Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF

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Australia: Latin markets boosting ELICOS recovery this year

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • Colombia and Brazil, along with surging numbers from Thailand, are driving much of the recovery in ELICOS enrolments through September of this year
  • China remains the largest sending market for English training providers in Australia but Chinese enrolments have declined year-over-year
  • Overall, ELICOS enrolments are up 45% over 2021 and have now reached roughly 41% of pre-pandemic levels

Year-to-date data shows continued recovery in Australia’s ELICOS sector (English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students) through September 2022. As of that month, ELICOS enrolments had recovered to roughly 41% of pre-pandemic volumes.

This amounts to a total of 52,650 ELICOS enrolments for September 2022, which compares to 129,619 in the same month in 2019. It also represents year-over-year growth of 45% from September 2021 (at which point total ELICOS numbers had reached a low benchmark of 28% of pre-pandemic levels, or 36,351 enrolments).

The rebound in student numbers this year has been driven in part by key Latin American markets, notably Colombia and Brazil.

Colombia is now the second-largest sending market for ELICOS providers, with enrolments increasing nearly 58% between September 2021 and September 2022, from 4,737 to 7,467. Colombian commencements increased by 147% over the same period.

Brazil is the fourth-largest ELICOS source market this year, and shows even faster growth through September 2022. The number of Brazilian enrolments increased by 160% between September 2021 and September 2022 (from 2,348 to 6,092) — and commencements by 292%.

And right between the two we find Thailand, the third-largest (and fastest-growing) sending market for ELICOS providers as of September 2022. Thai students accounted for 6,598 enrolments that month, up 381% from the year before. Thai commencements jumped 701% over the same period.

In contrast, Chinese ELICOS enrolments declined by almost -20% between September 2021 and September 2022 (from 10,268 to 8,309), and remain at roughly 24% of pre-pandemic levels. China nevertheless remains the largest sending market for ELICOS programmes.

Looking across the remaining top ten sending markets for ELICOS providers in 2021, we see mixed results but none that represent the same enrolment volumes as the top four senders – China, Colombia, Thailand, and Brazil – through September 2022.

  • Japan: +77% enrolments (from 1,789 to 3,164); +143% commencements
  • Nepal: +15% enrolments (from 2,218 to 2,540); +30% commencements
  • South Korea: -15% enrolments (from 1,500 to 1,295); +4% commencements
  • India: -2% enrolments (1,404 to 1,383); +33% commencements
  • Taiwan: -14% enrolments (1,405 to 1,207); +3% commencements
  • Vietnam: +54% enrolments (1,201 to 1,851); +87% commencements

The surging ELICOS numbers are also helping to buoy overall foreign enrolment in Australia, which was is up only marginally year-to-date September 2022 (+1%) compared to the year before. The 45% increase in ELICOS enrolments YTD September is helping to offset declines in higher education (-4%), vocational education and training (-7%), and K-12 schools (-14%) for the same period.

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