Image of Business as usual for Australian ELICOS?

At first glance, 2018 may look like business as usual for English Language Intensive Courses for Overseas Students providers in Australia. The new industry survey, published by English Australia in collaboration with Bonard, reported only a 1% rise in student numbers and a modest 0.1% decrease in student weeks. However, underlying changes are emerging, with new markets such as Colombia showing promising growth.

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The broad picture

Student numbers rose to 179,342, which contributed 2,334,336 student weeks –a decline for the first time since 2012, the study explained. The average length of stay shrank slightly from 13.2 weeks to 13.

The future is also quite rosy, according to Bonard, which authored the report.

“We expect Australia’s market share to culminate in the years to come. There is still considerable growth potential in Asian and Latin American countries such as Mongolia and Colombia,” a spokesperson said.

“Rather than taking up market share from other ELT destinations, we believe that Australia will grow organically, benefiting from expanding source countries.”

The economic contribution

The estimated economic contribution of ELICOS students to the Australian economy (calculated by adding AU$1.92 to each dollar spent on tuition fees) was AU$2.35bn, an increase of over $31m from 2017. New South Wales was the largest beneficiary – it’s the most popular state with 39% of the total market share – followed by Victoria and Queensland.

Source regions

All source regions except Europe grew from 2017 to 2018. On average the growth was modest.
The MENA region sent increasing numbers of students, growing after a few years of decline, and had an average length far above the average of 13 weeks. The Asia Pacific region and the Americas both continued their upward trend, while Sub-Saharan Africa showed a sharp 37% increase in student numbers.
Numbers for Europe, meanwhile, have been plummeting since 2016 and showed an 11% decrease on 2017 figures. Important source countries such as Italy, France, Switzerland and Germany sent fewer students for the third year in a row. Nevertheless, some markets, such as Spain, Russia and Portugal continued to grow.

Source countries

China still rides high as the number one source country, but while its numbers are substantially unchanged from 2017, its length of stay has been dropping, losing on average more than a week since 2016.

Figures follow a similar trend for Japan, the second source market, and South Korea, the fourth – while Brazil shows a minus sign after years of growth.

Fifth-placed Colombia has been on a growth trajectory for a few years and shows a 14% increase over 2017 numbers, figuring as the biggest riser overall. India is also growing again for the second year in a row, while Vietnamese numbers have picked up after a few years of decline.

Commenting on the drivers behind the growth of certain source markets, English Australia chief executive Brett Blacker said while a rise in Latin American students follows active engagement of ELICOS stakeholders in the region, India’s rise is a reflection of high enrolments in VET and HE.

“India is certainly a correlation to the increase in enrolments in vocational education and higher education, so largely it just happened by virtue of a pathway market,” he said.

Saudi Arabia has also seen a rebound, particularly in South Australia, Blacker added.

“Potentially, some of the students who were studying in Canada could have also transitioned across, but it hasn’t necessarily been a full switch,” he explained.

As for Brazil’s mild decrease, 3% from 2017, Blacker said it’s a consequence of more than one factor: a natural “ebb and flow” after years of double-digit percentage growth, some in-country factors and competitors regaining market share.

“Some of our competitor destinations, particularly Canada and Ireland, have been able to successfully gain some of the market share back from Australia,” he said.  “but I think we are still a very popular destination in Brazil.”

Thailand, the sixth source country, also shows the largest losses in student numbers (9% since 2017), but students tend to stay longer on average.

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Students’ destinations

While New South Wales, with its 39% of ELICOS market share, remained relatively stable, reporting modest a modest increase in student numbers and a modest decrease in student weeks, Queensland’s student numbers rose by 3%. Queensland was also the only state to see its European numbers remain stable from 2017, while all other states reported losses.
Victoria registered a modest decrease in student numbers, while South Australia’s losses amounted to 6% on 2017 numbers – but its student weeks rose by 8% and its average length of stay went from 14.7 weeks to 16.8.
Western Australia displayed the opposite situation – a 1% growth in student numbers accompanied a 12% decrease in student weeks.

The most prominent source region for all states was the Asia Pacific. The top 5 source markets don’t differ dramatically from state to state, with some notable exceptions: for example, South Australia was the only state to have Saudi Arabia and India in the top 5 sources.

Queensland hosts the lion’s share of Japanese students (41%), while Brazilians seem to prefer New South Wales. South Koreans mostly choose either New South Wales or Queensland, while it’s Victoria or New South Wales for Chinese students.

Student vs non-student visa ratio were mostly consistent for all states apart from Queensland, which hosted 48% of its ELICOS students on a non-student visa.

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