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US: HE should “refocus” on emerging markets

US universities should refocus their attention on “emerging” recruitment markets to avoid over reliance on traditional sources, the education think tank World Educational Services (WES) has claimed in a new report.

"Fierce competition for international students suggests the need to reduce the risk of limited recruitment strategies”

Beyond More of the Same… points to Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Vietnam and Turkey in order of importance as targets, warning dependence on top sources India, Korea and China means less campus diversity and more financial risk.

Almost one in two international students in the USA hails from China, India or South Korea

“A significant decline in the number of prospective students from [top] traditional markets is unlikely in the near future, but the unpredictable global economy and environment draws attention to institutions’ over‐reliance on these sources,” states the report.

“Moreover, fierce competition for international students suggests the need to reduce the risk of limited recruitment strategies.”

WES says the flagged markets have fast growing or established economies, improving social infrastructure, and usually choose the US over other destinations.

Saudi Arabia tops the list because of its extensive investment in education – particularly through the recently extended King Abdullah Scholarship Program, which supports 90% of Saudis studying abroad. The US also hosts 40% of all Saudi students abroad (23,000 students currently).

Vietnam, meanwhile, saw economic growth of 126% over the last decade with tertiary enrolments increasing tenfold in the same period. The country has “tremendous pent up demand, a large college‐age cohort, significant personal savings, and strong ties to the US,” says Mitch Leventhal, vice chancellor for global affairs at the State University of New York in the report.

Despite the opportunities, the emerging markets pose risks says WES. Many students lack the required English skills or academic preparedness for US study, for example, with about half of the first cohort of Brazil’s Scientific Mobility scholarship programme (formerly known as Science Without Borders) – a massive opportunity for the US – having to undertake English training.

Despite the opportunities, all emerging markets pose risks says WES

The rising cost of US education is another concern, as well as the challenge of penetrating markets. While Turkey’s oversubscribed universities and high youth unemployment add to the appeal of the US, its “volatile” market requires constant on-the-ground presence which can be expensive, claims WES.

In response, universities should focus on a “portfolio” of countries and recruitment practices. This could involve building institutional relationships to tap funding; offering scholarships strategically; and better understanding student preferences through social media for more targeted marketing strategies.

WES adds that they could engage more with intensive english programs (which prepare students for US degrees) as a channel, given IEP numbers climbed 24% in 2010/11 to more than 32,000.

All this may impact on resources, but need for better spread bets is clear, with almost one in two international students in the US currently hailing from China, India or South Korea. As the report states: “Risks develop when institutions rely on limited source countries, as there is a greater chance of losing a large share of an institution’s international student population if some incident occurs that halts or slows down the pipeline.”

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5 Responses to US: HE should “refocus” on emerging markets

  1. The article on “refocussing” international student marketing attention certainly reminded us of the dependence our institutions have on a handful of countries providing international students. However, I would like to add that it is important to stay focused on the “hot” markets while at the same time penetrating new and promising ones. There are two huge challenges that “student recruiters” face and they are identifying the few new promising country markets and then developing an effective sales plan (yes, I used the word “sales”). Identifying the few new promising markets can best be done by reviewing very recent F visa issuance statistics (not referring to international already in the US) around the world compared with prior years. The recruiters are not going to create a market. They must go where the market potential exists. As far as an effective “sales” campaign, recruiters should be encouraged to seek the training (Dale Carnegie for example) and guidance of sales professionals. Sales training coupled with written a sales plan including specific measurable goals would surely go a long way to helping an institution grow its international student body.

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