StudyTravel Magazine: AUS$2.7 billion ELICOS-related loss from Australia’s closed borders

Australia’s closed borders have caused a AUS$2.7 billion loss for the Australian economy based on the 2020 decline in ELICOS English language students, according to research released this week by English Australia, with bigger losses expected to follow.

Aug 20, 2021 StudyTravel Magazine

English Australia , the peak body for the ELT industry, commissioned the economic impact research with the support of several state governments, and called for more support for the sector.

The report reveals a loss of AUS$1.2 billion for the English language sector in 2020, and the projected flow of losses to the other international education sectors and the wider economy of a further AUS$1.5 billion in 2021.

Brett Blacker, CEO of English Australia, said the research showed how hard the sector was hit by the pandemic last year, and also highlights the interconnectedness of English language to other sectors.


By state, New South Wales had the biggest loss of direct contribution from ELICOS students.

Based on the 47 per cent decrease in student numbers reported in the 2020 Annual ELICOS Market Report, a direct loss of AUS$1.2 billion from tuition fees and student spending in 2020 was estimated.

By state, New South Wales had the biggest loss of direct contribution from ELICOS in 2020 at AUS$529 million, followed by Queensland (AUS$314 million) and Victoria (AUS$283).

According to data from the Department of Education, Skills and Employment (DESE), 47 per cent of ELICOS students on a student visa will usually transition to study in another sector in Australia.

It was therefore estimated that 24,100 ELICOS students would not continue studies into other sectors in 2021, resulting in a further loss of AUS$1.5 billion for those sectors and the economy.

The higher education sector will suffer the bigger impact from lost ELICOS students at AUS$962 million, followed by VET/vocational colleges (AUS$378 million), the non-award sector (AUS$86 million) and schools (AUS$57 million).

“We now fully understand the extent to which border closures have affected the English language teaching sector and the flow-on effects on the broader Australia based on this study,” said Brett.

“Despite transitioning to online study, the sector is still seeing declining numbers. The Federal Government’s Innovation Fund is helping the shift to online for private ELICOS colleges, but far more is needed to ensure the sector survives and to avoid far greater economic impact on international education and the Australian economy which is predicted if nothing is done.”

He warned that while the economic loss to the ELICOS sector from border closures in 2020 was distressing, 2021 was likely to be far worse. The authors estimated from recent member outreach that 19 per cent of ELICOS centres are currently inactive or hibernating.

graph6Source – Bonard/English Australia.

The year-to-date student visa data for June 2021 recently released by DESE shows ELICOS commencements down by 61 per cent, compared with the same period of 2020. And this figure excludes students on visitor visas and working holiday visas, who typically make up around a third of students for ELICOS providers.

Brett called for the extension of fee relief and the expansion of assistance programmes to allow ELICOS to “continue to operate, innovate and develop new markets that will support the recovery for all sectors of international education”.

The authors also argued that clear guidance on when borders will reopen will be critical for international students, parents and education agents, given that many other rival ELT destinations are open and accepting students now.

Click here to read the report, which was conducted by EA’s research partner Bonard and supported by the governments of New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and South Australia.

English Australia represents more than 120 English language providers in the private and public sectors and is a member of the Global Alliance of Education & Language Associations (Gaela).

At the time of writing, AUS$1 = US$0.72

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