Growth in Malta in 2014

08 April, 2015

The number of international students travelling to Malta for English language programmes increased by 3.4 per cent to 77,550 in 2014 while the average stay increased to 3.2 weeks, according to annual data released this week by the government’s National Statistics Office (NSO).

The NSO Teaching English as a Foreign Language: 2014 report also showed that total student weeks increased to 245,587, an 8.8 per cent increase compared with the 225,769 student weeks recorded in 2013, and the highest recorded by the NSO.

The increase was largely fuelled by significant gains from the largest source country, Italy – the only country from 2013’s top five source markets to increase last year. There were 18,572 Italian students in Malta in 2014, a rise of 38.8 per cent. Italy also leapfrogged Russia to become the largest source country by the measure of student weeks, with 31,750 Italian student weeks in 2014. The bulk of Italian increases were in the ‘15 and under’ and ‘16-to-17’ age groups.

In StudyTravel Magazine’s recent analysis of Malta’s ELT market, Louiseanne Mercieca, Sales and Marketing Manager at English Language Academy (ELA Malta) in Sliema, confirmed the school hosted more Italian students in 2014, citing funding schemes such as PON, which was reinstated last year. “Italy has increased in numbers, mainly because the teachers/schools receive EU funding, and also due to a raised awareness of the importance of English when looking for jobs among the Italian job-seeking public,” she said.

The gains from Italy masked declines from most of the other European source markets. Germany, Russia and France (in that order) were the next largest senders of students, but all declined, while Spain dropped out of the top five following a 23 per cent fall. Among other European markets, there were increases from Austria, which entered the top five, Poland and the Netherlands.

Europe as a whole increased by 2.8 per cent and represented 67,079 students – 86.5 per cent of the total. Within this, there was an 8.8 per cent increase of students from the EU countries, and a 16.4 per cent decrease from other European countries, reflecting the currency and political issues affecting Russia and Ukraine.

There was 36.1 per cent growth in students from the Americas in 2014, mostly driven by increases from Brazil and Colombia – the latter country also had the longest average stay at 13.7 weeks – and recruitment from Africa increased by 41.5 per cent, largely due to gains from Libya. However, these rises were offset against a 5.6 per cent decline in Asian students. Although Japan increased slightly, Korea fell by around 100 students and China did not appear in the top 20 source markets.

Peter Gauci Maistre, Business Development Director at Clubclass in St Julians, told StudyTravel Magazine that Latin America had performed well in 2014, particularly Brazil, Colombia and Venezuela. He said changes to the visa system over recent years had encouraged enrolments from this region, and added that Colombian students often come for longer stays and are encouraged to extend stays through their fast progress. In contrast to the national figures, Clubclass experienced increases from Turkey, Russia and Ukraine last year, Maistre said.

By student weeks, Russia remained the second largest source country with a total of 28,461, while Libya increased student weeks by 46 per cent to become the third with 25,013 weeks, followed by Germany (21,531) and France (17,566). Libya was identified as a growing market by several contributors to STM’s Malta Market Analysis.

In total, English language students accounted for 4.4 per cent of all visits to Malta. However, among several non-EU markets, EFL tourism accounted for a much higher proportion of visits, notably Colombia (41 per cent), Korea (34.7), Brazil (25.6) and Russia (24.5). Within the peak month of July, 17.8 per cent of arrivals in Malta were for the purpose of English language study in 2014.

For the first time, NSO tracked accommodation options chosen by English language students, and homestay proved to be the most popular option, chosen by 21,974 students – 28.3 per cent of the total.

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