11% rise in international English language students studying in Ireland with numbers now at 119,000

March 30, 2017

There has been an 11% rise in the number of international English language students studying in Ireland in 2016. The figures from Marketing English in Ireland (MEI), the association that represents 65 regulated English language schools and colleges nationwide, illustrate the continued growth of the English Language Training (ELT) sector in Ireland. Student numbers in 2016 increased to 119,119 from 107,129 students in 2015, with the significant growth in the number of junior students (under seventeen) coming to Ireland from the European Union (EU).

Once again the largest numbers of students attending programmes at MEI schools and colleges in 2016 were from the EU / EEA region with approximately 93,000 students (78%). Approximately 18,000 students (15%) came from the non-EU / EEA region where no visas were required, e.g. Brazil, Japan and South Korea. The remaining 8,000 students (7%) came from non-EU / EEA countries where visas are required, e.g. Russia, Saudi Arabia and China.

According to David O’Grady CEO of MEI, “The 11% growth in the ELT sector in Ireland in 2016 is hugely significant as it comes on the back of strong growth in 2015 also. Ireland has a reputation internationally as a quality destination for English language education and the growth in 2016 is a clear illustration of this. The growth was in line with forecasts from MEI and demonstrates the importance of the ELT sector to Ireland.”

“The international education sector is hugely important for Ireland and the contribution to the Irish economy from the English Language Training sector alone is worth €762 million per annum. These figures are contained in the report International Education Strategy for Ireland 2016 – 2020, published recently by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton T.D. To ensure that the ambitious growth targets in this report are achieved it is crucial that all Government agencies and Departments work in collaboration with the industry to achieve the level of growth that is desired. The announcement by the Minister for Education of the appointment of four new ‘path finders’ to target and develop new markets outside of the EU is most welcome and MEI warmly welcome this announcement and look forward to working with this new team.”

“The focus for MEI has been to grow the market for international students coming to Ireland to study English and we are delighted that we have done that. Last year students from a total of 101 countries came to Ireland for quality English language education. This is an increase from the record number of countries in 2015, which stood at 89. In 2016, the largest number of students came from Italy, Spain and France and exactly 50% of the total numbers of international students were junior students (under seventeen) from the EU / EEA region.”

“Significantly for the Irish economy, the 119,119 students, on average, spent 5.3 weeks in Ireland. In 2016 students coming to Ireland from the EU / EEA region stayed for 2 and a half weeks. Students from outside the EU / EEA, who are not required to have a visa, stayed on average 18 weeks and students who are required to have a visa stayed for just 10 weeks.”

“There have been really large increases in students coming to Ireland from Argentina, Colombia and Chile. In 2016 the combined number of students from these three countries that came to Ireland to study English was approximately 1150 a 400% increase in three years. As well as this growth, MEI expects to see this strong growth continue in important markets such as Russia, Turkey, Kazakhstan, Saudi Arabia, Ukraine, Mexico, China, South Korea, Japan and Vietnam.”

“Gratifying as last year was it is now over and we work with the challenges of 2017, and onwards. If we are to achieve the targets outlined in the Government strategy 2016-2020 for ELT then we need to devote energy and expertise to areas for growth, most of which lie in markets that are visa requiring for Ireland. As with all exporters we are very sensitive to currency fluctuations, fluid international political uncertainty, Brexit, changing destination trends and wider security issues, therefore Ireland needs to be constantly alert and nimble in our responses to all challenges,’ said David O’Grady CEO MEI.

International English language students in Ireland supported the employment of 1000 full time teachers and 550 full time administrative staff across the 65 regulated MEI member schools and colleges nationwide. During the peak summer months of June, July and August, teacher numbers rose to 2000 and administrative staff rose to 1000. The total gross wage gill was approximately €49.5 million in 2016, an increase of €9.5 million in one year.

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