By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

The May issue of Study Travel Magazine includes a Market Analysis report I wrote examining business trends in Ireland’s ELT sector in 2013.

While declines in students from traditional source countries in Europe may sound familiar to many rival ELT destinations, Ireland has posted quite substantial growth in long-term markets, most notably Latin America, to more than compensate.

Indeed, in our survey of schools in Ireland, Brazil emerges as the top source country, accounting for 15.5 per cent of the student weeks at the schools surveyed. Brazil was only the fifth largest source country in our previous survey of 2012 trends. Meanwhile, both Mexico and Venezuela emerged on the top ten list, with many schools citing significant increases in the latter.

However, MEI CEO, David O’Grady, hinted at underhand measures threatening to undermine the growth in these markets in his interview for the article, warning that the actions of a few schools could threaten Ireland’s entire business in Venezuela.

And so it has come to pass seemingly, with Venezuela’s Cadivi – the body responsible for authorising foreign currency payments – reportedly suspending payments for Irish schools. The situation is far from clear at present, but we reported on some school closures in Ireland this week, one of which cited the “Cadivi situation” as a factor in its collapse.

That may be the case or it may be a convenient excuse to hide behind, but the above story once again brings into sharp focus the benefits of working with the recognised school associations in terms of reputation, quality and protection. The school that referred to Cadivi was, alas, not a member of MEI. Schools in associations are not immune to economic difficulties, but when something goes wrong, a system is usually in place to pick up the pieces.

Elsewhere, today’s news story reports on international student enrolments in the UK’s independent school sector and shows that China is on the cusp of overtaking the traditional market of Hong Kong as the top source country, while Russian demand for UK secondary education continues to grow.

A change in the way the data is recorded – a new category of non-British student with parents living in the UK has been introduced – makes it slightly more difficult to make the usual year-on-year comparisons from the Independent Schools Council census data, which includes returns from all of its 1,257 member schools. Nonetheless, it appears clear that China and Russia are the two dynamic markets, although schools will be eager to maintain nationality diversity in the face of substantial demand from the two major players.

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