Visa issues are impacting on agency business, with two-thirds of agencies reporting an impact on business over the last 12 months from recent policy changes. Nevertheless, according to the 737 education agents surveyed as part of the i-graduate ICEF Agent Barometer 2011, the outlook for outbound international study is promising: 80% of respondents believe business to the USA will grow in the next 12 months, with almost as many saying the same of the UK and Canada.
Will Archer, CEO of i-graduate, which delivered the survey
Education insight experts, i-graduate, and event organiser and partnership company, ICEF, surveyed agencies from 102 countries about their work in placing students abroad between September and October 2011. The results show a sector that has, on the whole, seen improved performance, but also faced challenges through the changes to visa rules in some countries. In fact, 71% of respondents said their clients obtaining a study visa had been their biggest concern during the reporting period.
The UK dominated the stats in terms of the most problematic country when it came to study visas and work visas, with 52% and 59% of agencies reporting problems with each visa category, respectively. However, despite Canada’s growing appeal – particularly in the high school sector – it was also among the top three countries mentioned in regard to visa difficulties.
This year, Canada became the third most cited destination for agents placing undergraduate students, after the UK and US, growing its market share by 7%. It was also a popular choice for placing secondary and high school students after the US and UK – up from 48% last year to 63%, the largest increase of any destination in any sector.
Meanwhile, when placing students on language courses, which made up the bulk of all agency business, Canada remained in third position; again, the UK and US lead the pack in terms of students’ preferences.
Emerging markets for education in general include the Netherlands and China, as both of these study destinations scored highly as regards expectations for business next year.
The top five destinations topping the “most attractive” list remained the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand
In fact, the education agencies polled were overwhelmingly optimistic, with at least half of all agencies expecting business to grow to every country listed! But the top five destinations, topping the “most attractive” list, remained the classic staples of the UK, USA, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.
Will Archer, CEO of i-graduate, said: “Having tracked [agents'] perceptions and predictions with ICEF since 2006, we know they are resilient optimists, but we’ve never seen so much optimism as this year looking ahead to 2012.”
The Agent Barometer survey also throws some interesting light on the education agencies themselves that took part: 45% of the 676 respondents who answered the question indicated that there were between 1 and 5 agent advisory staff in their office. And 46% of a base of 733 companies had between 2 and 5 offices while 41 per cent of the same sample size indicated they were the only office within their company: an indication that the agency industry remains relatively fragmented.