China, India, South Korea and Saudi Arabia are the top 4 source markets for international students in the world. These countries are famous for producing the biggest numbers of students who enjoy the benefits of international mobility.
Knowing this, many educators worldwide are tempted to rely exclusively on these countries for their mix of international students. And yet, many others, especially in the US and the UK, have been adding more countries in their international recruitment strategies.
At first, this may seem counterproductive. Why would leading study abroad destinations want to change their working student recruitment models? Is it necessary at all? And should other educators follow suit? If having only Chinese and Indian students works well, why should any student recruitment team make their lives more difficult?
As we already mentioned, there are 4 top countries that take the lion share of international student recruitment. In the US, for example, 1 in 2 international students come from China, India or South Korea. And while in essence there is nothing wrong with that fact, in the long run it could pose certain risks for educators.
Current data reveals that admissions from each of the top 4 countries have been stable for the last couple of years. In some cases, it has even shown slower growth than in previous years. Why? There are many reasons for this, and now we’re going to discuss a few main ones.
Why the top 4 will move from the spotlight soon?
Expanded use of English
Many European schools and universities have now programmes available in English. The quality of education there can easily compete with that in the top 3 English-speaking study abroad destinations. English is no longer a defining factor that makes a student choose one country over another.
International branch campuses
With Western universities opening branches in China or India, less students from these countries have to go abroad. Now they can stay in their own country, sometimes even in the same town, and still get the same quality education for the same or lower price. Of course, they miss out on all the international and cultural experiences, but after all the main reason for going abroad to study is…well…to study! And now with international branch campuses it is easier to do so without going around half of the world.
Tuition vs quality
The usual mantra that you have to pay a lot to get quality education abroad is getting old. A lot of international students are now finding cheaper alternatives for similar quality of education. They go to Canada instead of the US, or choose New Zealand over Australia. Not to mention that European countries where English is used extensively and costs are cheaper, are emerging as the new big player in the market. The numbers of international students from China are increasing every year, but it doesn’t show that much in the most usual destinations, as they’re not so attractive anymore.
The factor that is important for many international students is choosing a destination country that would be easy to reach and go back from. That’s why a big portion of international studies happen intraregionally. For example, Colombians go to Bolivia, Turkish go to Bulgaria, and Vietnamese move to Japan. If the quality closer to home is the same, why travel far away and spend more?
South Korea has one of the lowest birthrates in the world. Right now, this doesn’t affect it as a market for international student recruitment, but in upcoming decades, it will grow to become a real problem. Fewer children mean bigger spending per person, but if there are less students to spend on in general, the market for recruiting will collapse. Knowing that South Korea is one of the top markets for international student recruitment, educators that rely exclusively on it should start to consider other sources as well.
Do you rely on the top 4 source countries for your international student recruitment strategy? What alternatives do you explore to diversify your student body?
Join the discussion in the comments below!