This, according to the survey, was mainly due to the 6.7% increase in mobile students undertaking longer courses of study of up to 12 months.
BELTA, which traditionally asks member agencies for evaluations, has this year expanded to ask 1,145 students as well.
Although the growth in popularity of longer programs is an important change, there are consistencies in Brazilian demand for international education. Language courses are still the most popular choice for Brazilian students, as three-month programs account for 68.5% of the market.
“[Students] also consider the tertiary sector as an opportunity for a pathway to legal immigration and living abroad”
According to Samir Zaveri, president and CEO of student recruitment fair organiser BMI, this leap in interest in longer-term programs can be seen as down to one simple reason: the economy.
“The Brazilian economy is very dependent on the price of the dollar… the real has had I think, the strongest recovery of any currency against the US dollar this year, which helps more people go abroad,” Zaveri told The PIE News.
But the reasons behind the general popularity of international education among Brazilians is of course multi-faceted.
There is a general wish to work or live outside of Brazil for many young adults, according to Carlos Robles of education agency Intercultural Education Programs, based in Belo Horizonte.
“Many young adults are now finding out that tertiary programs abroad are accessible, especially if they can have the opportunity to work as offered in Canada, New Zealand, Australia,” he told The PIE News.
“They also consider the tertiary sector as an opportunity for a pathway to legal immigration and living abroad which, in my opinion, is the desire of many young Brazilians to part away from the momentary Brazilian recession.”
Robles added that the increase in spending on international education is not only the folly of the young, however.
“Many [in their] mid-30s… have lost their jobs in Brazil with the closure of job opportunities, and therefore they have some severance sums that are being used [for] the development of their professional and personal lives and that includes studying abroad on long term tertiary programs,” he said.
Alongside longer programs gaining in popularity, another notable change in 2016 is the use of education agents. Nearly 75% of mobile students used the services of education agencies in 2016. The ease of access and personalised service offered by agents are quoted by respondents as reasons for choosing to use the intermediary, rather than contact institutions directly.
“[The] research shows that there has been an increase in the demand to hire the program from an educational travel agency, because consulting with a specialised consultant offers significantly decreased chances of making a wrong decision,” according to Maura Leão, president of BELTA.
But Zaveri said that the actual percentage of students using agents across the Brazilian education sector is more debatable than the figures suggest.
“If you take in the whole market and then add the HE sector, which [BELTA are] not talking about, it would not be 75%,” he said.
“Agents are very important, but when it comes to HE and high school, they are less important. In the HE sector, the figure wouldn’t account for even 5% [of mobile students],” Zaveri added.