The report by Studyportals and Unibuddy encourages institutions to diversify student sources away from major markets of China, India and Nigeria, so as spread risk and reduce exposure “vagaries of single market sourcing”.
Markets that have been “overlooked” in Europe include Portugal, Poland, Greece, Romania and Turkey, while the report zeroes in on Asian countries of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal, Vietnam, Singapore, Philippines, Thailand and Malaysia as places where universities should pitch tent.
“The report identifies the fastest growing destinations and subject areas”
Also identified as presenting good opportunities for international recruitment are Brazil, Japan and Ghana.
“For these 17 countries, the report identifies the fastest growing destinations and subject areas, key demographic factors, and student concerns across seven categories, from money to admissions”, the authors state.
It notes that South Asia countries of Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal had the advantage of high numbers of young people aged between 15-24 years in need of high quality higher education. Additionally, English as language of instruction in schools plus academic calendars similar to many in Western countries are considered advantages.
“For the entire [South Asia] region, education and training is growing as a subject of interest. The discipline students are looking for the most is computer science & IT, this encompasses a wide range of studies and attracts the bulk of search preferences from the region,” it adds.
It however noted minor distinctions in the countries, with Pakistani and Bangladeshi learners preferring engineering programs, while those in Sri-Lanka and Nepal preferred agriculture programs.
The South-East Asia countries’ biggest advantage is diversity of students who having come from countries with disparate economic strengths preferred a wider range of programs and study options.
“Price sensitivity is particularly high among students in Vietnam and Thailand, with one in five students looking at courses with no tuition fees,” it said.
Those from Singapore and Malaysia had a bias for computer sciences & IT programs, compared to Philippine and Vietnamese students who preferred agriculture & forestry courses, while Thai students and some Vietnamese were biased for environmental studies.
The four European countries had plenty to offer to shrewd recruiters, according to the study, with a “student population eager to embark in studies abroad and kickstart global careers that are not so easily available at home,” it notes.
The study concludes that while they do not share a common geographical area, Japan, Brazil, Turkey and Ghana share a common denominator of a large student population which traditionally is not as mobile.
“Relying on a limited number of source countries increases the risk for universities, more so in the face of uncertainties caused changes in regulation, travel restrictions, or diplomatic rows,” it cautions.
“Universities should, therefore, offer more courses online, diversify marketing channels, reduce dependency on recruitment agents and offer more courses.”
“Diversification is a cornerstone of international higher education”
While agents help universities get international students, the documents notes that without a solid diversification strategy, without multiple marketing channels or with a limited selection of countries for recruitment, a university would be disadvantaged in competing for the best foreign students.
“Universities benefit from having a truly global reach, and by speaking directly to students,” Edwin van Rest, Studyportals CEO noted.
“Diversification is a cornerstone of international higher education, so being informed of the latest trends in student interest across the world gives universities an advantage.”
Unibuddy CEO Diego Fanara reminded that a university’s best-fit students “don’t only exist in the regions they most frequently recruit from”.
“When institutions prioritise diversification in their recruitment efforts, they build stronger, more talented communities,” he added.