the adult sector, meanwhile, rose by seven per cent, with a 37 per cent increase from non-EU no visa required students and 64 per cent growth from non-EU visa required students.

Examining the declines in the junior segment, the report stated, “The apparent fall off in junior students in 2013 could be explained by an inflated 2012 figure arising from the London Olympics.”

In terms of markets, Italy remained the largest source country in the junior market in both student numbers (20,431) and weeks (32,221), followed by Spain with 9,428 students and 25,036 student weeks. The two countries combined accounted for 69 per cent of students and 63 per cent of student weeks in the junior sector.

By student numbers, Italy and Spain were also the largest recruitment markets in the adult sector, providing 12,476 and 11,803 students respectively and 42 per cent of all adult students.

However, by the measure of student weeks Brazil was comfortably the largest source market with 92,860 student weeks, followed by Venezuela (56,099 student weeks), Spain (47,398), Korea (47,121) and Italy (36,405). The emergence of Brazil and Venezuela echo the findings of STM’s Ireland market analysis.

The report estimated the value of students at MEI schools at €240 million, including spending on tuition fees, accommodation, travel, entertainment/activities and other costs.

MEI currently has 54 member schools, and the report states that 93 per cent (50 schools) offer adult programmes and 76 per cent (41 schools) provide junior courses. In the adult sector, 15 schools are rated as “large” with 1,500+ students, 17 were classified as “medium” with 400-to-1,499 students, and 18 were described as “small”, with less than 400 students per year. The MEI survey had a response rate of 80 per cent.

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