Market Analysis
Business is booming in Irish language schools, although there are early warnings from the Brazil market, as Bethan Norris reports.

With strong growth in Ireland's English language sector continuing in 2016, language schools in the country are in a good position to capitalise on the recent boom in student numbers by consolidating traditional student markets as well as increasing newer ones.


Amanda Kelly from English Language Ireland says that student numbers have increased by 10 per cent in the last year due to the school spreading its reach into new student markets. "Our largest nationality markets would be Spanish," she says, "however, we have also enrolled more Chinese this year based on our introduction to that market. Brazil is our growing market due to new agents being sourced, the school location and ease of access to Dublin, plus more affordable price of the living costs here [Carlow] compared with Dublin."



Our most recent school survey of Irish language schools reveals that Brazil was the top student market for Ireland in 2016 and student numbers increased by 62 per cent since 2013 in our surveys. However, Peter Hutchinson from ISI Dublin warns that "the dynamics for this market are changing, particularly for Ireland". He explains that while Brazilians continue to be the largest nationality at their school, "The Irish government changed the visa policy which reduced the holiday and working entitlement period from six months to eight weeks, which had an impact on the volume of students travelling on work and study programmes. Along with currency fluctuations, this badly affected some providers."


Supporting this anecdotal evidence, our own survey reveals a slight decline of 17 per cent in Brazilian student numbers in Ireland between 2015 and 2016. However, Peter reports that any decline in Brazilian students has been offset by growth in other student markets. "The pilot programme for Turkey has been successful and student numbers are growing steadily," he says. "We're hoping the Irish government will agree to similar programmes in Colombia and other markets that are a significant source for the UK."



At English Language Camp Ireland, Grainne Doherty says that the school focuses on short-stay students from Europe as they have a maximum study length of one month. Italian and Spanish students are their largest students markets and Spain in particular is performing well. "In recent years, the government in Spain has introduced mandatory levels of English for every government job," says Grainne. "So now parents see how important English is for themselves and their children."


In our school survey, Spanish and Italian students were the second and third largest nationalities in Ireland and these markets have grown by 28 per cent and 62 per cent respectively between 2013 and 2016. Riona McGrath from IH Dublin says that increased funding available for Italian public sector workers to undertake study abroad courses is having an effect on numbers from this country. She adds, "Italian regulations now require students to have completed 200-to-300 hours of internship/work experience by the time they finish high school. We are seeing an increased number of Italian students/groups requesting English and Internship programmes as a result."



Peter at ISI says that they have also been targeting Italian students with "a new programme called English for the Workplace which is designed for students who want to learn English and learn about business in order to advance their careers".


Ensuring courses are relevant to students' needs is important in an increasingly competitive environment. New provider Apollo Language Centre, which launched last year in partnership with LAL, has developed courses that focus on giving students language skills for real world situations. "Apollo students will follow a structured programme to enable them to practice their English in situations such as job interviews, meetings, presentations, communicating by email and conducting skype calls," says Aoife Govern, Director.



David O'Grady, CEO of Ireland's ELT association MEI


"Although there is uncertainty swirling everywhere in international trade, I am confident that 2017 figures for international students in Ireland will remain solid, with no discernible decline. There might be a slight decline in 2017 junior figures due to the realignment of the UK sterling."





Key points

24 schools participated

57,580 total number of students at the schools in 2016

345,480 total number of estimated student weeks at these schools in 2016




Participating schools: Active Language Learning,; Asana School of English,; Atlantic Language Galway,; Atlas Language School,; Carlingford English Language School and Adventure Centre,; Castel Education,; Centre of English Studies,; Cork English College,; Delfin English School,; Donegal English Language School,; English Language Camp Ireland,; English Language Ireland,; Everest Language School,; Future Learning,; Galway Cultural Institute,; Irish College of English,; ISI Dublin,; NED Training Centre,; NUI Galway,; Oscars International,; Slaney Language Centre,; Travelling Languages,; Waterford English language Centres,; Your English Language School,


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