By Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine

It’s been another data-heavy week here at the StudyTravel Magazine news desk, where we have reported on mixed fortunes from different segments of the industry.

In today’s main news story, the annual student data report from Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) shows an increase in junior students offset in almost equal measure by a fall in the adult market.

On the positives, the Italian junior market was booming – as it was in the recently reported data for Malta, once again indicating what a positive impact the expansion of the EU-funded PON scholarship scheme has had, acknowledged by MEI CEO, David O’Grady in our story. There was also a 103 per cent increase in Austrian junior students.

Ireland can also take satisfaction from a stable level of Russian enrolments in 2014, seemingly unaffected by the political and currency troubles that have, anecdotally at least, produced sizeable falls in the outbound summer language business from Russian agents. Perhaps Ireland’s price differential with the UK and relative neutrality led to students diverting here.

On the negative side, adult business dropped by 17 per cent in terms of student numbers, with falls from the top two source countries of Italy and Spain and a sizeable drop from the Venezuelan market, caused by the implementation of a student visa requirement, putting a dent in the figures.

Back over to aforementioned Malta, and we can see from Feltom’s latest industry report that agents have been instrumental in the country’s 2014 growth. We reported previously from the National Statistics Office data that student numbers increased by 3.4 per cent and student weeks rose by five per cent last year.

The subsequent Feltom analysis of its 20 member schools reveals a nine per cent surge in total agent commission payments to €10,423,000. The average commission payment per student week has remained steady for the last three years, the report shows, suggesting that the increased total commission payments are attributable to heavy agency dependency in strategic longer-haul growth markets such as Latin America.

In the UK, the latest annual Independent Schools Council (ISC) census reveals a healthy 3,000-strong year-on-year growth in international students with parents living outside the UK (the ISC splits overseas students based on residency of parents as well as nationality).

China has, perhaps inevitably, now become the largest source country with a strong increase in total students. And overall student growth from several non-EU markets – Hong Kong, Russia and Thailand as well as China – once again suggests a sizeable agent role in the success.

However, as Suzanne Rowse of BBSW indicates in our story, there were declines in new enrolments from a number of key markets, including Russia and Hong Kong, suggesting some political and economic headwinds might impact on next year’s overall data.

As I write this, the final results of the UK general election are coming in and it looks like the country will have a Conservative government. It remains to be seen what impact this will have on the international education sector.

However, a far more important vote is also taking place right now… it is the last week of voting in the STM Star Awards 2015 – the 10th Star Awards I hasten to add!

So if you haven’t already done so, agents please vote here and educators please choose your preferred star agency partners for the last year here.


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