Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF

An agent’s view of recruiting in Pakistan

Pakistan sent nearly 40,000 students abroad for higher education in 2013, mainly to the UK, Australia, the US, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, Canada, Germany, and Malaysia. The college-aged population in the country is large and growing, and income levels continue to grow as well. These are some of the factors that have led the British Council to forecast Pakistan to be one of the fastest-growing markets for outbound mobility through 2024. But Pakistani mobility patterns are set to shift in the next ten years. According again to the British Council, the top destinations for Pakistani postgraduates by the year 2024 will be Australia, Germany, and the UK. Looking at year-over-year growth forecasts in percentage terms reveals that Australia, Canada, Germany, and the US are expected to see the largest gains in Pakistani enrolment over the next decade. However, this important market remains relatively unfamiliar to many international educators and we recently sat down with Syed Azhar Husnain Abidi for his insights on recruiting in Pakistan. Mr Abidi is the CEO of the Lahore-based agency Falcon Education & Consultancy Services. Aside from its main office in Lahore, Falcon also has offices in four other Pakistani centres - Karachi, Islamabad, Peshawar, and Sialkot - as well as in Bangladesh and Saudi Arabia. Mr Abidi has more than two decades’ experience in advising Pakistani students on study abroad, and is also the chairman of the Association of Professional Education Consultants of Pakistan (APECOP). In our first interview segment below, he picks up on the theme of shifting demand patterns to describe how student interest is moving away from the UK, the traditional leader, and toward Germany, Canada, and the US. Security concerns and visa refusal rates are an important characteristic of the Pakistani market. Mr Abidi reports, however, that the situation has largely improved for bona fide students that are well prepared for the visa application process. He notes as well that close collaboration between local agents and universities abroad is a key element of ensuring that students are well advised on all visa and admissions requirements. In our final interview segment below, Mr Abidi sets out some important strategies for educators that are approaching the market for the first time. He stresses again the importance of building relationships with local partners, including education agents but also local trade offices (e.g., British Council, US Commercial Service) as well as Pakistani institutions. New providers are also encouraged to consider one of the major education fairs in Pakistan. There are two currently: the Dawn Education Expo in February and The News Education Expo, which is held in various Pakistani centres from April through mid-May.

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