The last couple of years have been very difficult for international education, and recruitment has been especially challenging.
However, since 2021 the sector has begun to recover, with some countries now seeing an increase in international student numbers on pre-pandemic levels.
Top international student markets 2022
The leading international student markets for top destinations like the US, Australia, and the UK continue to be China and India, with China way out in front.
These markets continue to grow, with India in particular expected to boom in the coming years, with some estimating 1.8 million outbound students by 2024.
While it’s impossible to ignore these markets, it doesn’t mean you should focus all your efforts on these countries. Tapping into smaller or emerging markets is a great way to get ahead of the competition while also boosting the diversity of your campus.
Top emerging markets
There are potential international students in pretty much every country around the world. However, some markets are growing faster than others, and some have more potential to grow in the future.
Here are five markets well worth looking at in 2023.
Bangladesh is now the second-largest market for international student recruitment in South Asia after India and looks set to continue its growth in the coming years.
Currently, Malaysia is the most popular destination for Bangladeshi students, but the US, UK, Canada, and Australia are increasingly popular options.
One of the biggest drivers of growth is the lack of higher education opportunities for students in Bangladesh. There are currently just over 50 public universities in the country, which are struggling to meet the demand of a young and ambitious population.
Bangladesh has also seen strong economic growth over the past few years. This has led to an increase in the country’s middle class, who can now afford an overseas education.
The number of Egyptian students studying abroad has boomed over the last 10 to 15 years, and with increased stability and economic growth in the country, this is expected to continue.
Another cause of increased outbound student mobility is the lack of investment in Egypt’s own higher education institutions and a fast-growing youth population.
Students leaving school in Egypt are increasingly looking abroad for the best opportunities. Currently, UAE and Saudia Arabia are the most popular destinations, but one of the most interesting things about this market is the variety of countries Egyptian students are choosing.
The US, France, Germany, UK, Canada, Malaysia, and Qatar are other popular options, demonstrating that Egyptian students are considering a wide range of study-abroad destinations.
Vietnam has been one of the most dynamic international student markets over the past couple of decades.
The number of students choosing to study abroad has exploded in recent years, with a growth rate that outstrips both China and India.
Students from Vietnam now represent the third largest student body in the US, and there is good reason to believe that the growth in this market will continue.
Vietnam has a young population, with 17% between the age of 17 and 25 years of age. This, coupled with a booming economy, and the fastest-growing middle class in Southeast Asia make Vietnam a fertile market for international students.
Colombia is currently only 2nd to Brazil as the largest provider of international students in Latin America. In 2021, more than 52,000 students from Colombia were studying abroad, more than doubling in the last 12 years.
Currently, Argentina is by far the most popular destination for international students from Colombia, but the USA, Spain, and Australia are also popular options.
The growth in the Colombian outbound market can be attributed to steadily increasing income levels in the country. This has also been coupled with an increasing desire from young Colombian students to study at university despite low investment levels in domestic higher education.
The number of students from Ghana choosing to study abroad has steadily increased over the past decade, more than doubling since 2010.
It is now the second-largest Sub-Saharan African source market in the US, behind only Nigeria. According to the Institute of International Education (IIE), the number of Ghanaian students enrolled in the US increased by 36% from 2017/18 to 2020/21 from 3,215 to 4,230.
Although these numbers are still relatively small, even compared to other African markets like Nigeria and Morocco, Ghana remains one of the fastest-growing markets for many top destinations.
There are several reasons behind the growth in the Ghanaian market, including:
- A young population - nearly 60% of the population is under the age of 25
- The official language is English - this means Ghanaian students are more prepared for English-language studies abroad than students from other countries
- Robust economic growth - although currently struggling due to global factors, Ghana’s economy has seen steady and stable growth over the last few years
Other emerging markets to consider
Here are a few other markets that you could tap into in 2023:
- Pakistan: A booming post-secondary student population and a lack of domestic higher education places make Pakistan a strong potential market for international students
- Nigeria: A growing economy and a burgeoning young population mean more and more young Nigerian students are looking to study abroad.
- Indonesia: Already a key market for Australian universities, Indonesian student numbers are fast growing in the US and the UK thanks to a growing economy and strong English skills
- Kenya: Another country with a fast-growing economy coupled with a booming young population, Kenya is definitely a market to watch in the coming years
Existing market vs emerging market
There is no doubt that the traditional markets of China, India, and South Korea will still be vital to any international recruitment strategy.
These markets are expected to continue to grow strongly, but there are several important reasons to look further afield when recruiting international students:
- A more diverse campus: having a strong cultural mix on campus is great for your university and your students
- Risk of over-dependence: If your university is over-reliant on one market, then you could be at risk if an incident occurs that slows or stops the pipeline
- Gain a strategic advantage: Tapping into new markets early can put you ahead of the competition as that market grows
How to attract students from new markets
There are several effective ways you can begin to boost your recruitment from new markets.
Build on existing relationships
If your university already has ties with other institutions in your target market you can use these to build your presence there.
Consider dual degrees or exchange programs with partners that allow you to build relationships and engage with students from your target countries.
Use your ambassadors
If you already have students from your target countries, use them to promote your institution. Using their voice and positive experience is a great way to connect with prospective students from their home country.
You can work with them to produce social media campaigns that reach your target audience. You can also use their advice and experience on how best to attract students from their country, including ways you can improve your offering.
Understand your target market
Find out what it is that students from your target markets look for when studying abroad. Is it affordability, job prospects, community, or something else?
Once you know your target audience, create landing pages that speak directly to them and focus on their aspirations. If you have the resources, consider offering small scholarships or discounts that could attract more students.