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UK ELT fears £90m losses as Hungarian program postponed again

A recovering English language sector has been dealt a heavy blow with the postponement of Hungary’s Foreign Language Learning Program until 2023.

The program was expected to fund study travel opportunities to UK, Ireland, Malta, Germany, Austria, France and China. Photo: pexels

"The postponement isn’t a surprise but it is still very disappointing"

Providers in the UK had been hoping that the program – run by Hungary’s Tempus Public Foundation – would see thousands of English language students travel to the UK in 2022, as well as other language study destinations.

English UK estimated the program to be worth up to £90 million in export revenue in 2022, with a potential 90,000 Hungarian students having been poised to spend two weeks in the UK this summer.

“The program affects more than 140,000 young people, but in the current precarious situation, it would be irresponsible to launch the program,” said Mónika Bartos, the minister tasked with coordinating overseas study trips for 9th and 11th grade students in Hungary, as reported by Magyar Nemzet.

“As a priority government program, the Foreign Language Learning Program is one of the heart issues of the government, which it intends to launch under predictable conditions for the safety of young people and their teachers,” Bartos added.

“We are all confident that in 2023 there will be no more obstacles to the implementation of the program.”

English UK said it was “devastated for everybody involved”.

“We know how important this program is to many of our members,” the body for UK English language providers said, adding that political factors could be at play in addition to safety factors around Covid-19.

An announcement on December 23, 2021, suggested the program’s budget was to be slashed in half, while elections are planned in Hungary in April 2022, the organisation highlighted.

It had already received the news in 2021 that the program for Hungarian teachers would be postponed until summer 2023.

“We continue to liaise behind the scenes with all stakeholders including Tempus and the British Embassy and British Council in Hungary,” English UK said.

“We are committed to supporting the promotion of UK ELT in what we hope will be a year of recovery by working with our partners in the British government and British Council through the English with Confidence campaign. We know that there is much to do, and this disappointing news only increases the pressure and size of the challenge.”

Had the program run as hoped, Hungary would have been among the top source markets for UK ELT, chief executive Jodie Gray highlighted.

The estimated £90 million in direct and indirect spending would “have been transformative on several levels, especially at this time”, she said.

“[We] are encouraged by the statement from the Hungarian government expressing confidence in the programme running from 2023,” she told The PIE.

Principal of inlingua Cheltenham David Arrowsmith detailed that the school had lost four groups of 30 students who had been due to study at its summer school for two weeks in 2022.

“We were looking forward to have this income in our road to recovery, but it has been snatched away”

The postponement is equivalent to “a loss of 120 students totalling a revenue of €162,000”, he said.

“In these days of Covid income we were looking forward to have this income in our road to recovery, but it has been snatched away it would seem not because of the virus but political reasons.”

The €180 million program for students in years 9 or 11 was announced in early 2020, but was delayed as a response to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“The postponement isn’t a surprise but it is still very disappointing,” Stephan Roussounis, managing director at Bayswater Education told The PIE.

“We had hopes of Hungarian students in each of our 10 UK Bayswater Summer camps. They were due to confirm relatively early and this would have given us a solid base for the summer.

“We are very much hoping the program isn’t cancelled and will actually happen in 2023.”

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