Western universities must quickly diversify their international student recruitment

Western universities must quickly diversify their international student recruitment Education Beyond Borders Podcast

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16-MAR-2023 | International Student Recruitment: The geopolitical upheaval linked to the war in Ukraine underlines that no student market can be viewed as entirely stable any more. Therefore, Western universities are having to quickly expand the number of regions and countries they recruit in as a result.

Global geopolitics have shifted dramatically over the past decade, but the shifts have never been so apparent as over the past 13 months. The war in Ukraine has quickly united the West; cemented ties between Russia, China, and Iran; and convinced several other governments, notably India’s, that a careful neutrality is the wisest move at this point.

China’s power is clearly visible in its strategic alignment with Russia and is a major force shaping a new international order. China’s rise is also affecting where Western educators are recruiting and where international students are choosing to study.

Foreign student enrolment in Canada, 2017, 2019, and 2022

International Student Recruitment - Foreign enrolment in Canada, 2017, 2019, and 2022
International Student Recruitment: Foreign student enrolment in Canada is now 27% higher than before the onset of the pandemic, and some of the huge increases in some sending markets below are part of that story (the Philippines increase in particular is astounding). Those increases offset significant declines from the key Asian markets of China, Vietnam, and South Korea. Source: ICEF Monitor

China’s new stature a factor driving international student recruitment diversification

The Chinese study abroad market has for years been flattening and even shrinking for the US, Canada, and Australia. Part of the reason is somewhat ironic: China sent so many students out in the past decade that is no longer needs to do so now.

Specifically, hundreds of thousands of Chinese students have graduated in the past decade from top-ranked Western institutions and many of them have returned home. Those graduates are fueling the Chinese economy and education system, and China is now leading the US in 37 of 44 technology fields analyzed in a year-long study by the Australian Strategic Policy Institute.

As China’s political and economic influence expands, so too has its higher education system, both in terms of quality and capacity. Several Chinese institutions now have a place in the top tiers of international rankings. Such developments illustrate why so many Chinese and Asian high-school-aged students now feel they have at least as much reason to study in China as in the West.

It is no coincidence, given China’s growing power, that many Western schools and universities are casting a far wider net in their recruitment efforts. India remains a focus, as do other South and Southeast Asian markets, but South and Latin America as well as Africa are increasingly important.

There is sadly no end in sight yet for the war’s resolution, and no clear sense yet of what the world order will look like in the coming months, or years.

In the meantime, prospective students around the world are receiving more offers and enticements than ever from institutions in a growing number of destinations. The intense competition for students reflects not only institutions’ need to fill places in classrooms, but also governments’ pressing need to strengthen their labor force and research centers and to forge ties with emerging economies.

Source: ICEF Monitor

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