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UK: youth mobility boosts economy – BETA

The movement of under-35’s to the UK for education boosted the British economy by as much as £18.1bn in 2017, according to new statistics released by the British Educational Travel Association in conjunction with StudentMarketing.

ELT student numbers recovered in 2017, after several years of decline. Photo: BETA

ELT recovered in 2017 as Italian cohort remains strong

In total, 1.1 million young people travelled to the UK for some form of education, including schools, FE, HE and ELT. That’s from a total of 15.2 million visitors under 35 years of age, with a total revenue of £27bn.

“The report shows an increase in arrivals, but we’re aware its pace is slower than our competitors”

This indicates the study travel sector is punching well above its weight in terms of income per head. For example, although holidaymakers formed 42% of the visitors to Great Britain and Northern Ireland in 2017, they brought only 15% of the revenue for this age bracket.

Higher education, conversely, brought 3% of the visitors to the country – while raking in 52% of the income measured by BETA. It is the most important UK youth travel sector for the economy, these statistics confirm.

The reports also unveiled the number of people in work connected to the UK international education industry – a figure it puts at 265,000 – including 35,700 roles in the ELT sector.

The exact destination for the vast majority of these visitors was London, but Edinburgh and Manchester are also strong draws, with several other university cities featuring prominently. Brighton also appears in the top 10, arguably due to the prominence of the ELT industry in the town.

But the top source countries are less clear, with figures fluctuating between sectors.

In the schools sector, China is far and away the leader – with at least 2,000 students more than its nearest competitor (Hong Kong). But the report notes that key growth markets include the US and South Korea, with the latter improving by 19% year-on-year.

And China remains in a firm lead among mobile HE students, with an even greater lead (this time over the US) of 78,000 students. Hong Kong, India, and Malaysia all send around the same number of students as the US, and along with western European nations such as France, Nigeria features as a top sender – the only African nation to do so.

The ELT industry is divergent, though. It is dominated by European students, namely Italian but with Spanish, French, German and Swiss also prominent. Saudi Arabia and Japan are also top source nations for English tuition, despite not featuring elsewhere.

Crucially, numbers of students who came to study English recovered after several years of stalling and falling. While figures were not back to 2013 figures in 2017, the total did grow 14% and pass the 2015 sum.

“Whilst the report shows an increase in spend and number of arrivals, we are aware that its pace remains slower than that of our global competitors,” BETA expressed in a statement.

“But we need better support, a global marketing campaign to attract these valuable travellers, a revised and welcoming visa system and joined up thinking from the top down to ensure that we are able to compete on a global scale,” it concluded.

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