English Australia conducted the National Elicos Market Report
10% growth in weeks for Australia's English sector

Australia's English language schools experienced a two per cent increase in international students in 2016 and a 10 per cent rise in student weeks, both record peaks for the sector, according to data released last week.

The annual National Elicos Market Report, undertaken by English Australia and based on responses from more than 200 providers, reveals that there were 173,506 international students on Elicos programmes in Australia last year, while student weeks reached 2,319,175.


Brett Blacker, CEO of English Australia, told StudyTravel Magazine, "The increase of 10 per cent in the number of weeks was very positive. The increase is due to a number of factors including the growth in student visa students as well as the number of students from the Americas, which experienced 28 per cent growth in student weeks."


More than two-thirds (67 per cent) of all Elicos students in 2016 were studying on student visas, a slightly increased share comapared with the previous year and the highest-ever ratio. There was a three per cent rise in student visa holders and 15 per cent growth in visitor visa Elicos students - who accounted for 10 per cent of all students - although working holiday visa students decreased by seven per cent.


Commenting on the longer stays in 2016 - the average rose a week to 13.4 weeks - Brett said, "The majority of this growth has been in students on student visas so it is most likely linked to the continued growth in the attractiveness of Australian higher and vocational education. Students enrolling in university or vocational courses require a high standard of English and so students taking Elicos as a pathway into those courses tend to enrol in longer courses than other students."


China continued to be the largest source market, and increased by five per cent to 37,322 students. More significant growth, however, came from second-placed Japan, which rose by 19 per cent to 23,493 students.


Browns English Language School, which offers adult and junior programmes in Queensland, experienced a 25 per cent overall increase last year, Marketing Director, Benjamin Mack, told StudyTravel Magazine.


Regarding the booming Japanese market, he commented, "Our growth from Japan exceeded the school's overall average growth, so we are pleased with this outcome. It's been incredible to witness the changes in the Japanese market over the last 12-to-18 months; while Japan has been considered a mature market for Australia, we're noticing it behave like an emerging market, and this can only mean good things for future growth prospects. There is a renewed energy from Japan."


Brett explained there was strong growth in student visas and visitor visas from Japan and in all regions. "Australian English language providers have had long-standing partnerships with Japanese institutions and group enrolments, typically as study tours, contributed around a quarter of all students in 2016 and continued to experience growth."


He continued, "English Australia has been working on a number of key strategic initiatives with Austrade and Department of Education staff in Japan, who are proving on-going support in profiling English study in Australia as well as Australia's teacher training capabilities. We have also been working with our key agents and [Japanese agency association] JAOS members to profile Australia with our partners in Japan."


In terms of volume of students, the largest increases came from the aforementioned two source markets, followed by France, Colombia and Malaysia.


Korea, although remaining the third-largest source country, dropped by 16 per cent to 13,609 students in 2016 - the largest fall by student numbers - followed by India, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan and Vietnam.


By provider type, the English Australia report shows that the largest proportion of students (31 per cent) were at vocational institutions; 26 per cent were at university-based Elicos colleges; 23 per cent were at stand-alone Elicos schools; and 17 per cent were at multi-sector institutions.


English Australia estimated that the economic impact of the Elicos market in 2016 was AUS$2.258 billion, an increase of AUS$184 million or eight per cent compared with the previous year. The estimate is based on a ratio of AUS$1.92 additional spend to tuition fees.


Commenting on the outlook for this year, Brett said, "Year-to-date (YTD) student visa holder numbers are up by about five per cent on 2016. This represents continued steady and sustainable growth at a rate that is a little stronger than last year. Visa lodgement and grant rates for students coming to Australia purely to study Elicos on a student visa are up more than 15 per cent on the YTD figures for the previous year, so that part of the sector is performing very well."


Benjamin at Browns added, "2017 is shaping up to be at least equivalent to 2016 in terms of overall growth. However, the devil is in the detail as the mix of nationalities is changing significantly with some traditional markets facing challenges in outbound mobility while other traditional markets are facing renewed growth prospects."


At the time of writing, AUS$1 = US$0.79




By Matthew Knott

News Editor