StudyTravel Magazine: 2023 strongest year since Covid for UK ELT

Last year was the best for the UK ELT sector since the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the results of English UK’s latest Quarterly Intelligence Cohort (QUIC) data.

March 5, 2024 Study Travel Magazine

Last year was the best for the UK ELT sector since the Covid-19 pandemic, according to the results of English UK’s latest Quarterly Intelligence Cohort (QUIC) data, although recovery appeared to slow in the final quarter of 2023.

2023 vs 2019: Based on the results of member centres that provided data for the QUIC scheme in both 2023 and 2019, the recovery level across last year was 83 per cent, a higher mark than recorded in any of the intervening years.

However, English UK  highlighted that the quarterly recovery rates in comparison with 2019 have gradually reduced during the course of 2023.

While 2023 Q1 was at 91 per cent of 2019 levels, recovery was down to 81 per cent and 82 per cent in Q2 and Q3 respectively, and slipped to 75 per cent in Q4, according to the latest quarterly report.

d69f329c-1a2c-43c3-a63d-792f3889b9e5_cmsImageComparison of student weeks in 2023, 2022 and 2019 for participants in the QUIC scheme. Graphic source - English UK/Bonard.

Speaking at a webinar for survey participants, Ivana Bartosik of Bonard, English UK’s research partner for the QUIC scheme, said that recent changes in policy had impacted on demand. “Although ELT has not been directly affected by the actual changes, the whole sentiment towards study abroad is affected. Students are considering whether they do want to go abroad for higher education, and there has been a slowdown in student mobility globally,” she said.  

A recent survey of prospective and enrolled higher education students by global agency group IDP Education  showed that some students were reconsidering their preferred destination on the basis of recent policy changes, and that the UK was one of the most impacted.

2023 Q4 data: Based on QUIC participants across all years, the adult sector reached 103,210 weeks in 2023 Q4, a 17 per cent increase compared with 2022 Q4 but still around 25 per cent below 2019 Q4 levels.

Junior weeks, meanwhile, increased by 26 per cent over 2022 Q4 to reach 5,553, although this was still 32 per cent below the 2019 volume.  

Source markets: The top source country overall in 2023 Q4 was Saudi Arabia, as it was in Q1 and Q2, with 21,840 student weeks, while second-placed Turkey had the highest absolute year-on-year increase compared to Q4 of 2022 with an additional 2,709 weeks, English UK said. The top five was completed by Switzerland, Kuwait and Brazil.

Kuwait, in fourth place, had a 46 per cent growth in student weeks compared with Q4 2022, while 10th-placed Colombia registered growth of 149 per cent.

In the junior segment, the top source markets were Germany, Italy, Thailand, Spain and Chile.

Recruitment channels: In the 2023 Q4 data, which was completed by 125 English UK members – 38 per cent of the total membership – around 74 per cent of student weeks were attributable to agents.

Snímek obrazovky 2024-03-08 v 0.28.58The top source markets by student weeks in 2023 Q4 for schools in QUIC. Source - English UK/Bonard.

This was a slightly lower ratio than in the first (78) second (80) and third (79) quarters. The second and third quarters of the year are when the junior business is most prominent and tend to have higher agent-based recruitment levels. Across 2023 as a whole in the QUIC scheme, agents accounted for 78 per cent of student weeks.

Individual bookings represented 89 per cent of weeks in Q4 2023, a higher ratio than 87 per cent in 2022 Q4 and 86 per cent in 2019 Q4.

Course type: For adult students, General English courses accounted for 89 per cent of student weeks. All adult course types recorded growth in student weeks compared with 2022 Q4 with the exception of one-to-one courses, the authors said. English Plus programmes had the largest year-on-year growth at 28 per cent.

In the junior segment, General English courses accounted for 88 per cent of student weeks, while summer/winter camps represented 12 per cent. General English weeks for juniors increased by 28 per cent compared with 2022 Q4, English UK said.

Click here to read the Executive Summary of the 2023 Q4 QUIC report.

The fuller picture of the rate of recovery for UK ELT will be provided in May, when English UK releases full-year data for 2023 based on a survey of all members.

In the 2022 full-year data, English UK members reached 60 per cent of 2019 student weeks. 

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