International students are filling up Dublin, Ireland. Source: Madrugada Verde/Shutterstock.

International students are showing growing interest in Ireland as a destination for English language education, according to recent figures.

New data released by Marketing English in Ireland say the number of international students enrolled in English language schools increased by 8 percent in the 2017-18 academic year when compared to the year before.

In fact, the trend has been on the upward trajectory for the past five years. According to MEI, Ireland’s English Language Training (ELT) sector saw an additional 30,000 students enrolled between 2013 and 2018. In 2017 alone, more than 10,000 students were enrolled, boosting the sector’s total student numbers by 8.5 percent to hit 129,290 from 2016’s 119,119.

“The 8 percent growth in the ELT sector in Ireland in 2017 is extremely welcome because it builds upon strong year-on-year growth in recent years,” MEI CEO David O’Grady said of the recent figures.

MEI is the leading association of English language schools in Ireland and represents some 66 regulated schools and colleges nationwide.

O’Grady adds: “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.”

Where are students coming from?

Analysing the data, MEI uncovered that students who enrolled at Irish English language schools in autumn 2017 came from a total of 118 different countries.

“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,” O’Grady said.

The largest number of students came from the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA) region, making up 74 percent of all enrolments in 2017 on English language courses at MEI schools and colleges. Approximately 96,000 students came from these countries.

dublin, ireland

Thousands of students come to Ireland from all over the world to learn English, Source: Shutterstock.

Nineteen percent or 24,500 students came to Ireland from the countries outside of the EU and EEA which do not require a visa to study in Ireland including Brazil, Japan and South Korea.

The remaining 7 percent – or 8,750 students – came from countries outside of the EU and EEA region where visas are required to study in Ireland. These countries include Russia, Saudi Arabia and China.

There was also a large growth in international students under the age of 17 coming to Ireland to learn English from outside the EU.

O’Grady said MEI was working with the Department of Education as well as other organisations in the hopes that the ELT sector will grow to 132,500 international students by 2020 as a part of the International Education Strategy for Ireland launched in 2016 and set to end in 2020.

“MEI is well ahead of schedule to achieve this,” O’Grady confirmed, stressing individual institutions and organisations will continue the push to showcase Ireland as a fantastic study abroad destination to learn English.

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