With over 1,800 respondents, the largest ever response, it offers significant insight into agent sentiment globally, especially China which provided over 400 responses.
“The survey reminds us how closely student recruitment is linked to politics and diplomatic relations”
Agents working with INTO indicated a more favourable view of the UK visa regulations, how welcoming the nation is, as well as student safety and security.
Conversely, the view of the US has taken some significant hits, most notably on the perception of student visa regulations while safety and security remain an area of concern for agents.
Despite the loss of confidence, as INTO described these results as showing, there was a slight uptick of 2.3% in agents’ view of ‘How welcoming the US appears to international students’.
But the impact of the loss of confidence in the US, which has been hinted at since the 2016 election of Donald Trump and arguably confirmed by the latest SEVIS student visa figures, is perhaps most starkly visible via agents’ predictions of where they will be sending students in 2019.
12.2% of respondents told INTO they expect to send fewer students to the US this year, compared to 11.2% in 2018. This figure points to a wider fall of the attractiveness of North American education, as it mirrors the fall in expectation agents see in the Canadian market driven by weaker Chinese sentiment.
Despite record growth, or perhaps because of it, 12.7% of agents said they expected to see fewer students choose the Canadian system, up from 10.3% in 2018.
Commenting on the survey’s findings, David Amor INTO’s director of market insight and knowledge said it should act as a reminder of the “precarious position” the sector sits in.
“The survey reminds us how closely student recruitment is linked to politics and diplomatic relations, a precarious position with so many institutions so heavily dependent on one or two source markets,” he told The PIE News.
Whilst overall agent sentiment for the UK was better than for the US, there were some regional variations with multi-destination agents in Africa and Europe and Central Asia more optimistic for US recruitment.
When asked for further details of the markets agencies send to, and which individual agents specialise in, a small but significant shift away from the major markets was noticed.
But with a further depth of questioning, a truer picture of diversification may well be at play.
Asked ‘Which study destination is the main focus of your job?’, nearly 50% of agents said “multiple countries” which is a 10% rise in just one year.
Perhaps consequently, agents reported a drop in the specialisations on the UK and US markets.
Although the UK market escaped other downward indicators, 8% fewer agents said they deal with the nation alone than did in 2017.
The US is also down on last year’s responses on this rubric, at 23%, though it has consistently been a lower number than other markets since 2017.
“The feedback on market trends reinforces how important agents are for sharing market specific information”
The largest respondents are Chinese, with Pakistani, Indonesian and Taiwanese agents also well represented (30%, 7%, 5% and 4% of respondents respectively). In total agents from over 90 countries responded to the survey.
“From an INTO specific perspective we’re delighted that our hard work on providing excellent support and service to our agents is paying off,” added Amor.
“But it’s also a reminder that you need to work hard and continuously to maintain and improve satisfaction levels from your recruitment partners as expectations for service go up each year.”
“The feedback on market trends reinforces how important agents are for sharing market specific information and perspectives”.