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WES urges US institutions to focus recruitment on emerging markets

US institutions hoping to increase their international student recruitment should look to Brazil, Vietnam, Indonesia and Nigeria as the top four emerging markets to watch over the next three years.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil is one of the four emerging markets identified in the WES study. Photo: Flickr/José Fernandez Jr.Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Brazil is one of the four emerging markets identified in the WES study. Photo: Flickr/José Fernandez Jr.

With 15,579 students in the US in 2013/14, Vietnam is the US's eighth largest source market

This is the finding of a study by World Education Services, which urges US institutions to look beyond the major markets of China, India and South Korea for international recruitment.

“One of the key motivations for this study was to help institutions derisk the dependency on few markets like China”

The study combined quantative and qualitative survey data to identify markets expected to see strong growth in students headed in the US in the coming years.

“One of the key motivations for this study was to help institutions derisk the dependency on few markets like China,” Rahul Choudaha, chief knowledge officer at WES, told The PIE News. “This overdependency is not only risky for maintaining enrolment projections but also deterimental to student experiences and institutional reputation.”

It builds on a 2012 WES report on emerging markets, delving into contextual changes like economic and educational development which impact demand for education abroad to look at how institutions should approach recruitment in these countries.

All four countries saw a substantial increase in the number of students they sent to the US between 2009/10 and 2013/14, the report shows, according to IIE Open Doors figures.

For Brazil, the increase was as high as 51%, while Vietnam, Nigeria and Indonesia saw respective increases of 26%, 21% and 14%.

Of the 13,285 Brazilian students enrolled in the US in 2014, most were tertiary students, with 38.3% at undergraduate and 23.5% at graduate level.

The increase in demand from Brazil is driven by the the success of the Scientific Mobility Program, according to the report. Just over a fifth of Brazilian students in the US study STEM subjects.

Daniel Obst, deputy vice president, international partnerships at the Institute of International Education, which helps to manage the programme, confirmed he has seen growing interest among US institutions to work with Brazil through the government-backed programme.

He added that this has had a knock-on effect to “trigger significant interest” among US insitutions in forging further research and exchange parnerships with Brazilian counterparts.

Along with Brazil, Vietnam was also identified as an emerging market by WES in 2012.

With 15,579 students in the US in 2013/14, Vietnam is the country’s eighth largest source market.

It has seen significant growth in outbound numbers over the last 13 years and “looks set to continue as a strong growth market” thanks to an expanding economy, the report states.

The report notes rapid growth in student numbers coming from these four emerging markets.

The report notes rapid growth in student numbers coming from these four emerging markets.

This will also enable a growing middle class to send their children abroad at a younger age, it predicts.

Meanwhile, an increasing pool of Vietnamese secondary-school graduates in the US “represents an emerging and significant recruitment channel for HEIs”.

Despite the economic growth, students from Vietnam “often lack financial resources” despite being academically well-prepared, the report states.

More than half of tertiary-level students are enrolled at community colleges, which are cheaper than universities.

It does advise that: “Institutions that wish to enrol more Vietnamese undergraduate students should consider promoting scholarship and financial aid opportunities.”

Nigeria and Indonesia, both with around 7,900 students in 2013/14, are smaller markets, but booming economies present significant opportunities for recruitment, according to the report.

In Indonesia – “one of the world’s most significant emerging economies” – enrolments are bouncing back after nearly a decade of decline to 2010/11.

Two thirds are at undergraduate level and STEM subjects are the most popular areas of study, taken by a third of Indonesian students.

“If institutions are serious about expanding into emerging markets and recruiting students from there, they need to invest in scholarships”

An effective social media strategy is “key” for institutions keen to recruit from this country, the report says, with Facebook users expected to reach almost 100 million by 2018.

STEM subjects were also popular in Nigeria, accounting for over half of all incoming students.

Almost half of enrolments are for undergraduate programmes, and connecting with international schools can be a fruitful recruitment channel in Nigeria, the report notes.

Alumni engagement and scholarships can also help to boost intake from Nigeria, it states.

Obst at IIE agreed that: “If institutions are serious about expanding into emerging markets and recruiting students from there, they need to invest both in sustainable academic partnerships but also in scholarships for students.”

EducationUSA, a branch of the US State Department, is also actively supporting US institutions in emerging markets.

“We offer a comprehensive mix of virtual and in-person opportunities for the US higher education community to engage with EducationUSA advisers, as well as directly with millions of prospective international students,” Jarred Butto, acting chief of EducationUSA, told The PIE News.

Last year EducationUSA ran 30 study fairs worldwide. Its Southeast Asia fair connected US institutions with thousands of prospective students from across the region, including Indonesia and Vietnam.

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