South Africa data shows 2015 Q1 decline

28 May, 2015

The first quarter international student enrolment data gathered by language school association Education South Africa (EduSA) has revealed a 24 per cent decline compared with 2014 Q1, confirming previously expressed fears about the delayed impact of visa reform as well as the Ebola virus.

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The association’s members recorded 2,272 students in 2015 Q1, compared with 2,996 during the same period last year, while student weeks declined by 27 per cent from 18,805 to 13,742.

Last month EduSA released 2014 full-year data that showed positive sector performance with an 11 per cent increase in student numbers. However, the final quarter of last year indicated a slowing of student number growth to two per cent, compared with final quarter of 2013, and flagged a slight drop in student weeks.

Welcoming the 2014 data in an interview with StudyTravel Magazine previously, Chairman of EduSA, Johannes Kraus, warned that changes to visa regulations introduced last year would have a delayed impact.

“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,” Kraus said.

The declines in student numbers and weeks in 2015 Q1 were uniform across all world regions, with the biggest decrease coming from South America, which provided only half as many students (346) as in the same period last year.

Brazil, the largest recruitment market for South Africa, dropped by 52 per cent in the first quarter. During the Alphe Brazil conference in March a number of Brazilian agents told StudyTravel Magazine that the Ebola virus in Africa had deterred some students.

Romulo Costa, Director of TREK Intercambio agency in Brazil, said, “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.”

Among the other regions, 2015 Q1 student numbers from the Far East fell by 17 per cent, Africa declined 31 per cent and the Middle East decreased by 13 per cent. Europe has the least dramatic drop at five per cent, and there was growth recorded from Germany (the second largest source country in the quarter), France and Spain.

As previously highlighted, EduSA schools are applying for accreditation as vocational colleges, which would eliminate the current problem of some embassies considering that a language school is not a valid institution for a student visa.

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