Karin Radvany Florez leads ICEF’s agent relations and business development efforts in Latin America. Based in Sao Paulo, she has regular contact with agents, educators, and consular offices across the region.
In the course of her work, Karin travels throughout Latin America to visit agents, participate in educator delegations touring the region, and attend industry events. Most recently, she attended the Expo BELTA in Sao Paulo, joined an Education New Zealand delegation of 16 educators touring Brazil, Colombia, and Chile, and attended the Conference of the Americas in Rio de Janeiro.
In the course of those recent travels, she joined agent-educator meetings in Santiago and Bogota and provided detailed briefings on key Latin American markets. Read on for some of the highlights from her briefings.
Latin America is an agent-focused education market with the vast majority of student referrals made through agents. As in many world markets, personal relationships are fundamental to the development of effective business linkages and patience is a virtue. Educators with limited or no experience in Latin markets are encouraged to adopt a long-term view and to allow some time to learn the many distinct markets across the region and to become acquainted with the culture.
Ironically, the pace of decision-making among students, families, and agents is anything but leisurely. Latin Americans work hard and play hard and are inclined to making decisions, even relatively big ones such as study abroad, at more or less the last minute. Educators will need to be nimble and responsive in order to capitalize on opportunities to recruit qualified students. Educators recruiting in the region should also be alert to the fact that many students will need to upgrade their English skills for academic study abroad.
Other than Brazil, no other Latin American market sends more students abroad than Colombia. Colombia was one of the fastest-growing Latin economies in 2011 and is on pace for another strong showing this year. Within the country, the strongest study abroad markets are found in Bogotá, Cali, and Medellin with Bucaramanga also growing quickly.
There is a strong recognition within the country of the relationship between study abroad and the prospects for future success. Colombian students and working professionals are highly motivated to improve their English language skills and university-age students are also interested in undergraduate and postgraduate degrees abroad.
The last decade has seen a number of new agents enter the market in Colombia, most of which are small, boutique operations serving local areas. Also of note is an increasing internationalisation of Colombian higher education institutions with an ever-growing range of scholarly exchange, joint programmes, and student mobility programmes between Colombian and foreign educators.
In considering opportunities abroad, Colombian students value affordability, opportunities to combine work and study, and safe, multicultural environments. Colombian students require a visa for almost all countries, and leading destinations currently include the US, Australia, UK, Canada, and New Zealand.
Chile is noted for its stable government and robust economy. Roughly 80% of the Chilean population lives in the country’s Central Valley – home to the major cities of Santiago and Valparaiso. The Greater Santiago Area alone has a population of more than 6.5 million and accounts for the majority of students who study abroad.
Like many other Latin markets, agents play an important role in Chile and account for the majority of student referrals. However, the market is also notably concentrated with a relatively small number of established agencies. Families also have a strong voice in a student’s final study decision, hence, word-of-mouth promotion among families and students is another important factor.
Demand remains strong for English language training as well, the strongest driver for which is the demand in Chile for English-speaking professionals, entrepreneurs, academics, and technicians. At all levels, Chilean students appreciate accreditations and certificates; it is important for them to be “part of something” in this respect and to be recognised for their studies abroad.
While a strong advocate of its domestic institutions, the Chilean government supports the internationalisation of its education system – including programmes promoting overseas scholarships for undergraduate, postgraduate and technical courses, the most notable of which is Becas Chile. These programmes are nicely aligned with a growing demand among Chilean students for higher education studies abroad, especially at the postgraduate level.