English language institutions based in Ireland saw a 10 percent rise in international student numbers in 2015, according to Marketing English in Ireland’s (MEI) annual survey.

Figures show there were 107,000 English language students studying in the region last year, with each participant generally remaining in the country for a period of six weeks. Experts suspect growth was largely driven by applications from adult students (18+), which increased 19 percent on figures from 2014, as well as the introduction of promotional campaigns predominantly targeting students based in Asia.

Data shows lengths of stay are also on the rise, with periods of study growing to 655,757 weeks, 38 percent up on figures from the previous year. The growth is mostly due to a 46 percent increase in teaching weeks among mature ELT applicants.

With a total population of 12,004 students venturing overseas to study English in the region, Italy sent the highest volume of adult students to Ireland in 2015. Brazil boasted the second-highest number of students at 10,293, but Brazilian-born students actually amounted to 38 percent of the total international student stays with 212,240 weeks.

The third-largest source country was South Korea, sending 2,506 students to study in Ireland, but with a total 45,230 weeks, South Korea earned second place in terms of length of stay.

European countries remained the strongest source of younger students (under 18); Italy once again claimed top spot with 11,966 students staying a total 24,679 weeks, and Spain coming in second with 7,531 students remaining in the region for 22,070 weeks.

David O’Grady, CEO of MEI, told The PIE News he was pleased with the results, but highlighted the instability of Ireland’s most successful markets.

“We always remain nervous because Italy is not in a strong economic position. A lot of those numbers were PON students and the whole PON thing is up in the air. Nobody seems to know if it’s going to happen again,” he said.

He claims the Brazilian market is becoming increasingly precarious, adding, “the economy is going through a very difficult phase and we can’t expect them to keep the Science Without Borders programme going on.”

O’Grady states the 32 percent rise in students from South Korea is a result of marketing drives predominantly targeting students based in Asia. The increase also suggests Ireland was cashing in on the UK’s faltering ELT sector throughout 2015, as well as the comparable weakness of the euro against the pound.

“We are benefitting from the UK fall,” O’Grady told The PIE News.  “Our members who have operations in the UK as well would say that for 2015 they were down 30% when they were up in summer business in Ireland. It’s hard to quantify but the benefit is there.”

MEI’s estimates show that fees from the ELT sector- including costs for tuition, accommodation and travel – contributed €278.3m to the Irish economy in 2015.

ELT students also supported the employment of 900 full-time teachers and 600 full-time administrative staff across the nation’s 60 registered MEI schools.

Although Turkey is not among the top source markets, the region still boasts a large population of students in Ireland’s ELT sector due to a streamlined visa process that began in 2011. Due to its success, MEI extended the fast-tracked programme to the Chinese market last year, and the company is currently awaiting approval from the Ministry of Justice which will allow them to include Colombian students in the new and improved regime.

“Market research shows there’s a big middle class population in Colombia who are sending their children and students abroad and we’re getting a tiny amount of that,” he said.

Additional reporting by The PIE News.

Image via Pexels.

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