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ELT worth £1.2bn to UK, but market is tougher, younger

The UK’s ELT sector generated £1.2bn in export earnings in 2014, supporting some 26,500 jobs, a first-of-its-kind report by representative body English UK has shown. However, at last week’s British Council SIEM conference, ELT stakeholders noted that trading conditions have got even tougher since 2014 when the year-end figures were used in the report.

L-R: Jane Dancaster, Timothy Blake, Conor Burns MP for Bournemouth; Huan Japes, English UK; Guido Schillig at the House of Commons launch. Photo: English UK.

Looking at his top 15 source markets in the first nine months of 2015, he said 11 of those 15 markets had declined

This gives even more impetus to English UK‘s aim to ensure government is aware of the value of the sector. The report was launched at the House of Commons last week with this goal.

“If we do not get the government support then this UK industry will lose market share to other ELT destinations,” EUK’s chair, Steve Phillips, told The PIE News. “It is worth £1.2bn annually to the UK; the government must support this vital export and help us grow.”

At a panel session entitled UK ELT: Growth or Decline? last week, the answer was that the ELT market is declining, with Janette Donjon, representing Sunderland College, illustrating how difficult the latest rule changes in July for the FE sector are.

“We have lost our one ‘edge’, which was that students could work part-time to support their studies,” she said, while a delegate from Bournemouth & Poole College spoke up to acknowledge a 66% decline in intake for January 2016 enrolments since the policy change (which also inhibits onward progression to HE).

The panel at the SIEM conference

Amy Baker spoke of the challenges of discounting to differentiate, unstreamlined policy between sectors and the euro

While Jodie Gray of English UK highlighted separate research undertaken with StudentMarketing, which revealed that the junior market was growing its market share to represent 47% of business now among private operators (up from 25% 10 years ago), Richard Day of English in Chester spoke of a “disastrous year” for the rest of the market.

Looking at his top 15 source markets in the first nine months of 2015, he said 11 of those 15 markets had declined.

Russia has seen a particularly devastating decline of 52%, along with Libya and Thailand, he said.

He added that the “rot set in in 2014” and acknowledged increasing pressure from agent partners, as panellists warned of a need to diversify products in a competitive marketplace.

650,000 students enrolled on English language courses at 550 accredited institutions added an average of £378 per week to the UK economy

Amy Baker of The PIE News observed that a price war in the summer of 2015 led to a scramble to differentiate on price alone, which has also unsettled agencies.

She nodded to trends being noted by education agents towards English as an enabler, rather than English courses as a core product. Native immersion, coding boot camps and entrepreneurship classes were all examples of more innovative products that agents say their clients want.

And adding to the UK’s challenges, Ireland had won some market share because of the value of the euro compared to the pound.

“We’ve commissioned this report now, to highlight the fact that we have this world-leading ELT industry that has existed for more than 100 years, and is now shrinking,” commented Phillips.

In 2014, each of the 650,000 students enrolled on English language courses at 550 accredited institutions added an average of £378 per week to the UK economy for every week they stayed, the report shows.

It also found that the sector supported approximately £1.1bn of added value to the economy over the year.

Taking into account their cost to services such as healthcare, policing and the immigration service, students also each added an average net value of £65 in tax and other direct receipts per week they stayed to the exchequer, or £194m altogether.

“This report is a ‘call to action’ for local MPs to help their local businesses in an increasingly difficult business environment,” said Phillips. “Our members can use this report in a meaningful way to get the message across to politicians and central government – work with us to promote UK ELT globally!”

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15 Responses to ELT worth £1.2bn to UK, but market is tougher, younger

  1. British Council accreditation might itself be part of the problem. Gaining and maintaining accreditation is very costly. Some of the requirements are classic EU-style “gold-plating”. This makes courses more expensive, with the associated risk of losing out competitor countries where accreditation is less onerous. How many BC staff and inspectors have ever actually run a business?

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