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Spain’s ELE schools report second year of steady growth

Student numbers and weeks at Spanish language schools in Spain have displayed another year of steady growth, cementing an industry-wide trend of recovery after being hit by the economic crisis in 2013.

With the exception of the US, European countries continue to dominate student source markets for FEDELE schools. Photo: FEDELE.

In May alone, schools had 5,500 sign ups for the DELE A2 exam, now a required level exam for nationality applicants

Contributing to the overall health of Spanish language centres are new revenue streams from official government exams now required for Spanish nationality applications.

Figures from the federation of Spanish language schools, FEDELE, show 87,500 students spent 287,647 weeks studying Spanish in Spain an increase from 86,000 staying 250,900 weeks in 2014.

“After 2013, 2012, years when we saw a real decrease in numbers, this year’s survey confirms the gradual growth of the schools since 2013,” noted Ana Cózar, director of FEDELE. “It’s not dramatic growth but it’s steady.”

“This year’s survey confirms the gradual growth of the schools since 2013”

In 2013, the industry contracted 5% due in part to Spain’s economic crisis and how it was perceived in source markets.

Regional breakdowns show schools in Anaducía and Castilla y León enrolled the most students, 29,200 and 19,600 respectively. These regions also have the largest number of FEDELE schools members: 29 and 16.

They also reported the shortest stays, on average about two weeks, reflecting a trend in the sector away from individual student bookings towards groups.

With the exception of the US, European countries continue to dominate student source markets. Italy and Germany were the top senders, followed by the US, France and the UK.

Anecdotal reports from schools mentioned that economic turmoil in Russia was affecting enrolments. However, the concern isn’t reflected in figures that show Russian student numbers maintained compared to 2014.

“In the case of Russia, maybe it’s actually helping us because prices to study in English speaking countries are much higher than coming to Spain,” noted Cózar.

Since October, when changes to the exams required for Spanish nationality were implemented, FEDELE centres have administered some 40,000 CCSE exams (Conocimientos constitucionales y socioculturales de España) – a test of Spain’s culture, geography and history.

And in May alone, schools had 5,500 sign ups for the DELE A2 exam, now a required level exam for nationality applicants. Last year, FEDELE schools administered 1,500 DELE exams at all levels in total.

“Now the economy seems to be improving and international news stories aren’t as negative toward Spain”

At €85 per exam, the tests are proving to be a considerable revenue stream for schools.

“We’re focusing on this a lot,” said Cózar. “We’ve established a network of centres for both exams and now it’s become an important part of school’s revenue.”

Around 70 of FEDELE’s 83 members are official exam providers.

When surveyed about their attitude for the coming year, providers were split– 42% said they have good expectations, 42% said they had bad expectations, while 10% said they were neutral.

Cózar said the results reflected the mixture of optimism and caution typical of the sector, predicting that the country’s current election jumble won’t impact its attractiveness as a study destination.

“If you look at the impact the economic recession had, it was much larger, and now the economy seems to be improving and international news stories aren’t as negative towards Spain,” she said. “I don’t think the political change has too much of an influence in the students’ decisions.”

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