Understanding the industry


The English language sector – the global context

Over 1,557,000 people travelled to an English speaking country to learn English in 2013 – globally the industry is worth over US$11.7 billion.  The top two destinations for international students wishing to learn English are the UK and the USA, followed by Canada and then Australia.  Australia has grown its market share as a destination for international students wanting to improve their English language skills and overtook Canada for the first time in 2013 to take 3rd place in terms of the number of student weeks delivered.  In 2013, Study Travel Magazine estimated Australia’s global market share at 9.5% of English language students and 16.5% of the number of weeks spent studying English.

Click here for the English Australia Global Language Travel Fact Sheet – a summary of the profile of the global language travel industry.




The English language sector – in Australia

Fact Sheet

A total of 163,542 international students commenced English language programs in Australia in 2014, surpassing the previous peak year of 2008 to record a new high in the number of ELICOS students.

Numbers of English language students in Australia doubled in the five years between 2003 and 2008, then declined by 23% over the four year period 2009 to 2012.   2013 saw a strong return to growth with +19% and 2014 building on this with further growth of +11%.  66% of these held student visas, 19% visitor visas and 15% working holiday and other visas. 

The most recent Department of Education & Training data (May 2014) showed that approximately 63% of student visa holders completing English language courses in 2012 continued through to further study in other sectors. Applying this figure to the latest ELICOS data would mean that in 2014 approximately 67,795 (41%) English language students transitioned into further studies and approximately 95,748 (59%) undertook English language study for other reasons.  

The Australian English language industry is respected globally as a world leader due to its cohesiveness and professionalism.  Public and private sector institutions work together closely within the national association and Australia’s ELICOS National Standards are the envy of the world, providing consistent standards for all providers.

Click here for the English Australia ELICOS Industry Statistics 2014 Fact Sheet – a summary of the profile of the Australian English language industry.

Click here for further FAQs regarding the industry.



There are several sources of statistics relating to international students studying in Australia.


English Australia

Executive SummaryThe best source of statistics for the English language sector is the annual Report produced by English Australia with funding support from the Australian government.  Since 1996, English Australia has undertaken an annual survey of all Australian providers registered to deliver English language programs. The resulting Report includes all students regardless of their visa type (the 2014 survey indicated that 34% of English language students held visitor, working holiday or other visas and are therefore not captured by either the DIBP or Department of Education & Training statistics).

Click here to view the Executive Summary of the 2014 report which is made available to all interested stakeholders at no charge. 

The full 150 page Report, with detailed tables and charts, is made available free of charge to all colleges that participate in the survey and to government departments. Copies of the full Report are also available to other interested parties for a fee.  The data is also available in Pivot Table form for an additional fee.

Contact easec@englishaustralia.com.au for further information.


Department of Immigration & Border Protection (DIBP)

The Department of Immigration and Border Protection (DIBP) produces quarterly reports on statistics related to student visa applications and grants.  Statistical data is available on all student visas granted in Australia (onshore) and overseas (offshore). These statistics are available by education sector and country of citizenship.  The statistics for the education sector 'Independent ELICOS' indicate how many students gain visas for stand-alone English language courses, however do not include the large number of students who package an English language course with a further study course under another education sector subclass. The DIBP statistics only relate to student visas and therefore severely underestimate the number of students in the English language sector.

Click here to access DIBP statistics.


Department of Education and Training (DET)

The Australian Government Department of Education and Training (DET) produces excellent monthly statistics reflecting the numbers of student commencements and enrolments in courses by sector.  The DET statistics also only relate to students holding student visas and therefore severely underestimate the number of students in the English language sector.

Click here to access DET statistics.

What do our Students think?

2013 ELT Barometer

ELT Barometer Report 2013English Australia has now conducted three major national surveys of student satisfaction across the ELICOS sector - one in 2009, one in 2011 and the most recent in 2013.

The results of the 2013 English Language Barometer (ELB), an ELICOS sector-wide student satisfaction survey coordinated by English Australia, supported by the Australian Government Department of Education and Training and run by i-graduate are made available to a broad audience in the report "Using student feedback to inspire innovation".

This report compares the 2013 outcomes with those from the 2009 and 2011 surveys. For the first time, the 2013 ELB findings are also compared to a Global ELB Benchmark.  Survey results from an additional 6,166 students from 73 colleges from New Zealand, the USA and Canada were added to the 2013 Australia survey results to provide the Global ELB Benchmark.  

The feedback from respondents to the 2013 ELB was very positive, with the overall aggregated satisfaction sitting at a very high level and showing improvements on 2011 results. 

The most impressive highlight of the 2013 overall satisfaction results is in the area of support.  In the first survey undertaken in 2009, this area demonstrated the lowest results, with the average satisfaction level at only 76%.

Individual institutions and the sector chose this as an area of focus and over the next four years a range of initiatives were pursued, including individual institutional level projects that were shared at forums like the annual English Australia Conference as well as the development of the English Australia Best Practice Guide in Providing Student Support Services.  The 2011 survey saw satisfaction levels increase from 76% to 83% and the 2013 survey results show a further increase to a high of 92%.  This provides a pleasing contrast with the Global ELB result for support of 88% and demonstrates the value of the collaborative work done by Australian ELICOS instituions and led by English Australia.

The report will again be shared across the sector to encourage continuous improvement and enhance student satisfaction. English Australia, in conjunction with the sector, will continue to build on and share this work into the future, in our efforts to strive for the highest level of satisfaction for our students.

The report is structured in two parts: Part 1 is a summary of the ELB findings; Part 2 aims to provide a complementary resource for ELICOS providers to assist with self-reflection and identification of good practice in key areas of importance to students.

Click here to download the 2013 report.


2011 ELT Barometer

ELT Barometer ReportThe results of the 2011 English Language Barometer (ELB) were made available to a broad audience in the report"Maximising the ELICOS student experience". This report compares the 2011 outcomes with those from the 2009 survey as well as the survey results for universities in 2011.

What was particularly pleasing were the high levels of student satisfaction with all aspects of learning, teaching and assessment, as well as with their welcome, social and cultural events. The industry was not complacent, however, and with this publication English Australia sought to identify areas of priority for the industry and provide best practice approaches to addressing issues, thus allowing for continuous service delivery enhancement across the industry.  The report was shared across the sector to encourage continuous improvement and enhance student satisfaction. 

The report is structured in three parts: Part 1 is a summary of the ELB findings; Part 2 aims to consider the key themes emerging from the ELB and describes ways that providers might address these targeted areas; Part 3 provides a set of practical templates, tools and information to encourage continuous improvement and enhance student satisfaction.

Click here to download the 2011 report.