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The number of ELT students in the UK has fallen by 88% compared to the COVID level


The full impact of the pandemic was revealed at a members’ conference and general meeting in London on May 20, where analysts told language school representatives that the number of student weeks had fallen by 71%.

Report of student statistics for 2022 compared data from members of the association for 2021-2019 (if the figures were not affected by Covid-19) and found that last year in the UK admitted a total of 53,616 students – about one tenth of the number before the pandemic.

A report compiled by market research firm BONARD also found that the ELT market in the UK contracted further in 2021 than in 2020, with the number of students down 36% from last year.

Speaking at the conference, the head of the international education department of BONARD Ivan Slobodnikov said that the delta version of covid-19 in combination with strict restrictions on travel “affect the confidence of parents and students in international travel.”

Although the number of students has improved in the second half of 2021, it is “nothing compared to 2019,” Slobodnikova said.

“Because the juniors didn’t actually travel in 2021, it suffered badly”

Participants, who primarily serve the markets for adults, noted that in 2021 they were better than those who mostly work with children under 18 (“juniors”) – this feeling is reflected in the numbers.

Traditionally in the UK, English courses are attended by more young people than adults, but in 2021 children under the age of 18 made up only 9% of the student population.

“Because the UK was so focused on juniors, and juniors didn’t really travel in 2021, it suffered a lot,” Slobodnikova said. PIE News.

Similarly, there were regional differences with the North of England, which recorded the highest number of student weeks in 2021, followed by London. Together, the two regions accepted more than half of all students, while in areas such as the South West and East of England, only 8% of students were enrolled.

The British Executive Director Jodi Gray described the statistics as “sobering”, while the reaction in the hall was both calm and unsurprising. However, the delegates also hoped, as representatives of language schools shared their forecasts for a busy summer.

Gray called it “incredible” that 85% of British UK members survived despite “huge challenges” and said the figures were moving “in the right direction” in 2022.

But the sector continues to face many challenges caused by the pandemic and Brexit, including staff shortages and lack of housing.

“We all have a shortage of staff for next season,” said the head of one language school, and another said that their school is refusing new reservations due to lack of staff.

“As a sector, we are facing a capacity challenge that will be particularly critical if we do not approach it,” Gray said, noting that the UK is working on staff support and recruitment in the family.

Later in the day, delegates discussed emerging market trends as the number of European students continues to decline after Brexit.

“Our client base is looking for alternatives to learning as a result of our border policy after leaving the EU”

“Our client base, mainly European teenagers and young adults, is looking for alternatives to learning as a result of our post-EU border policy,” Gray said, noting that many are now looking for Malta or Ireland“Where they can continue to enjoy passport-free travel.”

Saudi Arabia was the main source market in 2021, while Romania and Kuwait entered the top 10 source markets, replacing Brazil and South Korea.

Earlier this year, the Saudi government announced a new scholarship program this does not include ELT funding, but delegates were confident that the Middle East would continue to be a key market as the centers look for new customers outside Europe.

British President Mark Randall called on delegates to “work together” to address the sector. Photo: The PIE News

“The Middle East as a whole is rising,” Slobodnikova told The PIE.

«Over the last few years, it has been gradually increasing. Although Saudi Arabia still provides huge numbers, I don’t know if it will continue to grow, but with the numbers it still provides, it will be an important source of market, ”she added.

“Saudi Arabia is a mature but incredibly untapped market,” said Spencer Fordham, managing director of the Capital School of English.

It is unclear how the UK market reacted compared to other countries in 2021, as most of the figures have not yet been published. However, analysts said the UK’s ELT sector benefited from the government’s decision to open borders earlier than some competing countries.

Last week in Malta This was reported by the ELT sector that although the number of students in 2021 has increased, it still lags behind levels before the pandemic.

“We and you, our members, will have to work very hard to regain our number one position to learn English in the world,” Gray told the audience.

But, said Mark Randall, CEO of International House and chairman of the British UK PIE Newsthere is a “sense of solidarity” among the members when it comes to future challenges.

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