Market Analysis: Australia
Market Analysis
Despite new visa changes introduced in July last year, language student enrolment in Australia is increasing, says Bethan Norris.

2016 was a good year for language schools in Australia, with many reporting record growth in student numbers. At Lexis English, which has schools in Brisbane, Byron Bay, Noosa, Perth and the Sunshine Coast, Ian Pratt says, "We've seen very substantial increases for all of our Australian schools over the last two years. After a huge jump in enrolments in 2016, 2017 has continued very strongly. What's most pleasing is this isn't just one or two markets either. Of the 89 countries we recruited from in 2016, we saw growth in 80 of them. I don't remember ever seeing those kind of figures before."



Simon Craft at Inforum in Southport, QLD, says that numbers increased by 60 per cent over the past year, although he attributes some of this to a recent move to stand-alone premises in the middle of Southport. "Traditionally, Japan and Brazil have been our largest markets but over the last 18 months, France and particularly Spain have also been quite strong for us."


Latest full-year statistics from Australia's Department of Education and Training for 2016 support this view and student visa holder enrolments and commencements increased by 10.9 and 10 per cent respectively, while figures specifically for the Elicos sector showed growth of 4.3 per cent in the same year. Ian notes that language students are increasingly demanding more specialised and higher level English language courses, possibly reflecting their future academic intentions within Australia.



"I believe that we are moving into an era of far more specialised language study in Australia," he says. "Courses such as English for Medical Professionals (leading to the OET exam) are not something that we would have even considered attempting a few years back, but are proving very successful for us. Another factor is that we are seeing higher and higher level students studying with us, to the point that we have fewer and fewer [Cambridge] FCE classes, and more and more CPE."


Helen Cox from South Australian College of English (SACE), which has branches in Adelaide and Melbourne, says that their fastest growing sector is in the academic market and that they have seen "strong growth in academic pathway courses to tertiary institutions". She adds, "We have re-introduced the SACE English and Demi Pair Programme due to increased interest. This is probably due to the increase in the number of working holiday visas and increase in the countries Australia has reciprocal agreements with for the Australian Working Holiday visa."



Although international student numbers in Australia are continuing to increase, visa changes introduced last July have caused some problems, according to Helen. "The Australian government introduced the new Simplified Streamlined Visa Processing system so enrolments slowed at the beginning of the year before the introduction of the new system in July," she says. "After July, immigration [officers] appeared not to have the resources to deal with the number of student visa applications to be processed, which created a backlog and slowed visa grants. 2017 numbers to date appear to have stabilised."


Ian at Lexis too has experienced frustrations with visa issuance over the last year. "Refusals are definitely up," he says, "despite the tedious assurances of Australian visa authorities. More annoyingly, we are seeing ridiculous subjectivity applied to visa applications, despite Lexis operating in the lowest risk category. This is a huge annoyance to the school, our agents and our clients."



Overall, however, the future looks positive with new markets opening up. "Latin America is booming for Australia, and we are definitely seeing this at Lexis," says Ian. "As always, there's no single answer as to why this is the case, but rather it's a blend of the relative weakness of the Australian dollar, developments in other study destinations, an increased marketing focus from Lexis and simple growth in the markets."




"Of the top 10 source countries, seven showed growth in 2016, with China showing the largest growth followed by Colombia, Brazil and then Japan. The students from China are primarily studying at the university English language colleges, however, students from Latin America are supporting a cross section of colleges."

Brett Blacker, English Australia




Key facts

15 schools participated

34,381 total number of students at the schools in 2016

446,953 total number of estimated student weeks at these schools in 2016




Thank you to the following schools who participated in our survey: Academy of English, Academies Australasia,; Australian Academy of Commerce,; Browns English Language School,; Byron Bay English Language School,; Edith Cowan College,; ELSIS,; Eynesbury College,; Greenwich College,; ILSC Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne,; International House Sydney,; Langports,; SELC Australia,; Universal English,; University of Newcastle Language Centre,; Viva College,


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