Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
16th Mar 2022

UK ELT stats reveal pandemic’s impact

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • Student week volumes for UK ELT fell by more than a quarter in 2021, but showed signs of gradual recovery throughout the year
  • One of the most notable changes has been the erosion of the junior segment, which dropped from more than half of all ELT enrolments pre-pandemic to account for only 2% of student weeks in 2021

The latest full-year data release from English UK provides a high-level picture of how sharply the sector has been affected over the last two years by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Total student weeks declined by more than a quarter year-over-year (-27%), from 261,843 weeks in 2020 to 190,939 weeks in 2021. The compiled charts below show the marked decline with the full onset of the pandemic in Q1 2020, and then a gradual recovery throughout 2021. Students weeks, notes English UK, "rose incrementally from 28,389 weeks in Q1 to 64,099 in Q4."

As we also see in the following charts, the junior market – which at its peak accounted for just over half of all ELT students in pre-pandemic times – essentially evaporated after the first quarter of 2020.

Student weeks by quarter, 2020 and 2021. Please note the difference in scale on the vertical axis for both charts. Source: English UK

With those major shifts in student volumes, segments, and even modes of delivery (89% of English UK members report providing some level of online delivery in 2021), British ELT providers also saw some important changes in sending markets last year.

The additional charts below show the top ten sending markets for UK ELT in 2020 and 2021.

Top ten sending markets for UK ELT in 2020. Source: English UK
Top ten sending markets for UK ELT in 2021. Source: English UK

"The nationality mix in the highest ranks for 2021 was different to that seen in pre-pandemic years. Previously strong European source countries (e.g., Italy and Spain) lost out to the top Middle Eastern markets," notes the English UK report. The adult-junior shift alone would have driven a lot of this change as junior students have historically primarily come to the UK from other markets in Europe.

For additional background, please see:

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