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5th Jun 2024

US launches new market diversification dashboard

Given the need for new and better ways to collect and interpret data on international student movement, we can expect to see a variety of new tools and data dashboards in the years ahead. The latest entry in this category comes from the International Trade Administration (ITA) in the United States, which showcased a new Market Diversification Tool for International Education at the annual NAFSA conference in New Orleans last week.

The new dashboard "brings together data that would otherwise be difficult to access and interpret" by combining six datasets detailing US exports, international students in the US, student arrivals by visa type, global flows of tertiary students, regulations on providing education services in international markets, and demographic and income data.

A sample view from the ITA's Market Diversification Tool for International Education.

The dashboard is ambitious in its scope, and interesting to experiment with. It will be especially useful for US-based recruiters and stakeholders, but international educators around the world will likely also find it a helpful in their market research efforts.

As with any such tools, caution is required, however, as they are necessarily limited by the underlying data they contain. For example, the Market Diversification Tool relies on SEVIS data from the US Department of Homeland Security in order to keep count of international students in the US. That data only captures students on F, M, and J-class visas, and that means in turn that it yields an incomplete view of some education sectors.

For example, looking just at the dashboard, you might conclude that Brazil and Colombia were the two most important sending markets for ELT students in the US. And they are, in terms of those arriving with F, M, or J visas.

But IIE's broader annual survey of Intensive English Programs (IEPs) in the US tells us that only about 60% of ELT students entered the US with F or J visas last year. Nearly four in ten (38%) came on a B visa (i.e., a visitor visa for short-term stays) in 2023, and EnglishUSA's latest member survey suggests that the proportion of B visa students is increasing.

That broader IIE survey counts Brazil and Colombia among the top ten sending markets for US IEPs in 2023 (3rd and 9th respectively). But it makes it clear as well that the mix of top sending markets is quite different than the ITA dashboard would suggest.

Take that not as a critique of the Market Diversification Tool as such, but just an illustration that observations drawn from any such resource have to be read with an understanding of the underlying data itself. The tool does much better, for example, when mapping Master's students in the US, such as we see in the screen cap above – simply because the vast majority of those students will enter the US with an F-1 visa and so are better captured in the SEVIS data.

The following video provides a great orientation as to how you can navigate the Market Diversification Tool to draw out your own findings.

For additional background, please see:

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