This moment of hope for the sector comes after three years of decline, as highlighted by Sarah Cooper, chief executive of English UK during the organisation’s annual conference in London last week.
Patrick Pavlacic and Maria Cervenanova of research consultancy StudentMarketing, presented data on the 2017 market in the UK, showing a wide divide between private and state sector members of the language centre association.
The private sector recorded a 16 per cent year-on-year growth in student numbers to almost 470,000, while student weeks grew 9 per cent to more than 1.6 million. However, the state sector saw numbers drop by 12 per cent both in student weeks and numbers.
Asia was the leading source region for state sector English language providers, with over 87,000 student weeks from China, followed by Saudi Arabia (16,700) and Japan (15,300).
While Chinese students spent 8.1 weeks in the UK on average, Saudis enjoyed a longer 11.4-week stay. The Japanese only averaged one and half months.
For the private sector, the top three sending markets for the private sector were Italy, with over 265,000 student weeks, followed by Saudi Arabia with 134,000 and Spain, 114,000.
Private sector students stay less time on average, than those in the state sector.
In 2017, for instance, UK language schools hosted 128,000 Italian students who stayed on average 2.1 weeks. A relatively small number of Saudi students, just under 15,000, attended courses for nine weeks.
Recently, the favourable exchange rate has helped attract students to the UK private sector. However, Ms Cooper pointed out that: ‘The state sector has not been able to take advantage of these factors in the same way, whether because of its sending markets or the specific challenges faced by its members, particularly FE colleges, in recent years.’