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Hotcourses: student searches for US, UK and Australia drop

Australia has joined the UK and US in experiencing a fall in interest as a study destination, according to new study search data from Hotcourses, while interest in Canada has spiked over the past year.

Graph from Hotcourses showing global share of searching is shifting from the US, the UK and AustraliaThe global share of student searches to the UK, the US and Australia has fallen, while other countries have shown an increase over the year. Photo: Hotcourses.

Searches for universities in the UK fell 6.2% among European students

Based on data from over 11 million students, the report, which looks at how global demand for education has shifted over the past year, illustrates that the top three study destinations have been losing their global share of study searches among students.

The global share of searches for the UK on the Hotcourses platform has fallen by 2.4% to 25.6% in the year following the EU referendum in June 2016, compared to the year before.

Meanwhile in the same time period, the share of interest in the US has fallen by 3.8% to 31.9%.

The report looks at searches to seven top study destinations: the UK, the US, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, the Netherlands and Ireland.

“For the UK it did start to recover from November onwards, ie when Trump was elected”

The results reflect original assumptions that interest in studying in the UK and the US would shift to other destinations post-Brexit and post-Trump.

For example, the decrease in interest for the UK is more defined when honing in on data from European students. Searches for universities in the UK fell 6.2% to 30.7% of all searches in the last 12 months.

And unsurprisingly, a similar picture is painted for the US, which had second biggest share of searches to having the third, accounting for 18.6% of all searches for the seven destination countries. Ireland’s share, meanwhile, increased by 9.5%, taking the second biggest share.

The drop in US study searches from students in all countries was particularly prominent in the immediate aftermath of the presidential election. “There was an absolute speeding up when the travel ban was announced among Middle Eastern students as you might expect,” observed Simon Emmett, chief executive of Hotcourses Group.

“For the UK there was a bigger decline in the period from June to November but it did start to recover from November onwards, ie when Trump was elected.”

Australia is the third major destination country out of the seven that has also seen a fall in its share of global searches – by 1%.

Though small, Australia’s shrinking global share of searches is more accentuated among some of the markets highlighted in the report, including from Poland – with a share decrease of 6.6%.

Emmet said the drop in share of students looking at Australia was surprising considering visa data is showing an uptick in the number of international students.

“Their visa data doesn’t mirror enrolments however, and it’s also possible that these students started their research journeys much earlier and weren’t captured in the data,” he said.

Australia is also facing tough competition from other destinations including Canada, Germany and Ireland, said Emmett.

“Australia is getting a smaller slice from a bigger cake”

“Its overall share has decreased, but overall numbers are up, so it’s getting a smaller slice from a bigger cake,” he commented.

While the top three destinations have seen their overall searches fall, the biggest increase was seen for students looking at Canada – its share increased by 5.7% to 10.6%.

Looking at individual source markets, Canada’s share of searches increased across all of them, most notably from non-European countries.

In India, searches about Canada grew by double digits, 14.9%, making it the most popular destination country of the seven among Indian students, and accounting for just under a quarter (22.6%) of all searches from these students.

Looking ahead to the next 12 months, it is possible that trends will stabilise, according to Emmett.

“It’s possible that applications may end up flat or even increase,” he said. “There is more competition globally, but there also is a bigger pool of students to recruit from, which is promising.”

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