From the Field: Recruiting in Sri Lanka

Short on time? Here are the highlights:

  • We continue our “From the Field” interview series today in conversation with Mohamed Sarjun Saleem. Mr Saleem is the Managing Director of the British Institute of Business Management Studies, an education institution and agency located in Colombo, Sri Lanka
  • In a wide-ranging discussion, he highlights some of the important trends in the Sri Lankan market and offers advice for educators that are entering the market for the first time or expanding their efforts to recruit Sri Lankan students

Nobody is entirely sure how many Sri Lankan students go abroad each year, but the feeling among some observers is that the official counts offered by important data sources such as UNESCO tend to understate the actual movement of students out of the country.

With that caveat firmly in place, the UNESCO numbers, which tend to capture mainly students going abroad for higher education, still reflect a near doubling of outbound students over the past decade with just under 18,000 Sri Lankans studying abroad in 2016.

Many market watchers, however, would also note Sri Lanka as among the fastest-growing emerging markets in the region. As we have highlighted in some of our recent coverage, the country has very strong fundamentals that will continue to drive demand for study abroad, including a large and growing college-aged population and brisk economic growth.

The British Council has also tagged Sri Lanka as a market on the move in its latest outlook report. Sri Lanka is expected to have one of the fastest-growing territory enrolments in the world, with average annual growth of about 4.5% through 2027. The British Council also projects that outbound mobility from Sri Lanka will exceed 32,000 students by 2027, a roughly 80% increase over the current UNESCO benchmark.

The majority of Sri Lankan students abroad opt to study in Australia, the US, or the UK, with a growing proportion also hosted by other destinations within Asia, notably India and Malaysia. Our recent discussion with Mohamed Sarjun Saleem reveals however that further shifts in demand are afoot as the market continues to expand. Mr Saleem is the Managing Director of the British Institute of Business Management Studies, an education institution and agency located in Colombo, Sri Lanka. We sat down with him recently for his views on this important sending market, and in our first interview segment below he highlights the growing popularity of European destinations among Sri Lankan students.

Mr Saleem notes that higher education provision continues to expand in Sri Lanka, in part through an increasing field of international branch campuses or international degrees offered in partnership with local providers. However, he adds that demand for study abroad continues to grow in part because Sri Lankan parents want their kids to have an experience in a multicultural environment and to exposed to new cultures, technologies, and ideas.

Our second interview segment below further highlights the value that Sri Lankan families place on higher education and how this is helping to shape both higher education provision within the country as well as a trends in study abroad.

Mr Saleem goes on to note the importance of local agents in recruiting in Sri Lanka, and of the importance of scholarship support as well as practicum or work placements in the decision making of Sri Lankan students.

In our final interview excerpt below, Mr Saleem comments on the relevance of the international schools sector in Sri Lanka, as well as the importance of missions in-country for overseas educators. “January and February and June-July are the best times of year to visit,” he advises, cautioning as well that, “If any institutions want to do some kind of promotions or workshops or seminars, it’s best in contact with the local agent, to organise something and to get an effective result.”

For additional background, please see:



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