Statistics show the UK attracts almost half of all English language students and has a 35% share of the US$50 billion global ELT market.
“We’re not in such a bad place as we might think,” Tony Millns told delegates at this week’s association AGM. Speaking with The PIE News, he confirmed the organisation is in talks with the Home Office to convert the Extended Student Visitor Visa into a permanent fixture.
The visa, which can only be used by English language students studying in the UK for up to 11 months, was introduced in 2011 by EUK. After a very successful trial year it has been under review by the UK Border Agency.
“Anything that has legal effect will need to be written in the immigration rule so if the Extended Student Visitor Visa is to continue after shall we say the end of this year, then at some point it will need to be written into the immigration rules and of course we strongly support that.”
Millns presented statistics from the past year that showed the private sector had decreased its student week intake by 7.8% on 2011, adding to the sector’s previous decline of 5.3% on 2010’s figures.
He marked consolidation a supertrend in the sector, expecting a minimum of 200 school acquisitions by 2020
“The decrease is almost entirely accounted for by the 2012 Olympics and not just for centres in London,” said Millns. “It was a better year than most members forecasted because of the Olympics, visa issues and general anti-immigration rhetoric.”
Millns reassured the 130 delegates that it was a good year for EUK members especially as the sector is being seen more positively by government.
The state sector which includes ELT programmes based in universities and colleges fared better showing 2% growth on 2011. Millns credited the increase to the higher proportion of English for Academic Purposes (EAP) being delivered at these institutions as students need to achieve a 6.5 or higher on the IELTS exam to study a degree in the UK.
Despite the private sector decline, representatives from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills (BIS) said ELT underpins UK education exports delivering £2.5 billion to the economy and acting as a pathway to UK higher education. As a leading transnational education (TNE) provider, the impact offshore education has on the UK’s economy is unknown but “the demand is so massive the supply can’t meet it,” added Fran Spawls of BIS.
Both EUK accredited private and state providers account for 85% of the ELT sector in the UK and reported 496,000 students studied at their centres in 2012, signalling that some 600,000 students studied in the UK in total.
Market consultancy company Student Marketing placed the UK’s status in a global context showing that year-on-year growth in the ELT market over the last two years was just 1%.
Student Marketing CEO, Samuel Vetrak, marked consolidation a supertrend in the sector, expecting a minimum of 200 school acquisitions by 2020.
Vetrak predicted that the demand for ELT around the world will go from rapid growth to moderate increase with a focus on gain from revenue per capita. Other future trends include 200,000 more TNE students by 2020 as well as less delivery from agents as markets foster increasing regulation and in turn creating more associations and less agency players.
English for specific purposes is another growing global trend according to Vetrak, a concept echoed by another presenter, Santuza Paolucci Bicalho of Brazil’s major agency player, STB Student Travel, who advised delegates of the importance of “English plus something” in the Brazilian market.
Closing the two-day AGM, two market specialists presented new British Council- and English UK-funded research into Japan and Russia, both source countries that represent significant potential for ELT players.
“A TOEFL score to enter and exit university in Japan could mean a seismic shift in Japan’s English language learning requirements”
Tatsu Hashino of Rising Star in Japan noted that new rules being debated that might expect a TOEFL score to enter and exit university in Japan could mean a seismic shift in Japan’s English language learning requirements, and nodded to a growing trend anyway towards “Global Human Resource Development”.
And Patrik Pavlacic from Student Marketing indicated a buoyant Russian market, particularly in the junior sector, and counselled English UK members to take a diverse approach to a fragmented agency industry in the world’s largest country.