Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF

Latest British Council research reveals market opportunities in Turkey, Italy, and Spain

"At the moment, 600,000 students come to the UK each year to learn English, and that contributes GBP 2 billion to the UK economy."

-- Amy Rogers, UK ELT Marketing Manager for the British Council The British Council takes an active role in promoting the UK as a study destination, and in order to support the industry, one of the services they offer is an ongoing series of market intelligence reports, which are updated annually. These country profiles provide an overview of economic, demographic and education issues in various nations around the world. They are available free of charge to British Council accredited English language institutions in the UK; others can purchase them via the web. Today we turn to three markets in particular in order to discover how to boost student recruitment results in Turkey, Italy, and Spain. Summaries of the reports appear below, but first, listen to our video interview with Ms Rogers as she puts the spotlight on Turkey.


The country brief on Turkey is written by Levant Education and is based on data collected  between 2007 and mid-2012, from more than 19,600 prospective international students from Turkey, located in-country at the time they were surveyed. Findings indicate that about 15,000 Turkish students go to the UK each year to study English, and 17% of them are juniors. The British Council estimates they contribute GBP 86 million to the UK economy. There are two main customer segments: high-income and low-income families. As a result, there are two defined markets: high sales of inexpensive courses and lower sales of high-end, expensive courses. The length of study varies as follows:

  • 4-8 weeks: 25%
  • 12-24 weeks: 23%
  • 8-12 weeks: 21%
  • More than 24 weeks: 21%
  • Less than 4 weeks: 10%

Recommendations for educators:

  • Serious students - Recent trends have shown that most Turkish students are not interested in learning English for fun, or as a hobby - their concerns today are more practical. Prospective students are more likely to react to advertising that reflects an institution's quality, reputation, alumni success stories, and career prospects. The report outlines, "Respondents interested in postgraduate study cited ‘career prospects’ (32%), ‘quality of the course’ (29%) and ‘offers scholarships’ (27%) as the main reasons for selecting an institution."
  • Watch the numbers - Ms Rogers cautions us that "educators should beware of exaggerated claims about the size of the Turkish market - around half a million students will finish high school each year but in reality only about 40,000 of them will go abroad to study (with 48% of them going to the UK, 21% to the US, and 7% to Canada)."
  • Agent relations - Agents are the biggest marketing channel so providers would be wise to manage those relationships effectively, incorporate agents into their marketing strategy, and support them to develop good practice and credit control, and avoid non-payment issues. "It's very much a two-way partnership," says Ms Rogers. Schools looking to build their agent network could explore some of Turkey's agent associations, such as TEAG, UED, or EDUDER.
  • ROI - Educators should rethink their marketing spend (i.e., student fairs are plentiful but feedback indicates that they can yield a low return on investment, so brand building activities might be more effective). Another tip Ms Rogers also shared is that school inspection reports will be available to the public in 2013, so schools with clean reports should promote that in their advertising.


Research for the Italian market was conducted in May and June of 2012. The Internet, student recruitment agents, and word of mouth are the most common marketing channels. The report recommends that educational providers have Italian language versions of their websites and use social media to connect with young adults. In terms of their buying behaviour, Italians work on short lead times, thus educators need to be flexible. For example, 1 in 3 students book 1-3 months in advance, and 1 in 3 student book 1-4 weeks in advance. The US and Ireland are becoming more popular with Italian students, but the UK is still the number one destination due to its strong reputation for quality. Typical courses for young learners (under 19 years old) include:

  • 2-week study visits during term time
  • 2-week study holiday during summer – most popular
  • 4-week funded trips during summer

Students in their late teens (15-19 years old) might technically be ‘young learners’ but they don’t see themselves that way, therefore providers should consider tailoring their marketing and coursework accordingly. Adults are more interested in General English, Exam preparation and English for Specific Purposes (ESP). Italian adults prefer full packages with education, flight and accommodation all included in the final offer. Time and money are the most common obstacles for adults, so language courses need to be tailored to fit clients’ needs. This is especially true of career-focused clients. They come via agencies or corporates and are looking for Business English in the areas of finance, legal, human resources, and engineering. The report recommends providers experiment with gift boxes of language courses for teens or adults. In addition, language schools could group together to offer a full UK experience, for example, one week in Scotland, one week in Wales, and one week in England.


The country brief for Spain, which is free to download, indicates that educational providers should develop a marketing strategy by customer segment. For example:

  • 6-15 year olds
    • English is compulsory in school for this age group, so General English courses are well-suited to them
  • 16-19 year olds
    • The main growth segment for the next five years
    • University prep, exam prep for university entrance and/or language tests such as IELTS, pre- and post-programme support
    • This segment likes special offers like “Bring a friend" or "2 for the price of 1”
  • University-level students
    • This segment enjoys web-based technology, many come via the government funded Erasmus programme
  • Trainee teachers of English
    • Public and private schools should be contacted directly to send teachers and learn English as a group
  • Individual professionals and business students
  • Corporate and multinational market

This last segment is difficult to access and is therefore an untapped market in Spain, so the report advises providers to find partners in country via local language schools, human resources associations or industry groups such as agency association ASEPROCE (Asociación Española de Promotores de Cursos en el Extranjero) which represents 70 agencies. The report highlights additional gaps in the marketplace, such as:

  • Web-based learning
    • For the unemployed and university aged students
    • English for Specific Purposes
  • Adventure holidays in English
    • 16-25 year olds like learning outside the classroom
    • English Plus courses
  • English for 60+ year olds
    • Cultural experience / hobby
    • Funding is available through the EU’s Grundtvik programme

Destination countries include:

  • UK: 50-60%
  • US: 15-20%
  • Other: 20-35% (Malta, Ireland, South Africa, Canada)

Factors for decision making include safety, support for students, quality, cost, location, and climate. There has been a decline in the Spanish market due to trying economic conditions and the increasing level of English teaching quality in Spain. Therefore, providers are advised to tackle the market earlier, by targeting younger learners, specifically through social media management of popular channels such as Facebook, Second Life, Twitter and LinkedIn. New British Council reports on Russia, Brazil, and Japan will be available in early 2013.

Most Recent

  • Demand for study abroad in Australia, Canada, UK already affected by new international education policies Read More
  • International school openings, enrolments, and revenues continue to expand Read More
  • South Korea announces results of annual evaluation of universities and colleges’ international programmes Read More

Most Popular

  • Canada’s foreign enrolment grew by more than 30% in 2022 Read More
  • Measuring cost of study and cost of living across study destinations Read More
  • Recruiting in the Emirates: Big goals, world-class education, and new scholarships Read More

Because you found this article interesting

Demand for study abroad in Australia, Canada, UK already affected by new international education policies New, restrictive policies concerning international students in the UK, Canada, and Australia are already having a significant impact...
Read more
International school openings, enrolments, and revenues continue to expand Data in a new white paper, “What data tells us about the international schools market?”, published by ISC...
Read more
South Korea announces results of annual evaluation of universities and colleges’ international programmes On 8 February 2024, the Korean government announced the results of its annual evaluation of colleges and universities’...
Read more
Australia’s “blueprint for change” for higher education calls for a more diverse and balanced international enrolment After just over a year of consultation and review, 820 written submissions, 180 meetings, and a hotly debated...
Read more
Australian unis brace for risk assessment as visa rejections continue Australia’s education providers continue to grapple with a significant spike in visa rejections. As many as 1 in...
Read more
Malaysia opens new post-study visa option for degree graduates Effective 1 December 2023, Malaysia introduced a package of new visa settings designed to make it easier for...
Read more
New policies, Erasmus+, and booming tourism boost Spain’s international education sector New government policies in Spain – as well as a changed competitive context in the broader international education...
Read more
Dutch universities detail plan to reduce international enrolment The Dutch government spent most of last year signalling its concern about the rapid growth of international student...
Read more
What are you looking for?
Quick Links