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What will shape international education in 2016?

From geopolitical upheaval to marketing innovations, there are a plethora of factors that help to shape the global landscape of international education each year. Last year brought with it a boom in the pathway sector, as well as more industry consolidation; here are some of the trends set to have a big impact on the industry in 2016.

Photo: Pixabay/markusspiske.

2016 will be marked by greater efforts to find innovative ways to put social integration, mental wellness and student welfare at the heart of international student support

1. The price of oil

The global oil industry might seem a far cry from international education, but the economies of several important student source markets depend on oil exports and will undoubtedly be affected by the rock bottom prices carried over from 2015. Russia, Venezuela, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria all rely heavily on the oil industry, meaning low oil rates could have trickle down effects on potential students and their families as well as recent graduates with fewer job prospects to return home to. If oil reliant GDPs continues to suffer, there is also a high risk of currency devaluations. The impact could be even more damaging in Saudi Arabia where government subsidised programmes, like the KASP scheme, are already being pared down.

2. ESL face-lift

A hot topic in 2015 was the UK’s stagnant English language market, attributed to tightened immigration policy, a strong British pound and economic and political concerns in key student markets. In this tough climate, schools are finding themselves facing increased competition for a declining market share. As a result, providers are overhauling their course offerings and coming out with fresh programming.

Agents are among the drivers of change as many report that employment-focused students want an added value to their English language learning. We can expect to see more UK schools revamping their curriculum to stay afloat, which could set a new expectation for English language courses globally.

3. Instant message marketing

Everybody knows that if you haven’t integrated mobile into your digital marketing plan then you’re a step behind your competitors and the students you’re trying to recruit. The huge uptake of instant messaging apps (like WhatsApp, Viber and Tango) could signal the next wave of mobile marketing that gives student recruiters personal, direct contact with potential recruits. Text message communication is more immediate, messages can be more targeted and earlier adopters have found conversation rates are higher than from communication on traditional social media platforms.

4. Refugee crisis

Educators took it upon themselves to find solutions for the students and scholars who were among the millions of refugees seen fleeing war and persecution in 2015. There are few signs that the flow of humans, particularly from the Middle East, will abate in 2016. We can expect to see refugee and migrant support and credit recognition coming up in discussions frequently this year in the HE environment as more educators move to provide scholarships, assistance and language training. Educators should also brace for a hardline political response to the situation in the form of tightening work rights and visa policy in countries across Europe.

5. Elections

The big one obviously will be the US elections in November and while whoever wins won’t affect legislation until 2017, it will be easy to predict how immigration policy, especially for STEM graduates, could be affected based on election results. Other general elections to watch will be in Portugal and Peru and parliamentary elections in Iran.

Last year saw new governments put in place in Nigeria, Burma, and Canada that could create opportunities for foreign educators in the coming year. Nigerian president Muhammadu Buhari has already said he will provide free higher education for STEM students and prioritise improving primary education in rural areas where teachers are scarce. The election of Aung San Suu Kyi in Burma shows the country is slowly re-opening and will be keen to improve its education system in order to boost economic growth.  Meanwhile, Canada could create an easier path to post-study citizenship and residence under newly elected Justin Trudeau’s government.

6. Student services

Student welfare has always been part of the experience international educators provide to their foreign students, but institutions are learning that these students have different needs to their domestic peers. Student services was a big theme in 2015 and will only continue to develop in the coming year on the back of projects like the Wharton-QS Stars Reimagine Education awards shortlisted initiative from Renison University College. The programme introduced cultural integration into class curriculum by pairing Canadian and international students based on mutual interests in order to build a psychological connection and help prevent cultural segregation.

Despite a reported mismatch in student needs and resources to meet them, 2016 will be marked by greater efforts to find innovative ways to put social integration, mental wellness and student welfare at the heart of international student support, enhancing their experience and outcome.

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31 Responses to What will shape international education in 2016?

  1. Middle east crisis would be the real savior for EU education system. New initiatives from INDIA surely show change and China economy downturn would affect student flow negatively.

  2. The greatest challenge for international education is the funding especially those coming from developing countries. We have all it takes to enroll in a standard university around the globe but who is going to sponsor and without scholarship it would be difficult for those to pursue high education.Education is a tool for development ,therefore those in other side of the globe should be considered because of globalization.

  3. Dear Sir, Your blog is very helpful. All the students will get good guidance from this blog so that they can take a good decision to make their dream comes true. I am very happy to read this topic. Thank you so much sir for sharing this information.

  4. Study MBBS in Abroad has never been a priority of any Indian student. But MBBS in India is a very expensive option for the students who get admission in Private Medical University in India, whereas MBBS in Abroad is a great option since the structure of MCI approved universities is with low budget.

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