VisitBritain releases English study data

15, October, 2014

VisitBritain, the national tourism agency, has released data on inbound English study in 2013, after including a question about language courses in the International Passenger Survey (IPS) for the first time.

% of visits, nights and spend accounted for by trips to the UK that included an English language course, 2013. Source - VisitBritain, Foresight - issue 130

Based on extrapolated data from the survey, VisitBritain said 1,075,000 people took an English course in 2013, representing 3.3 per cent of all visits and 5.9 per cent of total visitor spend.

According to the IPS data, France accounted for the largest share of English language students with 217,000 visits, followed by Italy (124,000), Germany (96,000), Spain (78,000) and the Netherlands (76,000). The most prominent non-European country on the list was Brazil in eighth place with 25,000 visits.

The average stay was just over two weeks, but around half of the English courses recorded were of one week or less – 26 per cent were just 1-to-3 days – suggesting that some informal learning arrangements were being captured in the data. 

Furthermore, of the visitors to the UK that took a language course, 48 per cent cited ‘holiday’ as the primary purpose of the visit, while 24 per cent said ‘study’ was the main purpose of travelling to the UK.

While 3.3 per cent of total visits to the UK included an English language course, according to the VisitBritain data, the proportion was much higher in some regions of the country. Eleven per cent of single-trip visits to North East England and 8.5 per cent of visits to the South West England featured an English language course.

Eddie Byers, CEO of English UK, welcomed the incorporation of language study into the IPS data, “It’s really good that they have started to look at educational tourism and we welcome that,” he said.

 “However, this is a new development and IPS data is not complete: it should not be read in terms of trends. We need to be monitoring this data over the next few quarters to understand more clearly what those trends are and remember that they are trends, not absolutes.”

According to the UK Office for National Statistics, the IPS conducts between 700,000 and 800,000 interviews per year at major airports, sea ports and Eurostar terminals, with around 250,000 used to extrapolate data on travel and tourism in the UK.

The full VisitBritain report on English language study is on the corporate website.

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