Quintet of Predictions for International Student Recruiting in 2017
No one has the market on predicting accurately where international students will enroll in 2017. Nevertheless, I will predict the following five trends will impact international student enrollment this year.
Regional hubs will grow in importance
There are approximately five million students studying abroad today and a recent report from ICEF predicts that there will be eight million students studying abroad by 2025. Where are these students enrolling? Western Europe and the United States have traditionally been the destination for international students. However, this is changing. Regional hubs, especially in Southeast Asia and in the Middle East, are enrolling a greater share of international students. Regional governments, working in concert with each other, have created strong economic and political ties with the goal of attracting students from the region to study in the region. I recommend reading the Institute of International Education’s publication, “Asia: The Next Higher Education Superpower (2015),” for further information.
If you use, or plan to use, international agents to help your college or university recruit international students, be prepared to pay a larger commission and offer better scholarships.
I predict that Canada will be one of the big winners in the international student enrollment game. The number of international students enrolled in Canadian colleges and universities increased by eight percent on 2015. Enrollment from China increased 11 percent and from India 28 percent. Like Australia, the Canadian government has made it a national policy to create a welcoming environment for international students by streamlining visa and admission processing and easing the citizenship for international students after graduation.
Fewer Students from the Middle East
The King Abdullah Scholarship Program, inaugurated in 2005, allowed thousands of Saudi students to study all over the world. In 2015, significant changes were made to the scholarship program, reducing the number of Saudi students travelling abroad to study. Lower oil prices and the fear of restrictive visa processing in the United States will significantly reduce the number of Middle East students enrolling in “traditional” colleges and universities.
With 33,000,000 Chinese students enrolled in tertiary education, China can boast the largest higher education population in the world. The Chinese government has plans to increase the number of international students studying in China and has implemented a national strategic, geopolitical and economic agenda to influence and dominate international higher education in Asia and throughout the region. More than 70,000 students from Southeast Asia studied in China last year. The number of Indian and Pakistani students studying for medical degrees in China has tripled over the past decade. Similarly, there have been increases in students from South Korea, Thailand and Russia.
Final note: On December 21, 2016, the Pew Research Center reported that 45 percent of Chinese people view U.S. power and influence as a threat to their country, up from 39 percent in 2013. International strategic recruiters in the U.S. should take note. Chinese parents may not be so keen to send their children to the U.S. in 2017.
More predictions will unfold as we move through this turbulent time in international student recruiting. But next week I will offer a quintet of recommendations on how to increase your international student population in 2017.