American universities are set to strengthen their dominance in attracting international students, powered by the continued momentum from China and Saudi Arabia, revival of India, and emergence of new markets such as Brazil, Mexico and Vietnam, according to a new report, “Trends in International Student Mobility,” released last week by World Education Services (WES), a nonprofit organisation specialising in foreign credential evaluations and trends in global education.
“The US is a sleeping giant in terms of international student recruitment and is just now waking up in response to the fiscal challenges faced by many public universities.”
“As the US economy picks up, the perception of improved employment prospects will strengthen the attractiveness of the US among international students and, at the same time, stringent immigration policies of the UK and Australia are likely to divert some traffic to the US. Finally, the sheer size of the American higher education system enables it to absorb international students at a higher rate than other countries,” says Dr. Rahul Choudaha, director of Research & Advisory Services at WES and the main author of the report.
The report reveals the following additional trends:
- Enrolment growth at the Bachelor’s level is set to outstrip growth at the Master’s and Doctoral levels. Since international students studying at the Bachelor’s level are typically funded by their families, as opposed to financial aid, and provide a longer stream of revenue (four years) versus Master’s programmes (two years), some public institutions are viewing this trend as a solution to current fiscal challenges.
- English as a Second Language (ESL) programmes are emerging as an important pathway for international students, most notably from Saudi Arabia. The availability and length of Optional Practical Training (OPT) will also continue to be an important factor for students heading for the US, most notably for Indian students.
- Given intense pressure on institutions to become more prompt and efficient in achieving their recruitment goals, the use of recruitment service providers, plus various types of social media marketing and state consortia marketing will gain momentum.
- Growth in international student enrolment is not restricted to large states like California and New York; non-traditional destinations, including Montana, Oregon, Delaware, Iowa and Colorado, are also witnessing significant growth due to more aggressive institutional outreach efforts, state policy reforms that allow for the enrolment of more international students in public institutions and increased support for English as a Second Language (ESL) training.
Although student mobility is expected to grow, institutions have to compete hard for talented and self-funded students. A better understanding of global mobility trends and their relationship to the applicant pipeline will help institutions channel their efforts. Institutions must be strategic, deliberate and informed in their recruitment efforts.
The report is divided into two sections: the first providing an overview of international student mobility to four host countries – the US, the UK, Australia and Canada – in the context of major policy reforms; and the second offering an in-depth analysis of international enrolment trends in the US with emphasis on emerging recruitment practices and institutional examples supporting these trends.