The survey, which involved 1,023 agents of 107 nationalities who place 237,734 students, found the US remained the top destination with 73% of agents ranking it “very attractive”, while the UK held second place, climbing one percentage point to 64%.
However, Canada saw most new interest, taking joint second place with 64% rating it “very attractive” – up 5% on 2011 and 15% on 2008. It was followed by Australia (48%) and New Zealand (32%) which slipped 5 percentage points.
ICEF reported: “Year-over-year, the most remarkable change among leading destination countries can be found in Canada… Asian agents in particular registered a great surge in how attractive they consider Canada.”
Canada saw most new interest, rising to take joint second place
The rise was put down to the Canadian government’s continued focus on “international education and increasingly open immigration policy”. That said, Canada was found to be the hardest place to obtain a student visa. The UK, the second hardest, remained largely stable in appeal despite its visa woes.
The UK and US also continue to dominate perceptions of quality: The US is perceived to be the best provider of undergraduate, graduate, MBA and work and travel programmes (as it has been since the survey began in 2007), while the UK has the best language programmes, secondary/high school and foundation courses.
Eight out of 10 agents expect undergraduate and graduate business to improve in 2013
Meanwhile, as in the last three years, Australia was considered the best for vocational education ranking nine percentage points above second best UK.
The survey also found higher education to be growing in popularity among agents. While language programmes continue to provide most agent business, undergraduate and graduate business is up, with eight out of 10 agents expecting further improvement in 2013.
Agent opinion shows location and cost remain the most important factors affecting student decision making, but ICEF reports that “access to visas and support for international students have risen as drivers over the past year”. 64% of agents reported that changes to visa regulations have affected their recruitment activities.
Data was collected during September and October of this year via invitations sent to ICEF’s agent contacts worldwide who could participate in the study by clicking a link to an online questionnaire. They responded to a series of questions including the number and kind of students they place, the services they provide and the types of institutions they work with as well as their perceptions of the relative attractiveness of markets and their business outlooks.
The largest amount of responses coming from agents in Brazil, India, Russia, Pakistan, China and Nepal.
“The Agent Barometer is the definitive measure of the opinions of the most influential people in the world of international education, professional education advisers,” said William Archer chief executive of i-graduate told The PIE News.
“For education providers worldwide the value of their [agents’] advice in terms of student fees runs to billions of dollars annually.”