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South Africa: EFL intake slowed down in 2018

After the double-digit growth rates which took the South African EFL sector out of its 2015 visa crisis, the market has slowed down in 2018, with a dip in student numbers only mitigated by a modest increase in student weeks.

Cape Town had a water crisis last year. Photo: cocoparisienne/Pixabay

Since 2017, student numbers show a minor dip of 5% while student weeks increased by 5%

Since 2017, student numbers fell 5% while student weeks increased by the same amount.

The biggest decrease comes from Europe, which reported losses for both numbers and weeks, -26% and -17% respectively, with crucial market Germany down by 17%.

“I feel that South Africa…is finally on the map for English training”

According to EduSA CEO Ryan Peters, the dip in student numbers could be due to a different kind of crisis from the one EduSA had been battling in court: a water crisis, and its portrayal in the media.

 “Last year South Africa was dealing with the water crisis, which then had a major impact on tourism numbers in general, and then obviously it impacted our industry,” he told The PIE.

“The media covered the water crisis extensively, especially in Germany. And Germany is one of our big markets. Once again it comes down to what’s happening in the media. I’m very positive that we have put that behind us and going forward there’s going to be a massive growth coming.”

The association’s chair Johannes Kraus said the water crisis has been completely solved and that student numbers should be on the up again next summer.

“It is sad and also concerning that politics had to go the route of painting such a ‘panic-scenario’, which, thankfully, in the end never materialised,” he added.

The increased length of stay is instead a welcome signal that the visa crisis has been completely overcome as well, with students able to apply for study permits to enrol at EduSA member schools after their recognition by the government.

“The settlement achieved with our Department of Higher Education and Training and Department of Home Affairs, which gave us relatively easy access to study permits compared to recent years. As a consequence, schools had an increase in long-term bookings,” Kraus said.

Other parts of the world increased their market share, such as Brazil, the first source market for EduSA members, grew by 60%, and Saudi Arabia, the second source market, by 70%.

“There is a lot happening with Saudi Arabia and its relations to other nations, and this can redirect students [to South Africa],” Peters explained.

Although the market did slow down, newly-appointed Peters is optimistic for the future of South Africa as an EFL destination, a feeling backed by a number of positive developments over the past year.

The association has not only secured a major advocacy success in obtaining government recognition, but shifted gear by appointing a full-time CEO. And the first-ever ICEF Africa in Cape Town last year helped members secure new connections, Peters relayed.

“I feel that South Africa, and this is feedback from agents and general awareness, is finally on the map for English training,” he said.

“Students are asking for something different. They no longer want to go to the places they have been to, so South Africa has made it to the global map. And this is only the beginning of what’s coming.”

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