The report also shows a notable increase in bookings for DELE exam preparation courses spurred by government policy requiring proof of language level for applicants applying for Spanish nationality status.
According to FEDELE’s survey of 88 member schools, 50,000 students studied Spanish with a group, accounting for 52% of all 2016’s 97,578 bookings. Total year on year bookings increased 4,700.
“It’s an indicator that Spanish is becoming more important for school-aged students around the world”
“We’ve always been a market of 25+ individuals,” Ana Cózar, directer of FEDELE told The PIE News. “But our sector is now more than 50% groups. It’s an indicator that Spanish is becoming more important for school-aged students around the world.”
Cózar added the shift in client profile is a good indicator for future return business. “When younger students come it’s likely they’ll return as individuals,” she said.
Italy continues to be a fruitful market for ELE providers, sending 14,900 students in 2016, up from 12,855 last year, and contributing to the growth in group bookings.
Germany, the US, France, the UK and the Netherlands make up the top five markets for FEDELE members, each marking gains on 2015 student numbers.
“Italian groups especially are coming and they’re coming for shorter times pushing down the average length of stay,” said Cózar.
Average student week numbers per school grew by about 150 weeks but the average length of stay per student dropped slightly from a consistent 2.9 over the past three years to 2.7 weeks in 2016.
Intensive courses of more than 15 hours of class time per week, which also serve school groups, made up 83% of bookings overall.
By type, general language courses accounted for the bulk of bookings (74%) but DELE preparation courses saw a bump thanks to new language proof requirements for those applying for Spanish citizenship.
“It seems that Spain’s growth is improving its reputation overseas and we haven’t had any negative international news stories recently”
Schools report DELE preparation accounted for 6% of course bookings compared to 3% last year. “I expected it to be more, but it’s growth all the same and where we haven’t seen growth before,” noted Cózar.
DELE preparation courses are available to the public for free which could be attracting students away from ELE centres, she reasoned. Administration of the CCSE nationality exam, however, remains a welcome source of revenue for schools, she added.
Spain’s ELE market continues to be driven by regional dominance, with Andalucia, Valencia and Madrid attracting the highest volume of students. The regions also have the highest number of FEDELE member schools.
And schools across the country say they have an improved market outlook as the impacts of the country’s economic crisis and political turmoil wane.
“It seems that Spain’s growth is improving its reputation overseas and we haven’t had any negative international news stories recently. At the same time, France and Germany are appearing less secure,” said Cózar.