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Asian students increasingly likely to study within Asia – QS report

Prospective Asian students may increasingly look to “intra-regional” universities for study in coming years instead of popular destinations in the West, according to a new report by QS. 

QS has released a new report that explores the mindsets of prospective Asian students. Photo: Pexels

61% of applicants named their friends as their key influencer during the application process

The ‘Your Higher Education Spotlight on Asia’ report explores decision-making processes for prospective students in Asia, and features data from 20 focus groups, over 50 individual interviews, and more than 300 survey responses across China, Indonesia, and Malaysia.  

“I think there is a clear trend that more Asian students will look to study within Asia”

“[The HE landscape] is typically characterised by a student mobility flow from East to West, with prospective students in the Northern and Western hemisphere tending to focus within their region when applying to study abroad,” explained the authors of the report. 

“Some forecasters suggest this could all change, with students in the East increasingly looking to study intra-regionally, suggesting that mobility patterns may become more reciprocal in coming years.”

The report appeared to confirm this trend when focus group participants were asked to create their own ranking of study destinations. 

The US was chosen most often as the number one study destination, followed by the UK, Germany, Japan, and Australia. China was chosen just once to be the number one study destination.

“However, the fact that both Japan and China were chosen to appear in the top five destinations in the students’ rankings may suggest that international study is likely to become more intra-regional in coming years,” read the report. 

While the report focused on responses from China, Indonesia and Malaysia, Asian students from other countries are also increasingly likely to look to universities closer to home. 

“I think there is a clear trend that more Asian students will look to study in Asia. This is happening already,” Spencer Hawkes, director of special projects at BMI, told The PIE News

“Just look at [students from] Vietnam, their number one study destination is Japan,” he continued, citing BMI’s report on Vietnam students studying in Asia.

“Will it mean fewer will study in the West? Perhaps. But overall we expect to see the total numbers of Asian students studying overseas increasing so we don’t see it as a case where the West will lose much market share in terms of volume.”

Simon Emmett, CEO of IDP Connect, told The PIE that while the proportion of students globally searching for a course in Asia remains lower than the popular destinations of the UK and Australia, there is still a significant number of students exploring options in Malaysia, Singapore and Korea.

 “Malaysia is a leading study destination in Asia. [Excluding China] universities and courses in Malaysia attract the most search traffic of all destinations on IDP’s global platform,” he said.

“The number of students from Thailand searching for courses in international destinations has grown significantly in the past 12 months, as has the demand for students from Thailand looking to study in Asia – China is now the fourth most popular destination.”

 “Malaysia is a leading study destination in Asia”

The exact cause of this interest in Asia, could be partly explained by the political situation in the West, as Igor Skibickij, COO & head of China branch at Bonard, explained.

“When it comes to the US, we are certainly witnessing a trend of decline that can be tied to the political climate,” he told The PIE.

“In fact, the growth rate of Chinese students studying in the US has declined for its ninth consecutive year.”

According to Skibickij, the cost of study has been steadily increasing, and the visa application process, for Chinese students in particular, is now stricter.

“This combined with the current political and social environment as well as employment prospects, makes the US a rather difficult choice for Asian students.”

The QS study also revealed several other insights into the decision-making processes of students. 

Researchers examined who influenced prospective students when they were seeking advice during the application process. This list included friends, employers, family, parents, teachers and recruitment agents. 

At the top were friends, with 61% of applicants naming them as their key influencer. Recruitment agents had the least influence, with 34%. 

Additionally, the study found that graduate employability is a crucial factor for prospective Asian students.

41% cited career support as the most important factor for their selection of university, while a university’s reputation amongst employers was cited by 38% of prospective students as being the most important factor. 


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