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Ireland: ELT student numbers down, but total weeks reach record high

After 2017 marked the third year of strong growth for English language student numbers in Ireland, last year saw total enrolment in Irish ELT programs decline by 4.8%. However, total student weeks reached a record high 806,503 in 2018 – marking year-over-year growth of more than 5%.

Despite a decline of 4.8% in total ELT student enrolments, student weeks reached a record high. Image: christal21

The total number of students at MEI schools in 2018 reached 121,462

According to new data released by Marketing English in Ireland, the total number of students that were attending programs at MEI schools in 2018 reached 121,462 (down 4.8% on 2017) with almost three-quarters students (72%) coming from the European Economic Area.

“This [record] is mainly attributed to an increase in the average number of weeks stayed on adult programs from non-EEA countries”

Some 24,864 students (20%) were revealed to have come from non-EEA, non-visa requiring counties, with Brazil being the most prominent source, followed by Japan and Mexico.

The remaining 8,783 students came from visa-requiring countries including Russia, Saudi Arabia and China.

A total of 64,447 students attended a junior or stage (typically, a course for students aged 12-16 staying one-week off season) program within MEI schools in 2018, with approximately 94% coming from EEA countries.

A further 2% came from the Non-EEA countries where no visa was required (1,327 students) with the remaining 4% coming from visa-requiring countries.

Overall, students from 30 different countries in the EEA region were represented in MEI’s data, with students from Italy and Spain accounting for 72% of the total.

However “this proportion rises to 89% for junior students,” added the authors, while “a higher proportion of students on stage (closed) program come from Austria.”

According to the data, students from non-EEA countries where visas are not required generally partook in adult programs, with students from Brazil accounting for 61% of those from the non-EEA region.

The findings coincide with a recent report from BELTA, which revealed that, despite the economic crisis and political instability in Brazil, the number of Brazilian language students abroad increased by 20% in 2018, with Ireland high on the list of the popular destination countries.

Overall, students were found to be remaining longer in Ireland, as the number of weeks they stayed in the country rose by 5.3% on 2017 figures to reach a record 806,503.

“This is mainly attributed to an increase in the average number of weeks stayed on adult programs from non-EEA countries where no visa is required, in particular, Mexico, Brazil and Japan,” explained the authors.

EU students were shown to have stayed on average 2.4 weeks, while students who require a visa stayed on average 20 weeks. By comparison, students who do not require a visa were revealed to have stayed an average of 11 weeks.

“With Brexit approaching, we need to prepare ourselves for challenging times”

Speaking about the findings of the report, MEI CEO David O’Grady said the opportunity to study in Ireland has many long-term benefits for international students, who can then progress with ambition towards their future career.

“That said we need to heed the dip in numbers recorded over 2018,” he added.

“With Brexit approaching, we need to prepare ourselves for challenging times…the opportunity for Ireland to become the number one destination in Europe to study English is there but we need to ensure we remain competitive to ensure that we retain the numbers and grow them in time.”

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