Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
12th Jul 2023

Continued recovery for the UK ELT sector in Q1 2023 with student weeks close to Q1 2019 levels

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • For the first quarter of 2023, the UK’s English-language training sector has nearly rebounded to the business volume last seen before the pandemic in Q1 2019
  • The adult sector remains the driver of growth during this early period of the year, but the junior sector picked up in Q1 2023 by a very impressive 415% compared with the last quarter of 2022

English language training centres in the UK saw business return almost to pre-pandemic levels for the first quarter of 2023, with student weeks at 92% of their Q1 2019 volume. The news comes from English UK’s latest Quarterly Intelligence Cohort (QUIC) report.

The QUIC is based on a quarterly survey that goes out to English UK members. In Q1, 123 member centres responded representing 38% of the overall English UK member base. This is “one of the highest participation rates to date.”

Especially for that first quarter of the year, the recovery is being driven by adults studying English in the UK, while it is taking more time for the junior segment to bounce back to a pre-pandemic level, despite massive growth of 415% over the previous quarter. Adult weeks are at 95% of their 2019 level and junior weeks are at 76%, as shown in the following chart. Junior weeks now make up 11% of the total market, while adult weeks compose 89%. Before the pandemic, juniors accounted for half of all business for English-UK members.

Student weeks for English UK members for Q1, 2019, 2022, and 2023. Source: English UK

The junior market is heavily reliant on young students from the EU, but the UK’s exit from the European Union, and related border rules and bureaucracy, have badly disrupted the flow of students from this region. The scale of the issue is well articulated in a position paper from English UK published earlier this year:

“The new requirement for an expensive passport for a short educational trip, and sometimes a visa as well, means 83% of those groups chose to go elsewhere in the summer of 2022.”

In Q1 2023, individual bookings represented 84% of the market, while group bookings (mostly junior accounted for 16%.

Top source markets

The highest volume of adult learners came from Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Turkey, Japan, and South Korea in Q1 2023. As in Q4 2002, Saudi Arabia contributed the highest absolute increase (+25,671) in student weeks of all markets. But Brazil and Turkey are also responsible for major growth in weeks – these countries displaced Switzerland and Japan in top positions since Q4 2023. Switzerland had held the #2 position in that quarter and is now in ninth place, as shown in the chart below.

Top 10 countries in terms of student weeks spent with English UK members in Q1 2023. Source: English UK

For additional background please see:

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