As the UK sector continues to “gradually” recover from the pandemic, the UK government could implement measures and initiatives to help it bounce back, schools say.
There are concerns that school groups are choosing to study in other English-speaking destinations. English UK, which represents more than 450 schools in the country, has highlighted that it is not just the cost of having to get passports after Brexit that is driving students to look elsewhere.
UK UK chief executive Jodie Gray said students were “definitely” choosing Ireland because of the UK’s current visa regime.
The TourismAlliance, together with UK UK, continues to push for a collective passport option which would allow school groups containing a mix of EU citizens and third country nationals who have resettled in the EU.
Inclusiveness requirements in some EU countries – such as the 10% limit in Germany – mean that school groups cannot choose English language providers that exclude some individuals who may not have passports or documents from a third country, Gray told The PIE on StudyWorld in London in March. 9.
“They are no immigration risk”
Previous English UK data from the end of 2022 showed an 83% drop in junior groups compared to 2019.
“They are 14-year-olds coming to the UK to study,” Gray said. “They are not.” [immigration] any risk.”
Eligible countries included in the youth mobility program for 18-30 year olds could also be expanded to include key countries, she said.
Justin Quinn, Managing DirectorThe Center for English Studies noted that Ireland was “doing remarkably well”, but stressed that the country was not only benefiting from Brexit.
“We have seen a very big boom in business, especially in the 25-week study and work programs for students from all areas of South America and from Turkey,” he explained. “This ensures continuity of supply for us.”
Additionally, Ireland’s minimum wage of over €13 an hour makes the country “very attractive”.
“In the last five years, Ireland has created 600,000 new jobs, 300,000 of which have been filled by international people coming to the country. It is a very good country to work, live and study,” he said. “You can see why so many students travel to Ireland.
“Malta is certainly doing very well and I see absolutely no positives for our industry from Brexit,” said Andrew Mangion, Executive Chairman and CEO.EC English Language Centres, he also said PIE News.
The Mediterranean island nation also benefits from its weather, in addition to being more affordable, Quinn continued.
“They give very good prices for long-term programs of good quality and you have the sun,” he said.
“Unfortunately in the UK we don’t see the same number of adult students coming through. There seems to be reluctance to come to the UK. I think Brexit has had an impact… but luckily our winter business for young students has come back with a bang.”
The importance of expanding the youth mobility program to include EU countries is important because previously schools could recruit staff from the EU, UK English says. Many now fear they will be understaffed in 2023, especially for summer programs, stakeholders have warned.
Asked how providers can rebuild the supply of staff and teachers and where they will come from, Sam Bufton, sales and marketing director of Bell English, said simply: “Well, exactly. Excellent point.”
While the provider has been “lucky” to retain key staff for its youth education programme, recruitment “especially for courses for young students, activity leaders, people who help with airport co-ordinators” is really tough, he told The PIE.
“[They] formerly from Europe. This is one of those dividends of Brexit that we all enjoy. The fact that we can’t hire hard-working, dedicated people like we used to.”
International House is one of the providers looking to make progress with the IH Portal, which was launched in April to offer lifelong learning opportunities for ELT teachers to support educators.
In the UK, CES has managed to fill most schools and keep teachers and administrative teams busy.
“Frankly, I expect a strong year for the UK in 2024”
“We see ourselves being much stronger in 2023,” Quinn added. “And frankly, I expect a strong year for the UK in 2024. I think things will change. Great Britain will return to the market. I was in Italy last week, huge interest in UK, summer, end of year, much more inquiries than this time last year. So very confident for the UK.”
However, the fact that European students can no longer supplement their ELT programs with paid work experience not only “makes life more difficult” but is “another barrier for students coming to the UK”, he acknowledged.
“One of the problems is that traditionally an Italian or Spanish or French or German student could come to the UK, do a language programme, work in Pret and creche or get a job in Costa and extend their stay. And that’s all gone,” he said.
“They will look at Ireland [where] they can work,” Quinn said, where the adult school is “more or less” full. Ireland is facing its own difficulties in its accommodation crisis.
Stakeholders are also concerned about the lack of accommodation in the UK, particularly among host families, which is limiting the recovery of the sector.
However, recent UK UK figures showed that in Q4 2022 the number of student weeks increased by 44% compared to the same period the previous year. UK stakeholders are optimistic about the year ahead.
There are “no objections” to many of the recommendations English UK makes to the government [from authorities] but it has to be dealt with,” Gray concluded.
“[But] Home Secretary Suella Braverman’s focus is elsewhere,” she added, pointing to the “small boats” favored by Prime Minister Rishi Sunak. Czech UK is starting to refocus its lobbying efforts on the Labor Party, which according to polls is likely to win the next general election due to be held by December 2024.