Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF

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Recruiting for US ELT programmes

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • We continue our “From the Field” interview series today in conversation with ESLI President Ryan Hall. ESLI partners with universities in Canada and the US to help international students build their languages skills in preparation for degree studies in English
  • The interview considers the issues shaping the ELT market in the US from an educator’s perspective, and offers some insights about the strategies that US language centres are exploring in order to strengthen ELT enrolments

Intensive English Programmes (IEPs) in the US have been buffeted by sharp enrolment declines over the last two years. The subset of 400+ language programmes tracked by the Institute of International Education’s annual Intensive English Programme Survey found that student numbers in US IEPs fell by 35%, and student weeks by 40%, between 2015 and 2017.

A recent analysis from Bridge Education Group crunches the US Immigration Department’s Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) data to arrive at a similar conclusion. “The much-reported drop in Intensive English Programme enrolments appears to have begun as early as December 2015, when it reached a peak of just over 100,000 students, then plateaued,” says Bridge analyst Kevin Mermel. “Since that time, language programme enrolments have dropped 37.6% in less than three years…Looking at language students as a whole, we can see that the proportion of students studying in [IEPs] represents a declining percentage of the total international student population [in the US]. Having peaked at 9.8% in February 2014, they now represent only 5.6% of all international students.”

We recently had a conversation with ESLI President Ryan Hall to explore how US IEPs are responding to these challenging trading conditions. Mr Hall has an interesting perspective on the question as ESLI, a language training provider focused on preparing students for degree studies, is partnered both with universities in Canada and the US.

In our first interview segment below, he addresses the impact of the rapid decline in the number of scholarship-funded Saudi Arabian students in US language programmes as well as the changing political climate in the US.

“We’ve had a focus over the last year and a half on growing our services,” says Mr Hall in explaining how ESLI is adapting to the changing marketplace. “Adding additional services, such as helping with visas or helping students with their transition from their country to the United States. And growing the kinds of programmes that we offer – so not just the traditional English language experience but also short-term programmes and cooperating with community colleges and other things that expand the services and educational opportunities for students abroad.”

In our second interview excerpt, he expands on the steps that ESLI is taking to strengthen its recruitment and student services.

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