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US: IEP numbers down 10%, but decline has started to “level” – IIE

Intensive English Language providers in the US saw another year of declining enrolments in 2018, but there is a silver lining: the downward trend has started to “level” at 10% compared with 20% the previous year, new IIE figures have revealed.

IIE’s research specialist Julie Baer said that the level of decline has started to “level” compared to previous years. Photo: esudroff/Pixabay

In 2018, 78,098 international students studied at 400 IEPs

In 2018, 78,098 international students studied at 400 IEPs for a total of 1,067,650 weeks, a 10% decrease in student numbers and a 13% decrease in student weeks from 2017. The average stay is 13.5 weeks, ranging from Europe’s 9 to MENA’s 19.2.

“Some of our members were actually relieved to see that the decreases were not more drastic”

Presenting the results at the recent NAFSA conference, IIE’s research specialist Julie Baer said that the level of decline has started to “level” compared to previous years.

EnglishUSA executive director Cheryl Delk-Le Good told The PIE News that the results were no surprise.

“The report findings were expected. Some of our members were actually relieved to see that the decreases were not more drastic, although, of course, these are cumulative,” she said.

“We are hopeful that the decline has stabilised. Programs continue to seek ways to make their offerings attractive to prospective students.”

Among the initiatives that the association is undertaking to help the sector recover is a trade mission to Colombia and Brazil in November 2019 in collaboration with the US Commercial Services and EducationUSA.

“It is an initiative we have been working on for a few years and we’re excited to see it develop,” Delk Le Good said.

“We also are continuing with our webinar series to offer professional development opportunities to those who cannot come to our live events.”

According to IIE, Latin America and the Caribbean were the only source region to register an increase, rising by 8%. All other source regions decreased: Asia by 8%, Europe by 9%, MENA by 18% and Sub-Saharan Africa by 21%.

The top-10 places of origin were China, Japan, Saudi Arabia, Brazil, South Korea, Taiwan, Mexico, Colombia, Kuwait and Italy, with 66% of IEP students coming from the top five countries.

China is growing, and so is Japan, registering a nine and six percentage point grow respectively over the past five years in their share of total students. While Brazil and South Korea have remained relatively stable, Saudi Arabia shows an 18 percentage point drop instead.

As for the types of IEPs students enrol in, those governed by college or university dominate the market with a 67% share. Independent providers affiliated with higher education institutions have less than one-fifth of the market (19%) while those not affiliated with higher education only take up 10%.

SEVIS data, tracking the numbers of students on a study permit in the US, mirror these trends.

Looking at how many students were present in the US to study English in March over the past few years, it is evident the downward line is less steep: there were 9% fewer students in March 2019 compared to March 2018, but the percentage decrease was 15% between 2018 and 2017.

Over the past year, South America and Africa registered a 10% and 5% growth respectively, while the other source regions were down – most notably Asia, with 16% fewer students than in March 2018.

The sector is facing a number of challenges – during her presentation at NAFSA, EnglishUSA Nadine Baladi said that SEVP waiting times were an especially important one.

Baladi listed other problems that are affecting the sector, which included negative perception of the US abroad, unstable political climate, increased in-country and online provision, and increased competition from other destinations.

“Everybody is talking about Canada,” she added.

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