Strong 2014 growth for Fedele Spanish schools

13 May, 2015

Members of Spain’s language school association Fedele recorded nine per cent growth in international student numbers in 2014 and an 8.5 per cent rise in student weeks, according to annual data released by the association.

Fedele has released data showing an increase in students and student weeks in 2014

In total, the association’s school received 89,483 students last year, compared with 82,154 in the previous year. Student weeks, meanwhile, rose to 251,828, representing an average stay of 2.8 weeks.

However, growth was not uniform across all of Fedele’s member regional associations. Andalucía was the largest region but experienced a slight decline to 25,820 students. Castilla y León, meanwhile, remained the second largest region and rose by 13 per cent to 23,652 students. Comunidad Valenciana and Madrid – 3rd and 4th respectively – also recorded increases, although Barcelona’s enrolments declined.

Antonio Anadon, Owner and Founder of Ideal Education Group which incorporates Spanish language school brands Don Quijote and Enforex, told StudyTravel Magazine 2014 was a year when the Spanish industry really bounced back.

He said there were two main reasons for this increase. “Firstly, the US dollar is very strong and the euro is weak, so we had many students from US universities and also from Asian countries. It was maybe around 30 per cent cheaper than the previous year. Also Spanish is becoming more important as Spain comes out of the recession. It is the most spoken world language, behind English and Chinese, and interest is growing,” he said.

Italy increased by almost 1,900 students in 2014, rising from the fourth largest source country to the biggest in the process. Germany was second (10,060 students), followed by the USA (9,284), France (7,182) and the UK (6,579). However, it should be noted that there was a unusually large proportion of ‘unknown’ nationality students within the data, meaning year-on-year nationality comparisons should be treated with caution.

Nonetheless, Spain appears to have become the latest major language destination to show a significant positive impact from the Italian market, following 2014 full-year data from Marketing English in Ireland and Malta’s National Statistics Office. The expansion of Italy’s PON scholarship has been cited by several schools and agencies as fuelling this growth, and Anadon said, “The government paying for education like this is an excellent thing. This really helped business in the low season.”

Anadon said there were increases from most markets at his schools in 2014, and added that the Russian market remained steady – in contrast to some of the English-language destinations that suffered declines due to the unstable rouble and political situation.

Another area of growth, according to Anadon, is higher education pathway and preparation. He said the EduSpain university consultancy service doubled client numbers in 2014, with big interest from Latin America and Asia. An article in the forthcoming June issue of STM examines growth in Spain’s higher education sector. 

In an interview with STM to be published in the forthcoming July issue, Ana Cózar, Director of Fedele, said that the association had to recalibrate its annual survey after it emerged that some schools had previously interpreted the data questions slightly differently. The current survey therefore gathered data from the previous two years to enable year-on-year comparisons.

There was a noticeable gender imbalance as 65 per cent of students at Fedele schools were female. Cózar told STM this trend has been consistent over recent years. The 18-to-25 group was the largest age cohort, representing 30 per cent, followed by the 13-to-18 age range, which accounted for 26 per cent of students.

General or intensive Spanish programmes were comfortably the most popular course option, chosen by 62 per cent of students, while a range of other course options accounted for single-figure market share.

Agent-based recruitment was relatively low at 37 per cent, although this was still the most common method, followed by direct web bookings (31 per cent) and partnership agreements with international centres (18 per cent). This reflects the findings of STM’s Market Analysis of Spain’s language schools last year, in which agents provided 39 per cent of students.

Cózar commented, “Definitely there is a potential for agents to increase business in Spain, as there is a large number of agents working just with English markets. Actually Fedele is making a communication campaign this year in order to promote Spanish language and Spain as destination among those agencies.”

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