Malta on the rebound, language student arrivals up 18.2% over last year

The National Statistics Office (NSO) of Malta has announced that the number of international students at English language schools reached 81,911 in 2012, an 18.2% increase over 2011. For more detailed background on Malta’s performance in 2011, please see our article “Student arrivals down in Malta but ELT sector resilient.”

Malta hasn’t seen numbers like this since its peak years of 2007 and 2008. A year-on-year comparison for total international language student arrivals is as follows:

  • 2012: 81,911
  • 2011: 69,297
  • 2010: 72,695
  • 2009: 68,918
  • 2008: 83,288
  • 2007: 83,952
  • 2006: 65,983

Top sending markets

Almost two-thirds of the students in 2012 came from the usual five countries (no change in this trend), with 88.5% of all students coming from Europe:

  • Italy: 19.2% (up from 17.8% in 2011)
  • Germany: 14.1% (down from 17.1% in 2011)
  • Russia: 13.9% (up from 11.9% in 2011)
  • France: 10.4% (down from 11.7% in 2011)
  • Spain: 7.3% (down from 10.2% in 2011)

Russia continues to show strong growth, with FELTOM’s (Federation of English Language Teaching Organisations Malta) new CEO Genevieve Abela explaining to Study Travel magazine, “Visas are now being processed in a more timely fashion and there has been a noticeable increase in flight seat capacity for students travelling from Moscow and St Petersburg. In addition, unlike traditional European source markets, Russian students prefer long-term stays of between four and eight weeks, while Europeans generally stay for no more than two weeks. This trend is reflected in the results.”

Malta also came out a winner in the SALTA’s (Swiss Association of Language Travel Agents) latest survey, with Swiss students demonstrating increased interest in the island nation as a study destination, but NSO numbers did reveal a slight dip here. Switzerland’s numbers have remained fairly steady (2,329 in 2011 vs 2,116 in 2012) but the country fell to eighth place as a sending market, with Turkey overtaking it in a big leap from 1,673 students in 2011 to 2,783 students in 2012.

Other nations with increased sending power include Poland (rose to 1,800 students from 1,470 in 2011), Libya sent 1,424 in 2012, Ukraine (more than doubled to 1,199 from 523 in 2011), South Korea (nearly doubled to 1,124 from 586 in 2011), Sweden at 988 students in 2012, and Finland making a jump to 859 students from 246 in 2011.

All continents experienced an increase over 2011, but Africa and Asia stood out for their growth potential. Africa showed a 192.6% increase in the 2012 student population (largely due to Libya), and Asia a 165.2% increase.

Additional market trends

Students’ average length of stay for 2012 was estimated at 2.8 weeks. Increases in all calendar months were recorded when compared to 2011. With an average of 7.9 weeks, students from South Korea had the highest average duration, followed by Turkey (5.6 weeks) and Libya (5.3 weeks). The total number of weeks spent by foreign students in Malta amounted to 226,360, up from 182,347 in 2011.

Much like previous years, the junior market proved to be the most successful with the largest proportion of language students (26.6%) between 16-17 years old (21,791), closely followed by students 15 years old and under (18,421), and young adults aged between 18-25 years (18,927).

And as expected, July was the busiest month for English language schools, with 23,628 students or 28.8% of the annual total, followed by August and June. Persons studying English as a foreign language amounted to 5.7% of total foreign nationals visiting Malta during 2012. However, during the busiest month of July, 13.5% of foreigners visiting Malta were international students attending English language specialised schools.

Malta on the up-and-up

It’s not just the weather forecast delivering sunny results for the Mediterranean island. FELTOM’s annual event held a few weeks ago was deemed a success, with the organisation’s Chairman Julian Cassar Torreggiani showing a great deal of enthusiasm to “constantly [try] to improve for the sake of our schools and the language travel industry as a whole.”

And as we reported last month, Malta continues to strengthen its education quality standards and their tourism sector is also on the up-and-up. Total arrivals for the last quarter of 2012 were at 297,348 – up by 6.4% when compared to the corresponding quarter during 2011 – and January 2013 arrivals were up 5.8% over January 2012.

Local schools and tourism operators told ICEF Monitor that they were expecting a strong summer ahead, with some indicating that due to the recent troubles in Cyprus, holiday makers and students who might have been considering a visit to Cyprus would now perhaps choose Malta instead. And with a new airline route between Oslo and Malta kicking off this summer, perhaps the Scandinavian market will prove fruitful in 2013.

Additional headlines related to developments in the Maltese education industry include…

  • The newest school on the island, ACE English Malta, opened last February and will celebrate on 3 May with an official launch reception and school tour. Agents interested in attending are welcome to contact the school. With 26 classrooms and interactive white boards in each one, the new boutique language school has responded well to students’ demands of technology in learning.
  • EC English Language Centres, the Malta-headquartered education group, has extended its international chain to 17 institutions with the opening of its newest school in Oxford, UK.
  • INTO University Partnerships is looking to establish a base on the main island of Malta as well as its sister island Gozo, with the potential to bring in over 3,000 foreign students a year.
  • The University of Malta and the Universidad del Rosario, Bogotá, Colombia, have signed a memorandum of understanding to promote collaborative research and the exchange of students and staff between the two universities.
  • The Maltese government will introduce vocational training in secondary schools in order to encourage more students to continue studying after they turn 16 years old.


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