Matthew Knott, News Editor of StudyTravel Magazine
Opinion... from the News Editor

A couple of weeks ago in this column, I mentioned that the international student data for 2016 would start rolling in from various sources, and now my desk is straining under the weight of various reports!

Ireland was the next ELT market to step forward, with association Marketing English in Ireland (MEI) boasting an 11 per cent increase in student numbers, a strong performance in a challenging year and big step towards meeting the enrolment targets set out in the government's international education strategy, which was released last year and utilised StudyTravel Magazine's annual global market report on the ELT industry to gauge the country's place and potential in the international industry.


The majority of the growth came from junior EU students last year, and as such probably owed more than a little to the strong pound sterling in neighbouring destination the UK in the first half of 2016.


As David O'Grady, CEO of MEI, astutely pointed out in an interview with StudyTravel Magazine on the 2016 data, a challenge for Ireland will be to sustain that business in the face of a weakening pound, and perhaps more importantly compensate for an inevitable degree of swing back to the UK by increasing share from other markets.


He was enthused to emphasise that 2016 was a record year for nationality mix for Ireland, with students coming from more than 100 markets. Strong growth from Argentina, Colombia and Chile offered promise of developing non-EU markets, while encouraging signs from the hitherto struggling Russia suggest some recovery from that this year.


Ireland can also take comfort from increasing share in the Turkish market, according to the 2016 figures released by Turkish agency association UED, unveiled at the StudyTravel Alphe Istanbul conference last week.


While the UK continues to dominate for the Turkish language business - as it traditionally has done - Ireland tripled its market share compared with the previous year to take second place. UED Coordinator, Gokhan Islamoglu, told StudyTravel Magazine that awareness of Ireland's offer had been growing steadily for a few years, and suggested there was potential for Ireland's higher education sector to tap into this burgeoning brand awareness.


An interesting aspect of the UED data was a swing away from the United States, which had a much reduced market share in the language sector. As one of the most significant Muslim source markets, certainly for the language sector, is the Turkish data an early litmus test of the Trump effect on international education? Gokhan suggests that there is something in this, with Canada contrastingly increasing its share, but he concedes that economic factors are probably the main influence: the Turkish lira has dropped significantly in value against the strong dollar over the last year.


And also this week we have further emphatic evidence of the Netherlands' emergence as a contender in the higher education market: the country recorded its highest ever increase last year and now hosts more than 80,000 full-degree international students.


As Arnold Persoon of Study Group, which has international study centres in the Netherlands, points out, more and more undergraduate programmes are being offered in English. Although fees are not comparable to the UK or Australia, the Dutch system is not free - unlike neighbouring Germany - and therefore there is some commission to play with.


Dutch universities are increasingly expanding their agent portfolios, Arnold says. Moreover, the presence of pathway operators in the country has provided a commission structure equivalent to more established international destinations, and has given agents the confidence to promote the Dutch brand and its institutions. Expect this trajectory to continue.


As I mentioned last week, we have launched a new StudyTravel news broadcast, rounding up the main stories of the last week from our online coverage. You can see the latest edition here.


See you next week, unless my desk finally collapses on top of me!



By Matthew Knott

News Editor