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Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF
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Prospect survey points to key factors in study abroad planning for 2024

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
  • A new student survey points to persistent concerns around affordability and graduate outcomes in study abroad planning this year
  • The survey also provides further evidence of a trend toward students applying to larger numbers of programmes or institutions than in the past

A global survey of nearly 27,500 prospective international students provides some helpful insights on key decision points in study abroad planning this year, including barriers to application and enrolment abroad.

Most of the respondents to Keystone Education Group's 2024 State of Student Recruitment Report survey were from Africa (38%), Asia (34%), or Europe (19%). Latin American students were underrepresented in the survey with only 2% of responses. All prospective students responding to the survey were bound for higher education, most for master's programmes (57%), followed by undergraduate (23%) and doctoral prospects (20%). The survey was open between February and April 2024.

Most important decision factors

The following table summarises student responses regarding the most important selection factors for both an institution and a programme abroad.

Most important decision factors cited by students. Source: Keystone Education Group

The Keystone report calls out the following factors from the table in particular: "Prospective students have a greater interest in internships and work placements, with its popularity growing by 46% from 2023 to 2024." and "[Accommodation and campus life] is significantly more influential for students interested in studying internationally."

Students are filing more applications

Echoing findings from other recent surveys, Keystone reports a dramatic increase in the number of applications filed by each student this year: "This year, we have seen students intending to submit more applications than before, with a 250% increase in students applying to [four or more] programmes."

"How many programmes are you applying to?" Source: Keystone Education Group

Barriers to application

When asked what would prevent them from applying to study abroad, students cited application fees – underscoring the potential impact of recent and planned increased in visa application fees and financial requirements – as well as "unclear or missing information" as the most significant factors.

"What would prevent you from applying?" Source: Keystone Education Group"

The issue of unclear or missing information is one that recruitment teams obviously have more influence over, and Keystone provides the following tips to help drive conversions at the application stage.

"1. Check the content of your website and landing pages. Is the information up to date and complete

2. Qualify students and discuss how big a barrier the application fee would be. Consider waiving it for students from certain target markets or for specific programme start dates.

3. Gather your student reviews - prospective students trust current students."

Biggest concerns before study abroad

Perhaps not surprisingly, especially given the growing emphasis on affordability in recent years, cost (69%) was by far the biggest concern cited by respondents.

"What are your biggest concerns while applying in 2024?" Source: Keystone Education Group

Other areas of concern included time (in relation to other commitments) (22%), safety (19%), and political concerns (18%).

For additional background, please see:

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