Dubai going from strength to strength in ELT, say stakeholders

Stakeholders have chalked up Dubai’s growing success in attracting ELT students to its friendly visa policy, increasing flow towards higher education and its diversity of source markets.

June 19, 2024 The PIE News

The PIE News spoke to two different schools in the city, as well as data specialists BONARD to find out what makes the city tick, after International Education Director Ivana Bartosik said the Emirate was increasingly becoming a hub – even amid the recovery of other bigger destinations.

“This trend is emerging from multiple conversations BONARD had with industry stakeholders; several factors are contributing to this trend of Dubai becoming a hub,” Bartosik said.

Firstly, its visa policy has made it very welcome considering other countries, including Canada and the UK and to a lesser extent Australia (in ELT), seeing more stringent policies – with “more accommodating” rules for students to stay and study, including in ELT.

“The process for applying to study in Dubai is streamlined and user-friendly, reducing barriers for prospective students and making the destination more appealing, especially when main ELT destinations are tightening their visa processes and becoming more difficult for students to access,” Bartosik explained further.

Mike Summerfield, managing director at English Path, told The PIE its Dubai development is indeed seeing a year-on-year increase in demand.

“This is due to [several factors] but also the opportunities to go on to higher education,” he revealed.  “[This is] as well as the ease of access to Dubai compared to other traditional destinations,” he continued mirroring Bartosik’s analysis.

“It is geographically well placed to serve students from across the world and is known as one of the safest places in the world with a crime rate of almost zero,” noted Summerfield.

ES Dubai is one of the Emirate’s biggest language schools – and its director of partnerships, speaking with The PIE, said that Dubai’s post-Covid measures have made the area’s recent success possible.

“[It] made it possible for the city to open its borders well before other international EFL markets.”

“This changed the international English language studies landscape and enabled ES Dubai to be better positioned to attract more overseas students, resulting in more than 2000 foreign students per year enrolling at the school since 2020, culminating in 5000 students being enrolled so far in 2024,” said Niel Pama.

“ES has drawn international students to Dubai who previously would have never considered traveling to the UAE as a study destination, with many of them choosing to stay in Dubai to live and work after their English language studies,” he noted – Bartosik also added that students having work rights helps.

It is geographically well placed to serve students from across the world and is known as one of the safest places in the world

Mike Summerfield, English Path

“It’s a significant advantage compared to destinations where visa grant rate dropped (Australia) or ELT students are not able to work at all (Canada, UK),” she explained.

Concurring with findings that Bartosik posited regarding source markets – that Latin American countries are increasingly choosing the destination – there has been a “ripple effect” of international communities from the region popping up in Dubai, creating a local cultural landscape, Pama claimed.

Bartosik noted that Brazil was one of the countries gaining traction as a dominant source market – as with other traditional destinations, possibly showing Dubai’s growing prowess.

“There is also interest from countries in the Middle East and North Africa region. However, the Asian region might not be the primary target for Dubai’s ELT programs at this time,” she added.

Summerfield also noted how the linguistic make-up of the city continues to play a part – something also previously pointed out by Ingrid Farieta, of STEP International, when The PIE talked to her in 2023.

“The lingua franca of Dubai is in fact English. This is because 80% of the population are expatriates, whilst the remaining 20% are Emiratis,” Summerfield said.

Language International, a comparison site for English language schools, lists 55 schools across the Emirate – and Pama believed that more and more competitors may join ES in the UAE as others already have.

“[It’s] setting in motion a change that has grown into a significant new industry in the region,” he added.

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