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UK: SIEM 2017 showcases new market trends

The recent British Council Services for International Education Marketing conference saw more than 450 delegates and international education professionals from over 40 countries gather in Scotland to discuss fresh approaches for connecting with international students worldwide.

Delegates from more than 40 countries attended a reception dinner at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery Museum, Glasgow.SIEM 2017 delegates attended a reception dinner at the Kelvingrove Art Gallery Museum, Glasgow as part of the event.

"The biggest problem is 'brand UK', the 'you're not welcome' narrative and restrictions on visas, coupled with Brexit"

SIEM, a global program to support UK Education institutions in their international work, provides services for international student recruitment, market intelligence, and enables the development of working relationships with international institutions.

The two-day event in Glasgow kicked-off with a thought-provoking plenary by renowned business theorist Eddie Obeng, who spoke of the importance of leading people through change.

“We have to dream big, forward-thinking ideas and have the courage to make them happen,” Obeng told the crowded auditorium.

“If we look at the growth of visas issuance in the UK, it really is all about China, but that party can’t go on forever”

“When you’re lost in the fog leading others, they will not follow you unless they trust you. Focus on building individual trust with students, parents and the institutions.”

British Council Intelligence Unit research director Zainab Malik and senior advisor Michael Peak presented on the top suppliers of international students globally, emerging hosts and provided some predictions on student mobility to 2027.

Describing China as “the epicentre of Asia when it comes to mobility”  Malik predicted the country would have one of the largest rises in tertiary enrollment ratios in the lead up to 2027 alongside Indonesia, Malaysia, Mauritius and Sri Lanka.

China was also predicted to have one of the highest numbers of outbound students by 2027, as were India, Germany, Saudi Arabia, Kazakhstan and Nigeria.

However, China was also included in a list of the top declining 18-22-year-old populations to 2027, in addition to Poland, Japan, US, Germany and Brazil.

The downturn of China, “the lynchpin of UK student recruitment”, was also addressed by Matt Durnin, head of research and consultancy (East Asia) at the British Council.

“We anticipate a positive effect of Trumpism for the UK in 2018”

“If we look at the growth of visas issuance in the UK, it really is all about China, but that party can’t go on forever,” said Durin, explaining that with no “next China” on the horizon, business models will have to evolve to be more responsive to near-term opportunities and in engaging a greater number of markets.

Meanwhile, more food for thought was provided by CEO of StudentMarketing Samuel Vetrak, who uncovered some of the development opportunities that like ahead for UK stakeholders.

“We anticipate a positive effect of Trumpism for the UK in 2018,” said Vetrak.

Canada is up 22% in international student numbers; the UK is surfing that wave as well.”

Day two saw plenty discussion around the increase in student visa applications from India and insights into the growing markets of Russia, Turkey and Kazakhstan, lead by British Council colleagues working in those countries.

However, the most thought-provoking session of the conference for many was provided by Robin Bew, CEO of the Economist Intelligence Unit, as he gave his global outlook projections.

Despite the testing global political environment, Bew pointed out how it is easy to forget the world economy has been doing well as of late.

“If Britain receives no special deal for financial services, it won’t be a wrenching, seismic collapse overnight”

“The global GDP growth looks good as the US, eurozone, Japan and China have all been accelerated at the same time for the first time, and the big economies are doing well.”

Bew also predicted a one-in-twenty chance of Britain not leaving the EU, but that in doing so it would leave Britain in a “very unfavourable position politically”.

“If Britain receives no special deal for financial services, it won’t be a wrenching, seismic collapse overnight,” he said.

“It’s more likely to be a period of grinding, disappointing growth over a long term.”

While a predicted slowing down of China’s economy was reiterated by Bew, the US, he added, is “becoming more vulnerable to a significant downturn”, adding that President Trump is likely to win a second term as President.

“Overall the biggest problem for Britain is ‘brand UK’ – the ‘you’re not welcome’ narrative and restrictions on visas, coupled with Brexit,” he added.

“The country needs to delink from this negative message.”

See the SIEM Conference 2017 gallery here

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