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INTO survey shows agents bullish, jump in secondary courses

Education partnering organisation INTO’s annual agent survey, seen exclusively by The PIE News, reveals that agencies in key markets including China and India are bullish about future outbound numbers.

Almost a third of surveyed agents said they will send more students to the UK in the coming year, 63% will to the US

The UK and the US remain the most popular destinations and country breakdowns expose a contrast in motivating factors for students from China and India.

Figures also reveal a jump in interest for secondary school qualifications, supporting trends of students beginning their foreign education at an earlier age.

“I suspect the strength of the Chinese economy is such that Chinese students are not looking to migrate for employment opportunities”

The survey is based on responses from 764 agents globally, a fifth of whom are based in China. The majority were higher education focused, representing large destination markets including the US, UK, Canada and Australia.

Almost a third of surveyed agents said they would send more students to the UK in the coming year, while 63% said they would see an increase in students sent to the US.

Looking at Chinese agents alone, outbound confidence spikes for both these destinations with 91% of agents saying they will send more to the UK and 85% saying they will to the US.

However, with the survey conducted in February and March of this year before the announcement of SELT restrictions, optimism in UK numbers could have waned.

Meanwhile, half of all total respondents were bullish about sending more numbers to Australia and Canada as well.

Not surprisingly, better employment prospects continue to drive student mobility as more than three quarters (78%) of agent respondents noted this as the biggest student motivator, up from 69% in 2014.

INTOsurvey_motivation_allHowever, a growing number of agents have seen students are seeking a “new experience” and “personal development” in their foreign studies. More than 60% of agents listed these as the second and third most influential motivating factors, up from 49% and 54% last year.

Digging deeper reveals varying motivators in key source countries. Indian agents ranked motivators “better employment prospects” and “a new experience” higher than the global average.

Speaking with The PIE News, INTO’s vice president for global business and intelligence and development, Tim O’Brien, observed that Indian applicants approach overseas study as a “much more rational consumer looking at migration and long term employment prospects”.

Meanwhile 74% of Chinese agents said “personal development” was the biggest motivating factor, above the average of total respondents. Chinese agents however listed “better employment prospects” as less important among their applicants compared to the rest of the world.

Indian students are also twice as likely as their global counterparts to be motivated to travel overseas for migratory purposes, while Chinese students are half as likely.

O’Brien said China’s economy is influencing motivations for overseas study.

“Our university partners have experienced an almost 500% increase in the number of international students transferring from US high schools to our partner universities”

“I suspect the strength of the Chinese economy is such that Chinese students are not looking to migrate for employment opportunities; rather they are looking for an education and wider experience which gives them a broader perspective on the world and enhances their employability when they return to China,” he said.

In terms of course demand, almost 90% of agents said they were counselling for international pathway or foundation courses, not surprising considering INTO’s own course offering.

However the survey does show that more than half (57%) of agents counsel students for A-levels (secondary qualifications in the UK) up from just 31% in 2014.

“At INTO we see the impact of global trends in action,” commented O’Brien. “We see at first-hand the increase in younger students traveling overseas, particularly in the United States where our university partners have experienced an almost 500% increase in the number of international students transferring from US high schools to our partner universities for the fall 2014 intake.”

Likewise, O’Brian said demand for A-level programmes in the UK has risen “as ambitious students and families see this route as a mechanism to combine the best of a high school education with a university experience”.

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