The latest year-to-November data, released by the Department of Education and Training and analysed by English Australia, saw enrolments 0.2% higher than the same period in 2017, reaching 152,210. Overall commencements – the number of courses started – dipped by 0.6% to 113,607.
English Australia chief executive Brett Blacker said he anticipated full year 2018 enrolments would creep above 2017’s record mark.
“December’s generally a relatively quiet month, but normally pretty stable,” he said.
“I think we will continue in that same vein. It’ll be pretty slow, and it’ll just go over 2017 year-end result.”
Although 2018 is anticipated to be another record enrolment year, source markets and destinations show a significantly different picture and commencements look likely to decline for the first time since 2014.
Blacker said while overall declines to commencements wasn’t positive, considering the long-term trajectory of figures over the past few years, the market was still buoyant.
A significant proportion of the declines was likely due to ASQA’s decision in early 2018 to disallow VET-accredited English programs, he continued.
“Private providers like Greenwich get very few Chinese students”
“The VET ELICOS colleges were the ones that would be impacted the most. Some of those colleges decided to stop teaching, so [students] could have converted into non-award; some had small cohorts and decided not to continue to teach those out,” he told The PIE News.
The most significant declines, he noted, were at the vocational certificate level, which saw a collective loss more than 50% of total commencements.
By destination, the eastern mainland states of Victoria, New South Wales and Queensland each registered improvement to total enrolments, while the remaining Australian states and territories saw declines. New South Wales, however, was the only region to see growth in commencements.
Source countries also saw mixed results, as second place Brazil saw a 4% decline in commencements and top-placed China saw 2% improvement.
The differences between growth and decline could have a significant impact on providers; especially private institutions focused mainly on standalone English rather than pathway programs, Greenwich College general manager Gizelle Rezende said.
“For a private provider like ourselves, we need to exclude China from the data, because ELICOS for the Chinese… is simply an enabler for VET and higher education courses,” she said.
“Private providers like Greenwich get very few Chinese students.”
“The VET ELICOS colleges were impacted the most”
Some of the decline from Brazil could be attributed to a high exchange rate, the change in government, as well as cultural events such as the 2018 FIFA World Cup, she added.
However, the factors don’t appear to be dampening Brazilian’s appetite for overseas ELT experiences, Rezende said, noting the impact of more affordable destinations, such as Ireland, were having a more noticeable effect on numbers.
“Talking to agents in Brazil, they said their overall sales were great [in 2017], but the change happened to lower cost destinations and lower cost providers,” she said.
“There was a very strong shift towards being really price sensitive and that really affects Australia because it is an expensive destination.”
A compounding effect of increasing visa rejections, also experienced in other source markets, was having a significant impact on commencements and enrolments, Rezende added.
“The growth in 2017 was driven by Brazil and emerging markets such as Mongolia. In mid-2018, we had a huge increase in visa denials.”
English Australia’s full 2018 data on student numbers and weeks will be released in mid-2019.