The PieNews: UK ELT sees 83.6% student drop in 2020

English UK member schools enrolled 83.6% fewer students in 2020 than the previous year as they hosted a total of 83,446 full-time students, which the organisation says is a “more devastating effect” than previously believed.

May 15, 2021 The Pie News

Calculations compiled by BONARD also found a 71.1% drop in student weeks, falling to 530,756 student weeks in total.

The organisation saw an “unprecedented” fall of 69 member centres in 2020, from 415 in 2019. Some 333 reported their annual intake data for the 2020 report.

“This report makes gloomy reading for everyone who cares about UK ELT, laying bare the devastation wreaked upon a global industry by a global pandemic,” said Jodie Gray, chief executive of English UK.

“But there is hope in the gloom. For instance, numbers of students enrolling on blended courses tell a story of resourcefulness, resilience and innovation: vital cornerstones of rebuilding.”

Head of research at BONARD Patrik Pavlacic noted the research offers “enhanced breakdowns to supply market intelligence which particularly examines the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on teaching delivery in 2020”.

“Case studies from the past show us that student mobility usually increases after a period of hardship,” he said.

“Noting the level of commitment and dedication among all stakeholders to start rebuilding the industry, we are confident that the ELT sector will emerge stronger once student mobility fully recovers.”

The research divided findings into state – comprising 18 Higher Education and 21 Further Education centres – and 294 reporting private sector members.

“We are confident that the ELT sector will emerge stronger once student mobility fully recovers”

Together, the 39 state sector members’ student numbers dropped by 59.5% to 13,804 full-time ELT students. Student weeks were down by 53.5%, hitting 155,405.

Private sector members declared 375,351 student weeks which represented a 75% y-o-y drop. The 69,642 English language learners private centred welcomed was a decline of 85%.

Top five student week sending markets for the state sector were China (43.7%), Poland (7%), Saudi Arabia (6.6%), Spain (5%) and Japan (3.2%), while for the private sector Saudi Arabia led (19.2%), followed by France (7.1%), Italy (6.8%), China (5.6%) and Japan (5.4%).

Some 57% of students at private centres were taught face-to-face and 30% studied on blended courses.

Within the state sector, 49% attended classes online, either in the UK (6%) or outside (43%), as 37% of students studied via blended classes.


Additionally, the research found that London was the most popular study region in the UK, with one in four weeks spent in the capital. Northern England followed thereafter, accounting for 24% of all student weeks spent in the UK.

Adult students outnumbered junior students by more than three to one.

“We are launching a campaign to deliver clear messages on safety and quality to our key markets – and rigorous, granular statistics and analysis are critical to monitor progress and change direction if necessary,” Gray added.

“More than that, this document is part of our ongoing story, a tool in our lobbying armoury, and the baseline for our coming recovery.”

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