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ICEF i-graduate Agent Barometer: North America scores

Results from the seventh annual edition of the ICEF i-graduate Agent Barometer indicate that Australia has gained ground in the overall attractiveness of study destinations while Canada inched ahead of the UK to be ranked second in the world in terms of overall appeal for international students.

The most attractive study destinations according to 1,194 agents worldwide

78% of agents said they are increasingly concerned about study visas especially in the UK, Canada and Australia

There was little change in the the lead countries for overall attractiveness based on 1,194 agent responses from 117 nationalities in the comprehensive survey of education agencies’ business trends.

The US topped the list with 73% of agents saying it is a “very attractive” study destination based on reputation, security, value and quality of living.

The US topped the list with 73% of agents saying it is a “very attractive” study destination based on reputation, security, value and quality of living

Edging into second place, 64% of agents ranked Canada as  “very attractive” while the UK dropped 1% from last year to 63% to finish third.

Continuing its recovery from 2010’s low of 40%, Australia’s attractiveness jumped 5% on last year’s results to 53%.

New Zealand finished the top five with 33% of agents voting it “very attractive”, up 1% from last year.

Overall, agents ranked Canada as the best location for work and study programmes, and the UK as prime location for language courses and secondary schools.Australia is considered the best for destination for vocational and further education while the US comes first as an undergraduate, MBA, graduate and postgraduate education destination.

Language courses continued to be the largest market for agencies (71% of respondents placed in this sector) followed by undergraduate (67.1%) and post-graduate programmes (64.4%).

In a new section introduced this year, 50% of agencies also indicated that they also recruit students for online and distance education programmes.

Reflecting the growing interest in distance learning among international students, surveyors asked agents about recruitment trends in the sector for the first time this year. Responses reveal that 71% of agents say US-based distance or online MBAs attract the most interest from students.

“It will be interesting to look back in two years time to see how the online and distance learning sector develops” commented Saskia Jensen, project manager at i-graduate.

This year’s survey also reveals a massive jump in secondary school placements made by agencies and the vibrancy of this sector: 26,523 in 2013 compared to 12,500 last year. MBA programmes have also gained in popularity among agency clients with agents reporting 21,835 placements up from 8,031 last year.

The ICEF i-graduate survey also uncovers areas of concern and satisfaction each year. This year, 78% of agents said they are increasingly concerned about study visas especially in the UK, Canada and Australia.

They also reported communication – in the form of agent manuals with fees and information and quick response times – as the main ingredient deemed essential to a successful school/agent partnership.

This year’s survey also reveals a massive jump in secondary school placements made by agencies

Confidence is high for most destinations with at least 50% of agents saying they expect to send more students than in the last 12 months to institutions in a range of diverse countries including China, Thailand, India, Malaysia, Spain and Italy.

The US again tops the question about expectations for business in the next 12 months, with 81% of agencies expecting growth in US placements. This could be linked to NACAC’s recent ruling in the USA, approving the use of education agencies in the international recruitment process.

“These are fantastic numbers,” said Jensen. “They show the role agents play and how optimistic they are about the industry”.

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