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Australia, Canada ascend in Agent Barometer survey

There are no major upsets in the list of top-ranked study destinations in the 2014 edition of the ICEF i-graduate Agent Barometer, however the latest education agent-based poll reflects Australia’s upturn as a study destination. The country has gained ground on its competitors in the eyes of agents both for attractiveness and vocational (VET) courses.

Will Archer presenting the findings at the annual ICEF Berlin workshop in Germany

"The real battle is understanding the difference of attractiveness among some [source] countries"

And despite 51% of respondents saying they are concerned by or have faced difficulties with Canada’s visa regulations, the USA’s neighbour has tied with the leading destination, the USA, for overall attractiveness.

Speaking with The PIE News, i-graduate CEO Will Archer confirmed that “Australia is steadily increasing year on year” underlining that since 2010, the percentage of agents who have ranked Australia as “very attractive” has increased from 40% to 58%.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 16.54.15Based on more than 1,000 responses, the Barometer shows that agents still rank the US most attractive, with 77% saying it is very attractive and 29% attractive.

Looking at overall attractiveness, this year Canada tied with the leading USA, according to 93.4% of agents.

The UK meanwhile, comes in third, unable to return to its 2009 peak when it topped overall attractiveness (based on 93% of agents compared with 90% for the USA).

“The US is still getting its act together but remains the most attractive destination,” commented Archer who added that NACAC’s affirmative decision on the use of education agents is “surely having an impact”.

The battle between the UK and Canada for overall second place has continued ever since Canada rose to edge past the UK in 2012.

Top destinations vary depending on course of study, and while the UK remains the best destination for language courses – according to 38% of respondents – in the past five years it has lost ground to Canada for vocational and FE placements.

Ranked number one for FE and VET in 2009, the UK has dropped to fourth while Canada, ranked fourth in 2009, has risen to second this year, behind the consistent leader Australia.

The US dominates agents’ preference for undergraduate, post-graduate and MBA programmes

Agents again ranked the UK the best destination for secondary and high school study while the US dominates agents’ preference for undergraduate, post-graduate and MBA programmes.

Archer also underlined that in order to get a complete picture of agent opinion, it’s important to look at market breakdowns.

“The traditional host countries remain the most attractive but the real battle is understanding the difference of attractiveness among some [source] countries.”

In both Asia and Africa, agents ranked the US the top study destination followed by Canada.

In Europe, the UK was the most attractive study destination seconded by the USA, while agents in South America prefer Canada and then Australia.

Screen Shot 2014-11-06 at 17.24.06For the first time, researchers surveyed agents on business complexities and lead sources. Online leads including websites and social media account for just 30% or less of bookings for 60% of agents.

“There hasn’t been that much disruption from online,” said Archer. “But it also shows that there’s still huge potential to increase booking online.

“It references the fact that so much is based on one-to-one contact and that personal relations are still the most important,” he added.

37% of the agencies surveyed placed between 51-200 students per year

Not surprisingly, 90% of surveyed agents said individual institution brochures were the most attractive marketing material provided to them.

Archer presented results from the Barometer which ran for three weeks in October at the ICEF Berlin workshop, held November 2-4 and attended by 2325 agents, educators and service providers from 106 countries.

His data-packed presentation also revealed interesting info on typical company profile: 37% of the agencies surveyed placed between 51-200 students per year and 23% of agents indicated “Yes, sometimes” when asked if they had contracts in place with institutional partners. Meanwhile, 73% said they always had a contract in place.

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