This will be a short blog. No facts, figures, statistics, predictions. I simply want to thank all of the readers of my monthly postings for your continued support and to wish all of you and your families a very happy and healthy new year.
I will continue, in the new year, to conduct research on the trends in international recruitment and enrollment and share with you information that I trust will be helpful as you go forward with your international strategic plans.
As the year 2016 comes to a close, I went back to review five of the international predictions and trends I made in January to check for accuracy.
Here is what I predicted:
Regional, rather that international hubs, will grow in importance. Check
Asian countries including Hong Kong, Malaysia, and China have all reported increases in international student enrollments from the region.
Articulation agreements will replace branch campus development. Check
A recent report published by The Observatory on Borderless Higher Education reveals a waning of interest, especially in the United States, of opening up branch campuses overseas.
MOOCs and other digital-based educational delivery models will continue to grow in importance, enrolling a new and different cohort of international students. Check.
Coursera, FutureLearn and edX have all reported increasing the number of students taking MOOC courses. In September of this year, MIT piloted an online MicroMasters credential and has partnered with Pearson which will allow MicroMasters students to study at local centers in 70 countries worldwide.
Technology will change the ways international students are recruited. Check.
A great deal has been written this year about Big Data and its impact on several aspects of higher education, from predicting which students will enroll, which students are likely to persist and graduate, and which students will become active alumni after graduation. Big Data can help international strategic planners and recruiters to construct analytical databases to provide college administrators with speedy, actionable. information in order to make smart decisions and allocate both staff time and resources to increase enrollments from existing markets and build new ones.
Always have a Plan B. Check
How many international strategic plans had alternative recruitment strategies in place after the Brexit vote or the drop in oil prices which impacted enrollment of students from Saudi Arabia?
No one can predict with absolute accuracy what the future will bring. But there are trends that can reveal what is likely to happen in the future. More to come in 2017.
On November 14, 2016, the Institute of international Education published their annual Open Doors report. The following are highlights from that report:
The number of international students enrolled on U.S. colleges and universities increased by 7.1 percent to 1,043,839, or 69,000 additional international students studying in the U.S. International students represent 5 percent of the more than 20 million students enrolled in U.S. higher education.
International students contribute more than $35 billion to the U.S. economy.
The greatest increase were students from India, primarily at the graduate level. However, China still remains the largest the top sending country. Three out of every ten students in the U.S. are from China.
China, India and Saudi Arabia represent 53 percent of the total number of international students in the U.S.
Students from Nepal, Vietnam, Nigeria and Colombia enrolled in larger numbers than the previous year.
Students from Iran increased by 8.2 percent (12,269), the highest number of students from that country since 1979/80.
The number of students from Brazil, South Korea, Hong Kong, Canada, Mexico, Thailand, Germany and Turkey, decreased from the previous year.
The overwhelming majority of international students enrolled in colleges and universities in California, New York, Texas, Massachusetts and Illinois.
The number of Americans studying abroad increased by 2.9 percent to 313,415. Europe remains the top destination for Americans studying abroad. The majority enroll in universities in the UK, France and Spain. The majority of Americans studying abroad were STEM students followed by study abroad students in Business and Management. A total of 22,431 U.S. students participated in noncredit workshops, internships and volunteer programs.
Despite the positive data from this year’s Open Door report, there are some negative trends, including:
This year’s growth of 7.1 percent is less than the 10.00 percent from 2015 and the 8.1 percent increase from 2014.
The number of new international students in 2015/16 was 300,743. Last year the figure was 293,766.
The U.S. continues to lose overall market share of the total number of international students.
It is important to remember that the figures reported by IIE are for the previous year, not the current one. There are ominous signs coming from all corners of the world, after the election of 2016. For example, the University of Toronto reported that the day after the election 10,000 prospective American students requested application information.
Recruiting agents in China and India are both reporting a softening of interest from prospective students to study in the U.S.
I predict Canada will be one of the biggest winners in enrolling international students next year. Last year the number of international students increased by 8 percent in Canada and students from China and India were the major drivers of that growth.
Finally, I predict next year’s Open Doors statistics will report data very different from this year’s report.
Recruiting and enrolling international students is just the first step in implementing a successful international strategic plan. First year international students progressing from first to second year is a more revealing indication of a comprehensive and holistic international strategic plan. So is the number of international students who graduate.
Check which of these seven progression and retention suggestions are part of your school’s retention and student success plan for international students.
Is there an orientation program, in addition to the general orientation program, for international students and their parents?
Are surveys conducted of international students who progress from the first to second year and those who do not? Is a profile of both groups shared with appropriate faculty and staff? How is the information used to improve persistence and graduation rates?
Is there a profile, by country, of international students who graduate? Is this information shared with international recruiters? Are profiles of successful international graduates shared with prospective international students and parents?
Are specific counseling interventions in place to deal with issues common to many international students, like homesickness?
Is there a dedicated office and staff for international students who can assist with visa issues, academic and student services problems and cultural events?
Are course withdrawals, which can impact a student’s visa, monitored and reported to appropriate staff?
Who communicates with international parents during the first semester and year?
While much has been written on how colleges and universities can recruit international students, little has been written about how to successfully retain these students. I believe having a dedicated office and staff for international students and using data to support progression, student success and retention strategies, are some of the ways to assist international students to have a successful academic experience.
Readers of this blog will remember my frequent advice about always having a Plan B baked into strategic international plans. In a world that often seems to be dominated by terrorism, economic turmoil, and the unexpected, it is not only recommended but necessary to have alternative sources of enrollment and revenue.
Let’s consider a few examples:
Last year the government of the UK decided to conduct a referendum on whether or not to remain in the European Union. The majority of people in Britain and around the world believed that the vote would be to remain. That is not how it turned out and now many colleges and universities, both in the UK and worldwide, are dealing with the fallout of the vote. How leaving the EU will ultimately impact higher education enrollments remains to be seen. But having a Plan B just in case the vote was to leave the EU, would have given colleges and universities an opportunity to better plan and position themselves to deal with the consequences of the vote to leave.
In Saudi Arabia, when King Abdulla died, I would have immediately planned a new and different strategy to recruit students from Saudi Arabia. It should not surprise anyone that the scholarship program named after the late king would be scaled back. At the annual NAFSA meeting in June, 2016, it was announced that 80 percent of colleges and universities with English language programs had declines in Saudi enrollment in spring, 2016 and more than 50 percent expected a decline in the fall, 2016 semester. Did any of these schools have a Plan B for Saudi Arabia?
Does your school have a plan to offer online courses to international students? Currently there are approximately 4,200 MOOC courses offered by more than 500 universities. In an article written by Rachel Merola and published by the Observatory for Borderless Higher Education, the author writes that the top two countries for online learning are India and China. There are 5.42 million distance learning enrollments in India and enrollments are predicted to increase ten percent by 2019. For further information, read “Going the distance: what does data tell us about cross-border online leaning.”
While I don’t think it is necessary to hire a researcher to scan the globe for both opportunities and potential danger, I do think someone in the international student office should be responsible for PlanB.