8% rise in international English language students studying in Ireland with numbers now over 129,000

May 25, 2018

There has an 8% rise in the number of international English language students studying in Ireland in 2017 according to figures from Marketing English in Ireland (MEI), the association that represents 66 regulated English language schools and colleges nationwide. This growth comes on the back of similar increases in previous years and numbers have risen by 30,000 extra students in the last 5 years, which illustrates the continued growth of the English Language Training (ELT) sector in Ireland.

Student numbers in 2017 increased to 129,290 from 119,119 in 2016 with strong growth across all segments of the ELT sector. The largest growth in junior students (under seventeen) has come from outside the European Union (EU) with a corresponding rise in adult students coming from outside of the EU also. This growth reflects the marketing strategy adopted by MEI and member schools and colleges in recent years, whereby new and emerging markets have been targeted to add to the well established EU markets that still provide the overwhelming majority of students to the Irish ELT sector.

In total, students from 118 individual countries came to Ireland to study English in 2017, a very significant rise on the 2016 figure of 101.

When broken down by region, the largest numbers of students attending programmes at MEI schools and colleges in 2017 were from the EU / EEA region with approximately 96,000 students (74%). Approximately 24,500 students (19%) came from the non-EU / EEA region where no visas were required, e.g. Brazil, Japan and South Korea. The remaining 8,750 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 8% growth in the ELT sector in Ireland in 2017 is extremely welcome because it builds upon strong year on year growth in recent years. In MEI we take great pride in the diverse offering that our schools and colleges have for students from all over the world to come to Ireland, to study and to experience our culture and our people. The strong growth illustrates that Ireland has a reputation internationally as a quality destination for English language education and the growth in 2017 confirms this.”

“The strong growth experienced in 2017 was in line with forecasts from MEI and demonstrates the importance of the ELT sector to Ireland. As an organisation, MEI continue to work with the Department of Education and a range of state agencies to sustain and grow the sector. There is recognition at Government level that 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. This is according to figures contained in the report International Education Strategy for Ireland 2016 – 2020, published by the Minister for Education Richard Bruton T.D.”

“Working with the Department of Education and others, the International Education Strategy for Ireland 2016 – 2020 set targets for the ELT sector to grow to 132,500 students by 2020. MEI are well ahead of schedule to achieve this target but as an organisation and as individual member schools and colleges we will continue to promote Ireland globally as a premier destination for English language students.”

“The underly focus for MEI in recent years has been to grow the market for international students coming to Ireland to study English, beyond the traditionally strong markets of Italy, Spain and France. MEI has done this through promotional work in new and emerging markets such as Turkey in recent years, helping to increase the number of students coming to Ireland and to expand the number of countries who sent students to Ireland for quality English language education. In 2015, a total of 89 countries sent students to Ireland, that has now risen to 118 in 2017, which is incredible news for the ELT sector in Ireland.”

“The 129,000 students, on average, spent 6 weeks in Ireland during 2017. Students coming to Ireland from the EU / EEA region stayed for under 2 and a half weeks on average, while 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 slightly over 11 weeks on average. A total of 772,684 student weeks were spent in Ireland in 2017 by international English language students which is 19% higher than the 2016 figure, again demonstrating the size and importance of the sector to the Irish economy.“

“International English language students in Ireland make a very significant contribution to the economy of €762 million per annum and this figure continues to grow, with the ongoing increase in student numbers coming to Ireland. There are risks on the horizon for Ireland as we continue to compete in a market that is extremely sensitive to currency fluctuations and international uncertainty. The strategic approach that MEI has adopted through the promotion of Ireland in new markets such as Central and South America, Asia and the Middle East are helping to grow our sector but also diversify the markets from which students have traditionally come to Ireland,’ concluded David O’Grady CEO of MEI.

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