Record year for Australia's English language sector

18 May, 2015

Australia's English language sector welcomed a record high of 163,542 international students in 2014, surpassing the previous industry peak of 2008, according to data released by industry peak body English Australia.

The English Australia 2014 survey recorded a new record peak for the sector

The English Australia Survey of Major Regional Markets for Elicos Institutions in 2014, supported by the Department of Education and Training, is the only data source to include enrolment on all visa types, and shows an 11 per cent increase in student numbers and a 10 per cent rise in student weeks delivered.

The increases build on the return to growth recorded in the 2013 data, which followed four years of declines after the 2008 high.

Welcoming the data, Sue Blundell, Executive Director of English Australia, said, “We are delighted to see the return to growth continuing for what is a critical sector for international education as a whole.”

The largest increase in terms of numbers came from the top source country China (+4,654), followed by India, which moved into the top ten with a rise of 4,413 students. Thailand (+3,232) and Italy (+1,029) also registered strong growth.

All of the top 10 source countries recorded increasing numbers in 2014 with the exception of Korea, which decreased by 3,396 students.

With the record enrolment levels the total economic impact of tuition fees and additional spending by Elicos students rose by 12 per cent to AUS$2.075 billion (US$1.66 billion) in 2014, representing an average spend of AUS$12,688 (US$10,162) per student.

The student visa cohort is continuing to grow in importance for Australia’s English language sector, accounting for 66 per cent of all students – up from 62 per cent in the previous year – and 83 per cent of student weeks. The visitor visa route provided19 per cent of students, and the remaining 15 per cent utilised the working holiday or other visas.

As reported last week, there was a 17 per cent decline in Elicos students with working holiday visas in 2014, reflecting a wider overall drop in working holiday visas issued. 

Blundell cautioned that there was a threat to the industry in growth being predominantly focussed on one segment of the language teaching industry: “The other sectors of international education look to English language enrolments as the vital first indicator of the health of international education as a whole. Pleasing as the growth is, however, it would be more sustainable if spread more evenly across all types of programmes/providers within the sector. Current government policy has favoured pathway programmes leading to higher education, with growth in these pathway students much stronger than the growth in students for stand-alone English language programmes.”

She added that the sector was eagerly awaiting the review of streamlined visa processing (SVP) rules with a view to establishing a fairer approach that would be accessible to all high-quality providers across the sector.

However, Blundell said English Australia member colleges were fostering sustainable growth by improving performance and exceeding expectations. “What is pleasing is that our national student satisfaction surveys continue to show that we are delivering on this promise and this underpins the sustainability of the growth that the sector is experiencing.”

The recently released student survey revealed increasing satisfaction with member colleges and agents.

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