EduSA records 2014 growth

23 April, 2015

Members of English language school association Education South Africa (EduSA) recorded growth in international student numbers and student weeks in 2014 despite some of the challenges facing the sector, according to new data released by the group.

Education South Africa (EduSA) recorded 11 per cent growth in students in 2014

EduSA schools received 10,113 students in 2014, an increase of 11 per cent compared with the previous year, while student weeks increased by six per cent to 57,493.

Strong growth in student numbers was recorded from several individual student markets, including: France (+87 per cent), Germany (35 per cent), Switzerland (33 per cent), Argentina (84 per cent), Colombia (53 per cent) and Libya (93 per cent).

Commenting on the growth regions, Johannes Kraus, Chair of EduSA and Director of Kurus English in Cape Town, told StudyTravel Magazine, “The ZAR has been weak in 2014 which is definitely making things cheaper and more affordable for the European market.”

He added, “I know from my own experience that South Africa is getting more and more popular in Latin America as an alternative to other EFL destinations. We can see this especially in Colombia.”

Brazil remained the largest source country in 2014 with 1,527 students, although this was an eight per cent decline compared with the previous year. Speculating on the reasons for the decline, Kraus said, “The [FIFA] World Cup could have been one reason. Schools were also telling me that Brazilian agents mentioned Ebola as one of the reasons. It is also unfortunate that even with a Brazilian fam trip in March, we could not prevent the decline in bookings.”

Romulo Costa, Director of TREK Intercambio agency in Brazil, told STM, “Ebola was the first impact of a global event on the Brazilian outbound market. Brazilian students understood some of the threat of Ebola because we have dengue fever in Brazil. Of course, Ebola was not in South Africa, but some Brazilians put all of Africa together unfortunately.”

Nonetheless, the Ebola outbreak appeared to have little impact on recruitment last year, although growth did slow in the final quarter of 2014 to two per cent, compared with Q4 of 2013. In December, EduSA issued a statement to reassure agents and potential clients that South Africa was completely safe and geographically far from the Ebola-afflicted countries.

Changes to South Africa’s visa regulations – with confusion as to whether language schools should be classified as valid institutions for a study visa by embassies – were highlighted as a threat to the industry last year.

Although these have not impacted so far, Kraus said members were still wary of how the regulatory changes will hit business. “We are expecting a bigger visa effect at the beginning of this year and in 2015 in general, due to the fact that most of the bookings, including visas, had already been organised when the new Immigration Act came into effect. There was also a delay in implementing the new policy, so we are really expecting a more crucial impact in 2015.”

In order to ameliorate the impact of the new rules, EduSA members are applying for accreditation as TVET (Technical Vocational Education and Training) colleges. “At the moment we are confident to receive accreditation by September 2015, and then visas for long-term study permits should not be a problem anymore.”

In the intervening period, most language schools are recommending that students from eligible countries use the 90-day tourist visa, which can usually be extended for a further 90 days once in South Africa.

There was also 12 per cent growth in the number of bookings via agents in the 2014 EduSA data, up from 5,439 to 6,111. Agents accounted for 82 per cent of students from Central and South America and 80 per cent of students from Europe.

There were student number increases across every age category in 2014, which Kraus said indicated the broad appeal and further sustainable growth potential of the country. “South Africa definitely has something to offer for any age group: adventure and parties for the younger at heart and lots of culture, history and nature for the more mature clientele.”

The forthcoming May issue of StudyTravel Magazine includes a feature on South Africa as a study travel destination.

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