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ApplyBoard records application boom and maps future sector trends

Artificial intelligence recruitment platform ApplyBoard has recorded a boom in application volumes while projecting the direction of the international education sector over the next decade in its first trends report.

The population of Nigerians aged 18 to 23 is expected to increase by nearly 8.1 million over the next 10 years, pushing the country's young adult population to over 30 million, the report noted. Photo: pexels

Africa is set to continue as a source of post-secondary student populations "well into the 21st century"

Between March and October of this year, applications to UK institutions rose by more than 300% and Canadian applications grew by over 200%, the paper noted. Additionally, US applications spiked by 750% compared to the same period in 2020.

“Over the course of 2021, ApplyBoard has seen more students searching for study abroad programs than ever before, and program deferrals have fallen significantly,” the document indicated.

“It’s clear that international students are eager to travel and study, and we’ve observed a healthy spike in new students enrolled for Fall 2021 and Winter 2022 across destination markets.”

It also found that visa approval rates had rebounded compared to 2020, with Canadian rates rising by 15 percentage points in the first half of 2021.

“The rise in applications is more than students applying to multiple schools”

“The rise in applications is more than students applying to multiple schools. We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of students applying through our platform as well [along with applications via recruitment partners],” ApplyBoard said.

Asked whether institutions are prepared to handle the big rises in applications or whether applications will translate into enrolments, ApplyBoard claimed that “for many schools, the constraint will be seats rather than students”.

“At the end of the day at ApplyBoard, we remain committed to quality over quantity. We are here to help students through their journey, but also in ensuring students are applying for the right programs that suit their education and career goals which in turn means our school partners are receiving the best quality applications possible.

“Speed and volume are not mutually exclusive from quality at all, but quality must always remain the priority.”

Looking ahead to 2030, China is expected to transition from a top source market to a destination market of its own, with the government working to develop the country’s post-secondary education systems and institutions, while India is still projected to become the world’s largest middle class consumer market by 2030.

“The pandemic has shown the importance of institutions diversifying their recruitment base to protect themselves against the unpredictability of international relations and domestic policies. While India and China will remain major players in international education, it’s critical for the industry to keep an eye on emerging markets,” ApplyBoard said.

Emerging markets touted to be projected for high growth according to ApplyBoard internal modelling and industry data include Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Egypt, and Indonesia.

“As we look ahead at the next 10 years, there are a few source markets which have potential to reshape student recruitment for institutions in Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia,” the report suggested.

“Expanding recruitment and diversification efforts to these markets will not only help institutions grow and thrive, it will also help insulate them against the volatility of international relations and domestic political conditions.”

Africa is set to continue as a source of post-secondary student populations “well into the 21st century”, the paper noted.

Other countries on the continent which are expected to witness growth in their young adult populations over the next 30 years are Mozambique, Uganda, Angola, Côte d’Ivoire, Niger, and Sudan. While these nations have larger Francophone populations, English-language institutions that “establish strong recruitment teams and relationships in Africa over the next 10 years” could prosper, it found.

Latin America – despite having larger pandemic-related economic recessions – remains a potential high-growth market over the next 30 years, specifically Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia.

Another market where the student market could boom “well before 2050” is Kazakhstan, the recruitment platform noted, with a significant economic expansion pre-pandemic and the government setting the “ambitious goal of enabling at least 20% of students from Kazakhstan to study abroad”.

However, ApplyBoard also suggested that traditional study destinations in North America, Australia and the UK will face “growing competition” from China and Russia, both of which have “enacted strong international student recruitment plans over the past five years”.

Smaller destination markets, increasingly establishing themselves as regional international student hubs, could become more reliant on international students as domestic populations decline, the document suggested. Destinations such as Ireland, Spain, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Malaysia also position themselves as lower-cost destinations than the UK or the US.

ApplyBoard also suggested that cost of living and tuition fees are increasingly a concern for prospective students, with more than half of all students on the platform in the first 10 months of 2021 opting to view only programs with tuition fees of $30,000 or less per year, which was lower than when compared with pre-pandemic.

“This clear trend shows that many international students are unwilling or unable to afford high tuition fees,” it said.

The paper also mapped the expected direction of the student recruitment sector, with agents – such as those ApplyBoard partners with – set to play an increasing role.

As the industry “continues to expand”, the trend of a growing number of active agents is poised to continue, it suggested.

In a “new age” of student recruitment professionalisation, it will be essential to ensure education agents have the skills and training they need to assist students, the document contended.

“It will be essential to ensure education recruitment partners have the skills and training they need to assist students”

Within six months of launching its the ApplyBoard Counsellor Course, which the company invested more than C$2,000,000 in, more than 2,000 individuals had completed one or more of the four Counsellor Courses, focusing on Canada, the US, the UK, and Australia.

“As the industry recovers from the pandemic and embraces virtual recruitment as part of the new normal, it will be essential to ensure education recruitment partners have the skills and training they need to assist students,” the company added.

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