Ireland: English language sector worth €1.2 billion

Published 06/06/2023

Ireland’s English language education sector is worth close to €1.2 billion to the country’s economy annually, according to new data.

A report from Marketing English in Ireland has found that the economic impact of the sector, based on direct fee income from students in addition to their total gross expenditures and associated impacts, is worth at least €1.183bn. In 2020, the Indecon International Education Strategy Review estimated the total ELE value to be €1.02bn.

The ELE Student Statistics Report also identified opportunities and challenges the sector faces as it recovers from the downturn during the pandemic.

It said that the sector “came to a standstill” for two years of Covid-19 but the country saw a 295% increase in student numbers between 2021 and 2022. In 2022, taught student weeks “eclipsed” the total number in 2019, the association – representing some 70 schools in the country – noted.

Photo: MEI

Adult numbers reached 52,596 in 2022, slightly down from the 53,331 total in 2019. Junior numbers reached 80% of 2019 last year, with MEI members hosting 51,668 junior students, 97.8% of whom come from within the EU.

Some 44.4% of adult learners came from the EU, with the remaining 55.6% coming from outside the EU.

European countries have already shown a “strong recovery”, the organisation highlighted, noting Mexico, Argentina, Chile, Mongolia and Turkey as key future growth markets. March to September makes up some 70% of annual revenue, the report detailed.

Brazil remains an “important market”, representing some 12,000 students in 2022.

“The ELE sector in Ireland has demonstrated its resilience over the last few years and there are many opportunities for further success,” the organisation said.

“There are many opportunities for further success”

Ireland’s international reputation, EU students opting for Ireland over the UK as a result of Brexit and its role as a hub for multinational companies are all key to attracting further ELE students, it added.

Accommodation shortages, escalating operational costs and a lack of qualified ELE professionals “threatens the capacity for sector growth”.

The association said that while administrative and support staff numbers had returned to 2019 levels, teaching staff numbers have seen a “clear drop”.

Numbers of host families have also “fallen considerably” from the 10,000 peak in the summer months of 2019. Numbers for host families at peak months were estimated to be around 5,500 for 2022.

MEI added that “stringent” visa regulations can pose an additional challenge, and urged the government to simplify the application process. Making processing times more efficient can also help to attract more students from emerging markets, it contended.

“The ELE sector in Ireland requires government policies that ensure Ireland can compete with other leading English-speaking countries,” the association said.

In 2019, MEI English language student numbers reached almost 122,000. The report noted that numbers in 2022 had recovered by 88%.

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