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UK ELT losing market share but signs of hope in junior market

The UK maintained a leading position in the global ELT market in 2014, but is losing market share as it faces increasing competition from other destinations, according to English UK’s annual statistics report.
August 7 2015
2 Min Read

After English UK CEO Eddie Byers said earlier this year the sector “faced an onslaught in 2014” mostly due to policy issues at home, the organisation has released a market comparison report laying bare where it stands globally.

While the UK has maintained its longstanding reputation for offering high quality education, the report found that there are considerable challenges facing the market.

Drawing on global data from market insight firm StudentMarketing as well as ten years’ worth of data from its member schools, it found that the UK is still in a leading position in the global ELT market (second for student weeks to the US and its booming pathway sector). However, it is losing market share in Asia and Latin America to competitors such as Canada and Australia.

EUK members have seen losses in Brazil, Colombia, China, Vietnam and Thailand specifically.

“If this trend continues, juniors may well overtake adults in terms of raw numbers of students”

Meanwhile, numbers of students from Russia had been showing consistent growth, but declined dramatically in the second half of 2014 due to the crash in value of the rouble.

Other challenges facing the UK’s ELT sector include lower living costs and more easily obtained visas in other anglophone destinations.

The report does give reasons for hope, however, as it shows Italy, France and Germany along with Venezuela and Mexico have remained stable source markets for the UK over the last four years.

While Western Europe remains the UK’s most important source region, the report notes that European countries stopped driving growth in 2011. Markets in the Middle East “now exhibit the highest levels of potential”, it says.

Meanwhile, a dramatic shift in demand from junior learners– who made up 47% of all students at EUK schools in 2014, up from 2013’s 23%– indicates a growth trend.

The report argues that the boom in juniors seen in the UK may be partly explained by a global trend toward travelling abroad at a younger age, which, it says, also presents considerable opportunities for the youth and student travel industry worldwide.

Speaking about the UK’s junior market, Huan Japes, deputy chief executive of professional services at English UK, said ‘English plus’ courses are gaining popularity among juniors and adventure holiday companies, such as PGL, are seeing a rise in demand for English language programmes.

“If this trend continues, juniors may well overtake adults in terms of raw numbers of students,” he told The PIE News.

Further restrictions on the Tier 4 visa system could contribute to this overtake by negatively impacting the adult market, Japes added.

“These findings are helping to shape our promotional activities for 2015 and beyond”

Identifying the country’s global position will enable English UK to shape its international strategy and promotional activities for the year to come.

“We are confident that the findings of this report, together with those that will be forthcoming from further improvements to our statistics scheme, will help us to refine our international strategy and achieve our ultimate mission of helping the UK ELT sector to succeed,” Annie Wright, deputy chief executive business services, told The PIE News.

Future activities include its autumn road show and summer inward mission targeting agencies in the competitive Chinese junior summer school market, along with fairs in China, the United Arab Emirates, Mexico and Vietnam.

EUK also plans to launch new market reports with the British Council on Mexico and the Gulf States, and develop marketing campaigns in Brazil, other Latin American countries and Western Europe.

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