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A quarter of UK accredited centres gone

A further 24 operations have shut down or opted to leave the British Council Accreditation scheme since September 2022, the Gazette can reveal. This brings the total number which have closed or left the scheme since Covid struck to 124, just over a quarter of all those listed prior to the pandemic.

Already struggling to recover post pandemic, Brexit has banjaxed the UK’s language travel industry.

To quote the Financial Times the UK’s “Kafkaesque rules,” make it tough for EU children to take school trips to Britain and virtually impossible for their classmates from immigrant families. As a result, the school trips market has halved with a loss of some £1billion to the economy.

Adult tourism both from Germany and France is also down according to the Guardian which cites as the cause the fact that 50 per cent of German and French citizens do not hold a passport. Meanwhile the government decision to leave the EU-run student exchange programme, the Erasmus scheme, has decimated the training market for overseas EFL teachers.

However, it is not the hardest hit sectors of British Council scheme which have been the most likely to disappear from the list. The worst rate of attrition has been in the state sector where 40 per cent of Further Education Colleges and just under 30 per cent of universities have opted out. Not one of these institutions has closed, they have simply voted with their feet.

There are now nearly as many universities accredited by BALEAP (28) as under the British Council-run Accreditation UK scheme (29), with four accredited by both. The mass exodus of the state sector appears to have put paid to the original remit of English UK which was formed by the merger of the language schools association (ARELS) and its state sector counterpart (BASCELT) with the states aim of representing the whole industry.

Summer school numbers have also seen a 30 per cent decline though the number leaving the scheme has slowed, with just three going in the last six months. One foreign-owned operation has withdrawn from the UK market during this period while the other two outfits are still trading. Since Covid struck, 17 non-boarding school summer operations have gone five are still trading. By contrast, just three boarding school-run summer courses and one run by an independent day school have left the scheme.

As a sector, boarding schools have been the least likely to opt out. With a drop of just 12.5 per cent in the number of accredited boarding schools, the sector’s representation is now higher than that of Further Education. It seems to offer the scheme its best, perhaps only, the opportunity for growth, as the market increasingly skews towards under 16s.

There has been a trickle of new providers applying for accreditation with a total of 21 new centres approved since March 2020. There are now 380 names on the Council’s official list down from 478 in March 2020. Whether adding new competitors into the accredited sector is a good move in a declining market is a question best answered by existing accredited providers.

However, short a change of government, or at least a change of government policy, the slow but steady loss of BC accredited centres, currently averaging 3 to 4 a month, looks set to continue. For the European market, the UK is becoming a second-tier destination while, outside the Arab world, most long haul, long stay students will continue to prefer countries which offer them work rights.

UK language centres lost from accreditation

  1. Aberystwyth University*
  2. Activate Learning Bracknell and Woking College FE*
  3. Activate Learning City of Oxford College FE*
  4. Activate Learning Guildford College FE*
  5. Activate Learning Reading College FE*
  6. Berlitz Oxford PLS*
  7. Cambridge Language and Activity Courses SS*
  8. Christian English Language Centre (merged)
  9. Connect PLS
  10. EJEF PLS*
  11. Flexilearning PLS*
  12. International Community School* BS
  13. Intensive School of English PLS*
  14. Keele University*
  15. London Language Foundation PLS*
  16. Mayfair school of English
  17. MLI SS
  18. Nottingham College FE*
  19. Oxford House College Richmond PLS
  20. Oxford Summer Courses SS*
  21. Purley Language Centre PLS*
  22. Rossall School BS*
  23. St George’s International*
  24. University of Brighton*


PLS = Private Language School

SS= summer School Operation

FE = Further Education College

Centres marked * appear to be trading

Image courtesy of CREDIT WILLJ
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