Market Analysis
Across-the-sector enrolment declines in 2016 are continuing into 2017, as Nicola Hancox finds out.

Close to 80 per cent of EnglishUSA members reported decreased enrolments in 2016, according to its annual enrolment survey (see ST Magazine, September 2016, p86). "[In 2015], about 17 per cent of our respondents saw enrolment decreases of between 26 and 50 per cent. For the first part of [2016], 45 per cent of our respondents saw these levels of decreases," notes Executive Director, Cheryl Delk-Le Good.



According to our most recent USA Status survey, Japanese enrolments dipped slightly last year, but the country continued to be the sector's most lucrative source. Stephanie Bon at Brooklyn School of Languages cites Japan's inclusion on the Visa Waiver Program, which entitles citizens from participating countries to travel to the USA as tourists for 90 days on an ESTA, as a contributing factor to this market's consistency. 


Korea and Brazil, two other significant US source markets, thinned out in 2015 (contracting 6.5 and 6.7 points respectively). Economic and political turmoil could be attributable to Brazilian decreases, says Chris Fanikos at Rennert International, while a stronger emphasis on English language training and distance learning at home has led to a decrease in the number of South Koreans applying to study abroad, he says.



India toppled out of the Status top ten this year (with just a 0.6 per cent market share, compared with 4.6 per cent previously), as did three European source markets (France, Germany and Italy). Saudi Arabia, China and Turkey, however, bucked the downward trend and all posted increases. Saudi Arabia, China, Brazil and Turkey were the four top source markets for International Language Institute of Massachusetts in 2016, confirms Caroline Gear.


The USA's changing political climate is thwarting any chance of a market rebound in 2017. The latest EnglishUSA membership survey brings news of further enrolment decreases similar to those experienced in 2016 (see box), with providers expressing concern over anticipated changes to visa policy under the Trump administration.



Sandra Vasquez at Boston School of Modern Languages confirms a 30-to-40 per cent drop in enrolments already. "Students have sent us emails about not feeling welcome in the USA, and/or political environment not optimal to travel to the USA," she says. Fierce competition and heavy discounting for transferring students is also impacting the sector, she adds.


However, others argue it is too early to predict the impact Trump's imposed travel restrictions and revised immigration policies will have on the sector. At the time of writing, new criteria for visa applicants from six mainly Muslim countries had been set. "We've seen no impact from the [initial] travel ban," says Chris. "There was some increased trepidation over travelling to the US immediately following the election, however it appears the market has worked most of those concerns out."



Stephanie agrees, adding that the school sees little enrolment interest from the affected countries of Iran, Libya, Syria, Somalia, Sudan and Yemen. However, the unpredictability caused by the image of the US since Trump's election will be a challenge going forward, she says. "From one month to the other it can be very quiet or very busy and we can't really tell what's in store for the upcoming months. My theory is that the US and New York (where the school is based) in particular has an attraction that goes beyond politics, and students will keep coming regardless."


So far 2017 enrolments are on a par with 2016, confirms Chris, albeit slightly weaker. "We are seeing a decline in enrolment as 2017 progresses," relates Caroline. "There are a number of factors: fear of visa denial, economic realities (e.g. reduced number of scholarships through Saudi Arabian Cultural Mission) and not wanting to come to the US with the current administration."




Cheryl Delk-Le Good, Executive Director of EnglishUSA


"Programs reported continued enrolment decreases similar to the year before with about 75 per cent of respondents showing decreases in enrolments compared with 2016. Uncertainty for fall enrolments were reflected in responses with 40 per cent anticipating decreases but with 20 per cent unable to even predict at this time due to multiple factors such as the unstable US political climate."



Thanks to the following schools who participated in our survey: Boston School of Modern Languages,; CEL (College of English Language),; Colorado Heights University,; English Language and Culture Institute,; English Language Centre,; Global Language Institute,; Global Village Hawaii,; Just.Go - Languages,; Language On,; Manhattan Language,; Maryland English Institute,; Mentora College,; Mercer Education,; National University,; Rennert International,; Selnate International School,; St Cloud State University Intensive English Centre,; The University of Alabama ELI,; Trine University,; UCAELI,; UCLA Extension, American Language Centre,; University of Oklahoma,; University of Maryland, Baltimore County - English Language Institute,; Weber State University,


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