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Sluggish 2013 for Spanish private language schools

The private spanish language market in Spain has reported sluggish results from last year after unexpected growth in 2012. According to the annual survey carried out by the Federación de Escuelas de Español como Lengua Extranjera (FEDELE), the sector has seen a 5% decrease in student weeks.

Germany, Italy, the UK and US continued to be the strongest student markets

Speaking with The PIE News, Ana Cózar, director of the organisation, commented that the calculation wasn’t completely accurate because it’s based on the activity of 86 schools instead of 2012’s 89.

“When we talk in terms of percentages, we’ve managed to remain stable”

“When we talk in terms of percentages, we’ve managed to remain stable,” she said.

Insider sources speaking with The PIE News confirmed that the sector has flatlined in recent years. “Despite some specific cases that may have performed contrary to the overall trend, my feeling is that the Spanish sector in general has been fairly stagnant over the last few years,” they said.

Schools within the organisation say the economic climate in student markets have impacted the industry as well as visa processing and bad press about Spain in other countries.

Germany, Italy, the UK and US continued to be the strongest student markets however, interest from the UK dropped significantly compared to other top source countries.

Meanwhile Russia and China have exhibited the most growth despite prolonged visa processing times.

“Russia and Asian countries have more problems applying for visas than others and they have to show the level of Spanish they have before starting the course,” said Cózar.

Healthy competition within the country from Spanish language courses offered at public universities has also affected the sector.

“Competition from public universities has always been and will continue to be a concern for private Spanish schools,” commented Cózar.

“Students are inclined to study at schools who are a part of a university because they see the ‘seal’ of the institution. Plus centres who are linked to universities find it easier to reach agreements with universities in the US.”

FEDELE, a federation of regional representative bodies, also reports that the slow down in growth was consistent across all regions in Spain: Andalucia, Valencia, Barcelina, Madrid and Castilla y León.

“Competition from public universities has always been and will continue to be a concern for private Spanish schools”

However, the Association of Spanish Schools (AELE), which is not representative of any geographic region, did see student weeks increase from 8,000 to 12,000 over the year.

“But this data is difficult to compare because AELE has three schools more than last year, almost 50% more than before,” commented  Cózar.

Similar to 2012, smaller schools around the country fared better than their larger counterparts last year. “Smaller schools tend to be younger so the potential for growth is larger,” explained Cózar.

FEDELE represents 87 private Spanish language schools in Spain, all accredited by Instituto Cervantes and accounting for about 50% of the private school market.

Now almost halfway through 2014, Cózar is hopeful that next year will yield better returns.

“This year we started out very strong even though the results from our 2013 survey haven’t shown growth in the sector, the evolution and enrolments in 2014 seem very encouraging as well as the expectations that schools showed in the survey,” she said. “In FEDLE we’ve increased our promotional activities abroad and hope to see good results soon.”

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