More Germans travelled abroad for language studies in 2018

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • German outbound market for language travel up 12.7% in 2018
  • Numbers going to UK for English-language studies drop, but not by as much as expected
  • The Brexit process may interrupt that flow and divert students to Malta, Ireland, and other EU destinations

The number of German students who went abroad for language study increased by 12.7% in 2018 according to conducted by the German Association of Language Travel Organizers (FDSV) in cooperation with the Heilbronn University of Applied Sciences. The analysis was informed by a survey among 23 FDSV members.

Roughly 160,000 German language students went abroad in 2018, and of those, nearly half (45%) went to the UK (compared to 48% in 2017). Looking at different segments of the German outbound market for language travel, one fifth of all seniors and two-thirds of juniors went to the UK.

The next-most popular destinations were Malta (17%, up from 14.5% the previous year), then Spain and France at 9% and 7%, respectively (both stable compared to 2018).

Some industry experts were surprised the UK was able to attract so many students in 2018 given the uncertainty around Brexit. FDSV Managing Director Julia Richter said that she was “astonished” that the UK continued to hold its share of the German market last year. She adds, “We attribute this to the fact that some students wanted to travel to the UK before Brexit.”

The UK’s popularity could wane, however, depending on Brexit arrangements, and FDSV reports some early indication of a dip in bookings in the first months of this year as exit negotiations continue to drag on. The association also sees strong potential for Malta and Ireland to command more market share going forward as may residential language study camps in Germany. The latter are growing in popularity and could have a greater impact on outbound numbers in the future.

Demand for English study remains strong

More than three-quarters (77%) of Germans who studied a language abroad went to learn or improve their English, up very slightly from 76% the year before. English-language studies dominated the junior market in particular, with 91% of this age group choosing to study English. Demand for Spanish (11%) and French (7%) also held stable and across both junior and senior markets and demand is expected to remain strong for these languages.

Number of weeks holds steady

The average length of a language study course was just over two weeks, which is comparable to the average duration in 2017. The average cost of programmes was down by 12%, however: €1,326 versus €1,512 in 2017. This is likely due to the weak pound sterling in the UK relative to the Euro given that a strong majority of German language students are in the UK.

Juniors and seniors

Junior travel bookings remain the main driver of the German outbound market, with students between the ages of 14–17 accounting for 41% of the market (down from 49% in 2017) and 6–13-year-olds making up another 12.5% (up two percentage points over 2017). Those aged 18–30 composed 20% of Germans going abroad for language studies (up from 18% in 2017), while those aged 31–49 increased by four percentage points to 17%. Germans aged 50+ made up 10% of the market, increasing slightly by nearly a percentage point over 2017 and continuing a record of strong growth since 2016.

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