The 25th annual conference attracted 2,833 participants from 1,733 organisations in 104 countries for three days of seminars, business meetings and networking events.
Changes in key market destinations was a talking point for many attendees, while the 2019 ICEF Agent Barometer confirmed that the popularity of Canada is showing little sign of abating any time soon.
“Everyone is seeing Europe as a favoured destination right now”
The US – which was previously the most popular study destination for Brazilian students – has lost market share to Canada, Maura Leão president of Belta in Brazil and CEO of Yázigi Travel Intercâmbios noted.
“I think everybody lost [has] market to Canada,” she added.
“They started to really promote themselves, there are lots of options in Canada, and I think there is government policy on developing education in Canada… They are very open.”
Ireland is another beloved country by Brazilians, Leão continued.
According to the latest Marketing English in Ireland data, more than 15,000 Brazilian students registered to study English at MEI schools in the country during 2018.
“[Ireland] has a policy presently where students can work after a certain number of weeks after they study. We are working to have…Brazilians going to Ireland and have good schools receive Brazilians,” Leão said.
Also launched at the conference was the latest ICEF Agent Barometer, which received 2,065 responses from agencies in 119 countries – the largest number of responding qualified agents ever in a record number of countries.
It revealed that Canada is the country that will see the biggest share of interest from prospective students, according to 66% of respondents.
Germany is also seeing a rise in interest according to 54% of agents, while 47% said the same for Ireland.
It pointed out that the UK should also expect an increase in demand, with 46% of agents noting interest is growing, largely thanks to the planned reinstatement of post-study work.
Head of external affairs at The Oval Office for Studies and Research, Meriam Bader, noted that Europe is becoming an increasingly attractive destination for students in Jordan and Egypt – where her agency is based.
“For Europe, we expect that it will increase… regarding learning new languages such as German and Spanish,” she said.
“Right now those countries open the doors for international students at their public universities. Everyone is seeing Europe as a favoured destination right now.”
The UK, along with Canada, Australia and Germany, all offer generous post-study work rights for students – and are all in-demand destinations for her students, Bader added.
“Barriers around study visas became more pressing in 2019”
Unlike various markets concerned with visa approvals, the UAE is considered a low-risk country meaning students are likely to have visas approved, as long as documents are in order, according to Arwa Tayem Due-Gundersen of Yes Atlas.
“We have basically 100% visa approval rate,” she said.
“We are expecting new demand in the UAE especially for China as now in Abu Dhabi alone there are 60 schools that are obligated to teach Chinese language.”
However, the UAE may be an anomaly, with the Agent Barometer noting that “barriers around study visas became more pressing in 2019 than in any other year going back to 2010”.
Canada, along with the US, are the destinations that are perceived as most problematic for study visa issues, the Barometer explained, while Australia, the UK, and New Zealand as relatively less difficult.
In Canada, Saskatchewan created a joint program for students from Mauritius, Zaheera Peerbocus director of Consultancy Point shared.
“[Students] could study two years in Mauritius and then get transferred to the University of Regina or Saskatoon. Many students got enrolled in that program for two years and then when they did their visa to transfer to the two years program, they were all declined,” she said.
“There is no warranty that they can have a visa after their two-year program,” she indicated, adding that government connections should be involved to ensure students will be transferred without any issues.
“Education has to mirror the customer, the student, and the changes that are happening”
“Two years spending so much money on a program, spending more than $15,000 per year and then you don’t get a visa – it’s just a loss for the student.”
Mauricio Espinosa, president of Mexican agency association AMTE, also made a case for agencies to innovate to remain relevant to the sector and its customer base.
“If we are to be innovative, we have to look like [students], talk like them, but of course we have to be professional. Education doesn’t really need to mirror the old way that we think education has to be promoted.
“Education has to mirror the customer, the student, and the changes that are happening,” he said.
“Our industry is not prepared for changes, not prepared for numbers, and not prepared for innovation. I would say that we need to make these changes.”
See a photo gallery from ICEF Berlin 2019 here