According to MEI, student numbers increased from 119,119 in 2016 to 129,290 in 2017, with strong growth across all segments of the ELT sector.
“Ireland has a reputation internationally as a quality destination for English language education”
The largest growth in junior students came from outside the EU with a corresponding rise in non-EU adult students.
In total, students from 118 individual countries came to Ireland to study English in 2017, a significant rise on the previous period figure of 101.
When broken down by region, figures revealed the largest numbers of students attending programs at MEI schools in 2017 were from the EU / EEA region with approximately 96,000 students (74%).
Approximately 24,500 students (19%) came from the non-EU / EEA region where no visas were required such as Brazil, Japan and South Korea, while the remaining 8,750 students (7%) came from countries where visas are required, such as Russia, Saudi Arabia and China.
MEI data also showed a total of 772,684 student weeks were spent in Ireland by international English language students– up 19% on the 2016 figure.
CEO of MEI David O’Grady said the strong growth illustrates that Ireland has a reputation internationally as a quality destination for English language education.
He said that MEI is “well ahead of schedule” to achieve the International Education Strategy for Ireland target of growing the ELT sector to 132,500 students by 2020.
International English language students make a €762 million contribution to the Irish economy per annum, a figure O’Grady believes will continue to grow with the ongoing increase in student numbers.
However, he warned there are risks on the horizon as Ireland competes in a market that is sensitive to currency fluctuations and international uncertainty.
“The promotion of Ireland in new markets such as Central and South America, Asia and the Middle East are helping to grow our sector but also diversify the markets from which students have traditionally come to Ireland,” O’Grady added.