From the Field: South African ELT rebounding this year

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • We continue our “From the Field” interview series today in conversation with Johannes Kraus. Mr Kraus is the chairperson of Education South Africa, the peak ELT body for this important African study destination
  • In a recent interview with ICEF Monitor, Mr Kraus highlights the factors that are driving the continuing recovery in English language enrolments in South Africa, and looks ahead to further growth in 2018

In 2015, South Africa’s English Language Teaching (ELT) enrolment went off a cliff. The year before, the South African government had passed new immigration legislation that effectively excluded language schools from the country’s student visa process. In other words, the new regulations meant that students intending to pursue longer-term studies with a South African ELT provider could no longer get a student visa.

The country’s peak body for ELT, Education South Africa (EduSA) eventually sued the South African government over the matter, and, in November 2016, the case was subsequently settled out of court with the result that study visas could once again be issued for students enrolled with recognised ELT providers.

Coming as late in the year as it did, the legal settlement had little effect on ELT enrolment in South Africa last year. But providers nevertheless reported strong growth for the year, with a roughly 20% increase in both enrolments and student weeks compared to 2015’s low point.

And now the latest figures from EduSA reveal that the country’s ELT sector continued to rebuild its enrolment base through 2017, and that is has now essentially regained – and even slightly exceeded – the previous high water mark for student numbers from 2014. As the following table reflects, enrolments increased by more than 15% between 2016 and 2017, and student weeks by nearly 13%.

enrolment-in-south-african-elt-by-student-numbers-and-student-weeks-2014–2017
Enrolment in South African ELT by student numbers and student weeks, 2014–2017. Source: EduSA

We recently sat down with Johannes Kraus, the chairperson of EduSA, for a closer look at some of the important trends that are shaping the South African market this year. In our first interview segment below, he reviews the challenges the sector faced as a result of the 2014 amendments to the country’s immigration regulation.

In our next interview clip, Mr Kraus highlights the optimism that is now leading to further growth for the sector. At the time of our discussion, full-year numbers were not yet available (as we are now able to report here), but it was clear even at that point that ELT providers expected strong results for 2017.

There is no question that the legal settlement is a key development for the sector. But as Mr Kraus explains in our next interview excerpt below, language schools were also quick to adapt by targeting markets – notably in Europe but also Brazil – where students could receive a visitor visa on arrival in South Africa. “If you have a third-party influence on your business,” he points out, “you have to find a way to maneuver [around] that and make sure that you have growth. And I think that’s what the schools did successfully.”

In our final interview segment, Mr Kraus highlights the top sending markets for South African ELT providers in 2017, and looks ahead to a major new industry event – the first-ever ICEF Africa Workshop – to be held in Cape Town in May 2018.

For additional background, please see:



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