Mixed year for Ireland's English schools

07 May, 2015


Increases in the junior market for member schools of Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) were offset by declines in the adult segment, leading to an overall decrease in student numbers and weeks in 2014, according to the annual report from the association.



MEI schools reported mixed business trends in 2014


The 2014 Student Profile, conducted on behalf of MEI by Insight Statistical Consulting and covering MEI’s 54 member schools, reported a total of 97,610 students last year, a three per cent drop compared with 100,523 in 2013. Student weeks, meanwhile, fell by 15 per cent from 563,329 to 476,326.

The overall declines were driven by losses in the adult market, which recorded a 19 per cent decrease in EU students, a 13 per cent fall in non-EU (no visa) students, and an 11 per cent drop in non-EU (visa required) students, leading to a 17 per cent overall decline in adult students. Student weeks in the adult sector fell by 20 per cent.

Speaking to StudyTravel Magazine, David O’Grady, CEO of MEI said losses from the Venezuelan market, which dropped by 40 per cent, were a major factor in the adult decline. Venezuela became a visa required country in June 2014, which impacted on enrolments, he said.

This echoes findings in StudyTravel Magazine’s recent Market Analysis feature on 2014 trends in Ireland, in which Venezuela disappeared from the top 10 source countries.

O’Grady also said a couple of large adult-focussed schools that were previous members of MEI were not captured in the 2014 data, which partly contributed to the year-on-year decline.

In contrast, the junior market was more buoyant, with a 17 per cent rise in EU students to 46,323 and a four per cent increase in non-EU (visa required) students to 2,826, producing 16 per cent total junior student growth for 2014. There was a seven per cent rise in junior student weeks to 99,555.

As a result of the adult declines, there was an overall decline in average stay, falling from 5.6 weeks in 2013 to 4.9 per cent last year. Even within the junior segment, there was slight reduction of average stay from 2.2 weeks to 2.0 weeks.

Italy remained the dominant source country in the stage (usually off-peak junior group) and junior segments with a combined total of 23,640 students (up 15 per cent from 20,431 in 2013) and 40,704 student weeks (a 22 per cent increase).

O’Grady said the expansion of the Italian PON scholarship in 2014 contributed to the increase in juniors. “The general trend of Italian students had been declining, but the PON would have counteracted that last year,” he said.

Spain was the second largest provider of students for these sectors with a combined 10,436 students (up 10 per cent), followed by Austria with 7,420 – a significant 103 per cent rise compared with 3,664 in 2013, driven by a big increase in stage programme students. Russia was again the largest non-EU market for juniors and suffered only a very slight reduction of students despite the political and currency troubles afflicting the market last year. O’Grady cautioned that a lot of the 2014 junior business may have been booked before the currency situation deteriorated, meaning there may be a more drastic fall this year.

In the adult/teacher training sector, Italy remained the largest source country by student numbers – a drop of 2,161 students. Spain held second position despite a more sizeable decline of 27 per cent to 8,426 students.

Brazil was the third largest adult source by student numbers and comfortably the largest source country by student weeks. A very slight increase in students was bolstered by an additional 3,816 student weeks, increasing the average stay from 18.1 weeks to 18.9 for Brazilian adult students.

In total, the EU provided 80 per cent of Ireland’s students in 2014. Ireland is more dependent on the EU for junior students (93 per cent share) than adults (66 per cent share).

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