The Wine & Spirit Education Trust (WSET), the largest global provider of wine, spirits and sake qualifications, has reported that a record number of students for 2020-2021 academic year, buoyed by strong growth from the US, despite its operation suspension in China.
According to WSET, a total of 108,584 students took a WSET qualification through the organisation’s global network of course providers. This represents a 12% increase on 2019/20 and exceeds the previous record of 108,529 candidates in the organization’s 50th year (2018/19).
However in China, a major market for the wine and spirits course provider, WSET still hasn’t been allowed to resume its operation yet eights months into its suspension.
In January as we reported, WSET was forced to suspend its operation because of its overseas NGO status. As a result, China slid further and ranked No. 4 biggest market for WSET, down from last academic year’s No. 3 position.
The Asia Pacific region still performed well, growing +4% versus last year and representing 31% of WSET’s total business. Australia, Hong Kong SAR (China), Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan (China) – all top 10 WSET markets – showed good growth.
Overall, against a backdrop of the continuing global pandemic, candidate numbers grew for all wine qualifications compared to the previous year.
WSET’s spirits courses reached a new high, with more than 9,000 students taking a spirits course for the first time. During this period 15% of candidates took courses through WSET’s Online Classroom and 17% of all candidates took their exam by remote invigilation.
The US still remains as WSET’s biggest market, registering over 20,000 candidates and showing 23% growth compared to the previous academic year.
The Europe, the Middle East and Africa region also showed strong growth with a 17% increase in students, representing 43% of global registrations. France became a top three market for the first time with candidate registrations up 102% over the previous year to 11,800. In addition, 9% of all exams globally were taken in the French language. WSET School London, WSET’s flagship school, also performed strongly over this period, chalking up a 42% growth in candidates compared to the previous year.
WSET course availability continued to grow in 2020/21, with 48 new course providers offering WSET courses for the first time, including one new market – Luxembourg.
WSET also registered three new Diploma centres – two in the USA (The Texas Wine School in Houston and The Wine & Spirit Archive in Portland, Oregon) and one in France (WiSP in Paris). There are now 37 course providers in 21 countries offering WSET’s prestigious Level 4 Diploma in Wines.
WSET Chief Executive Ian Harris says, “I am humbled that, thanks to the dedication and support of our global network of course providers, more people than ever before in a single year have been able to take a WSET qualification. I am also extremely proud that we have been able to support over 3000 students, primarily from the beleaguered hospitality industry across the world, to take a WSET qualification through charitable schemes in association with several of our corporate partners.”
Harris adds, “The ongoing impact of the global pandemic, combined with other external factors, has provided many challenges and highlighted areas of our business we need to focus on in the coming months to ensure we offer best in class customer service to our course providers and students worldwide.
We could not have achieved these results without the tremendous efforts of all our WSET family – our employees, our course providers, our educators and our students – and I want to extend my heartfelt thanks to them all.”