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Wales Should Attract More International Students to Help Boost Economy

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A Cardiff-based English-language academy is urging the Welsh Government to capitalise on international students, recognising them as educational tourists, when they come for English language programmes.

Celtic English Academy, headquartered in central Cardiff, employs over 50 staff across two centres in the Welsh capital and North Wales and draws in students from across the world in order to learn English and experience life in Wales.

Speaking of the impact of educational tourists, Director Shoko Doherty said:

“Currently, around 90 per cent of Wales’ tourism comes from the British domestic market, demonstrating a huge market for international tourists.

“Those studying English as a foreign language tend to come from overseas directly to Wales, with 550,000 international students coming to the UK every year. For instance, we receive students from as far as Chile, Costa Rica, Qatar or Japan. How many of these individuals might come to Wales otherwise?

“With the uncertainty around Brexit and how Wales will plug the gap previously filled by European funding, it is important the country looks to maximise income streams.

The calls from Celtic English Academy echo a recent national strategy from the Department of Education and the Department for International Trade that has been published which aims to attract 600,000 international students to the UK every year, an annual 50,000 increase, by 2030.

“English language students are keen to experience the culture, sightsee and discover the location they are studying in. Beyond course fees and accommodation, they spend around £800m extra, with a further £155m a year coming from visiting friends and family.

“It is widely said that for every £1 spent on tuition or training fees, a further £2 is injected into the local economy on everything from taxis to cinema tickets and meals out.”

According to English UK, the national association of British Council accredited English language centres in the United Kingdom, during an average month-long stay, each student has a net fiscal contribution of £216 to the UK economy. That represents a gross value added for the UK in 2016/17 of £1.429bn and a turnover of £3.197bn.

Mrs Doherty, who is originally from Japan and came to study in Cardiff, said:

“If we are able to increase the number of students that come to Wales to study, it would hugely benefit our local and national economy.”

Analysis completed by Capital Economics for English UK (the national association representing English language centres) showed that in 2017 the English Language Teaching (ELT) industry supported 37,500 jobs. In Wales alone, 1300 jobs are supported by ELT students. The gross value added to the region by ELT was £52m, of which £12m is the direct effect of students’ spending on their courses. The rest comes from spending on suppliers, by ELT employees, and by the leisure spending of students and their visitors during their stay in the UK.

When asked what the UK and Welsh Governments can do to capitalise on this growing market, Mrs Doherty said:

“It is important that the Governments in Cardiff Bay and Westminster support educational institutions as much as possible, not only financially but also in terms of legislation, such as with study visa rights, to ensure the active role of educational institutions in the positive development of educational tourism. ELT is a maturing market but there is no doubt that there is an increasing competition that the UK is facing from the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, Ireland and Malta.

“Nearly 60% of all ELT students in the UK come from the European Union, and from Italy, Spain, France, and Germany in particular. It is, therefore, particularly important that EU students continue to have suitable access to study in the UK post-Brexit.

“For Wales in this pre and post-Brexit period, we need to continue striving to maintain relationships with our European partners, stressing that Wales is welcoming and a safe, friendly and exciting destination for educational tourists of all ages to discover.”

Celtic English Academy caters for students from over 50 countries, with 70 per cent coming from outside of the European Union.

The year-round centre is based in central Cardiff with its summer centre located in North Wales at the Bangor University campus.