Annual growth rates in student mobility have averaged 10 percent over the past twenty years. Nearly 5 million students go abroad each year for the purpose of tertiary education, and the Organisation for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD) has predicted that number will rise to 8 million by 2025. That was the prediction prior to the pandemic. New opportunities to earn a tertiary degree at home or closer to home have changed the international student landscape in the U.S. The future of student mobility will include physical and virtual international education experiences so that institutions reach a wider range of students and build greater cross-cultural awareness and skills.
Since the pandemic there are a number of nuanced changes as families consider the opportunities to send their students abroad for academic degree attainment. For example, finances are a more common concern for families considering the study abroad experience. As with all students, international families who would have paid an average of $50,000 a year are now only willing to pay $30,000 and they expect an internship and job upon graduation. While face-to-face learning is preferable, engaging online learning with top faculty will also be desirable, especially if the cost of online learning is lower than in person.
And though more traditional markets are sending students to the US, there is going to be a shift from those regions. Both the China and India markets are a top source for students seeking education in the US. However, the Chinese government is developing their post-secondary education systems, making China a destination market rather than an export market. Part of their challenge is a declining student population that will continue to shrink through 2050. India, unlike China, has expanded their young adult population to nearly 150 million and though it will decline a bit over the next 30 years, is projected to become the world’s largest middle class consumer market by 2030. Thus, increasing the opportunity and demand for study abroad.
New markets are emerging in Africa, Latin America and Kazakhstan. By 2050, one in every three young adults will be an African citizen based on the expansion of the middle class population and explosion of young adults. Over the next 10 years, the Asian student recruitment market is likely to remain dominated by China and India. However, institutions have an opportunity to recruit in Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh. And finally, increased competition will drive student destinations to lower cost, easily accessible countries like Ireland, Malaysia, Spain, Germany, Japan, and the Netherlands. Development of these markets will increase competition for international students worldwide, even if new emerging markets have larger student populations.
What Should You Be Doing?
- Understand and inform institutional leadership about the international demographic changes and new opportunities.
- Use market and government data to inform your recruitment strategies.
- Streamline and centralize your admission processes and procedures.
- Build a robust omni-channel marketing communication plan that is specific to the international market.
- Include international students and graduates in promotions and recruitment activities.
- Internationalize your campus community – engage and help the community understand the value of study abroad, international recruitment, and global learning content within the curriculum.
- Build a collaborative recruitment, retention and graduation plan.
- Connect Alumni to prospective and new students to support internship opportunities.
- Understand student mobility and the increased opportunities that exist as other countries have developed their education infrastructure.
- Examine institutional data to better understand historic student mobility, why it changed, and what opportunities there are to regain those channels or explore emerging markets.
What Should You Stop Doing?
- Recruiting in countries that you’ve always targeted just because they were successful in the past.
- Assuming that all students want to come to the US for their degree, research and work experience.
- Assuming that international students don’t need financial assistance.
- Assuming that creating a STEM designated version of existing degrees is not worth the effort.
- Supporting institutional silos among divisions and academic units.
Though the international student recruitment landscape is changing and competition is increasing, there are renewed opportunities for US institutions to enhance their global community and increase enrollment with engagement in new markets. Keeping the student experience and outcomes in mind will ultimately lead to success for institutions and their students.
Gateway’s IEM team is poised to support institutions in these and other internationalization efforts; strategic planning, marketing, pathway programs, optimizing processes and providing international student services. Contact us today!