Trends, insights and research to inform growth and innovation strategies in international higher education.

August 30, 2012

Mapping international student segments with recruitment channels

International students seeking to attend an American higher education institution differ by academic preparedness and financial resources, and these differences impact their preferences and information-seeking behavior during college search, according to a new report from World Education Services (WES)--a New York-based non-profit with over 35 years of experience in international education research and credential evaluation.

The publication, Not All International Students Are the Same: Understanding Segments, Mapping Behavior, presents findings from a survey of international students in the process of applying to U.S. colleges and universities. The survey, which was administered from October 2011 to March 2012, received responses from nearly 1,600 prospective international students from 115 countries.

The report identified four distinct international student segments based on academic preparedness and financial resources: Strivers, Strugglers, Explorers and Highfliers.

Strivers form the traditional segment of students coming to the U.S. They are highly prepared for academic work and expect to receive financial aid from their host institution. In contrast, Explorers form an emerging segment of students who can cover tuition fees but are not fully prepared for college-level coursework, indicating their need for academic support, particularly in English language training.

Highfliers are the most sought after as they are academically prepared and financially able. However, their attraction to a narrow circle of top-ranked institutions makes it difficult for lower ranked institutions to compete for them. Strugglers are less selective about their college choice, but they require additional pre- and post-enrollment assistance and have less access to financial resources.

The study found that just one-sixth of the survey respondents reported that they had used an recruitment agent during their college search. Student segments with lower academic preparedness—Explorers and Strugglers—were found to be more likely to use agent services.

Source: World Education Services

Related stories
Buyer beware, Inside Higher Ed
Knowing who the international student is will help with recruitment, University World News
From 'Strivers' to 'Highfliers,' report explores spectrum of foreign students, The Chronicle of Higher Education
Socio-economic status of Indian, Chinese students going abroad differs, says study, The Hindu

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August 20, 2012

How many Indian and Chinese students go abroad every year?

How many Indian and Chinese students go overseas to study every year? How many Indian and Chinese undergraduate students apply to US universities every year? What is the market size of Indian and Chinese student recruitment sector?

There are different estimates floating in the market as there is no authoritative data available to answer these questions. Most of the data available reports total enrollment (stock) and not annual new enrollment (flow). Global Education Digest reports total enrollment foreign students and not their annual outflow. Likewise, IIE Open Doors reports total enrollment in the US. So, we have to derive this number indirectly.

I have used NSF report (2010) for deriving my estimates, as it offers new enrollment in the U.S. by country and level.

Based on the calculations show in the table, it is estimated that
  • ~31,400 Chinese and ~39,000 Indian students come to study in the U.S. every year
  • Number of new Chinese undergraduate students is three-times that of Indian students (~9,600 vs. ~3,200)
  • Number of new Indian master's students is more than all of new Chinese students (~32,400 vs. ~31,400)
It is interesting to note that contrary to popular perception, more Indian students may be coming to the US as compared to Chinese. This is due to enrollment pattern of Chinese students which are concentrated in longer duration Undergraduate and Doctorate programs as compared to shorter duration master's programs where nearly 70% of Indian students are enrolled.

This calculation can be extended to estimate the global mobility of Indian and Chinese students on an annual basis. From, Global Education Digest, we know that the U.S. forms ~20% and ~50% of total global enrollment of Chinese (510, 000) and Indian students (195,000). Thus, we can extrapolate the calculations from the table to derive that nearly 156, 700 Chinese and 80,500 Indians go abroad every year. This estimate is limited by the fact that enrollment of Chinese and Indian students in US may not be representative of other destinations. For example, Australia enrolls disproportionately higher number of Indian students at vocational level as compared to the U.S.

Based on the number of students going abroad every year, one can also estimate the market size of aspiring applicants and hence recruitment market. Assuming that every students who enrolls abroad there are five times as many students applying. This gives us an estimate of nearly 750,000 Chinese and 400,000 Indian students applying to study abroad every year. No wonder, international student recruitment is a massive and growing business.

Of course, these are derived estimates, based on assumptions. I would welcome thoughts and suggestions to for improving the estimates.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha

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August 12, 2012

Could the birth of MOOCs lead to death of international branch campuses?

Could MOOCs change higher education the way emails changed postal services? I believe so. In nearly two decades, emails have changed the economic structure of postal services. An article in the New York Times in 2005 argued Why the Internet Isn't the Death of the Post Office. Seven years, later, US Postal Services is in deep trouble and it is projecting a loss of $15 billion this year. Does that mean that postal services will vanish. No--postal services will co-exist with emails. Postal services have to redefine the cost-structures, including human resources which account for 80% of cost, to remain viable in this world of instant and free communication.

Likewise, MOOCS are challenging traditional higher education to redefine its cost structure. Of course, they pose no threat to to top quartile of competitive institutions which provide access to higher socioeconomic advancement, but the next tier of institutions will face a new world of fast-paced, technology-based competition, which many are not prepared to compete with.

MOOCs are in the infancy stage and there are still many unknowns about how they will make their impact felt on higher education, including their revenue model for offering ‘free’ courses. And yes, it does feel like dot-com frenzy where online business models launched and failed, but in the end the Internet survived and got stronger than ever before. Likewise, MOOCs will take few years to move from irrational exuberance to sustainable maturity.

A special case of impact of MOOCs is on international student mobility and branch campuses. Could the birth of MOOCs lead to death of international branch campuses?

Branch campuses are infrastructure-intensive efforts with high financial and reputational risk, which could become increasingly unsustainable. Here is my article entitled Could MOOCs Lead to the Decline of Branch Campuses? which was published in University World News.

Like post-offices, branch campuses are not going away in the short term, especially the ones that have been in existence for a while. However, newer branch campuses will face unexpected competition from MOOCs. Institutions expecting to start or expand full-fledged campuses in times of disruptive online learning models need to think twice about their internationalisation strategies.


Related articles
The online pecking order
Top universities test the online appeal of free
Yes, MOOC is the global higher education game changer
MOOCs: a massive opportunity for higher education, or digital hype?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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August 04, 2012

Degrees at any cost: The rise of international student visa frauds

Herguan University, is yet another unaccredited American institution which preyed on aspirations of many Indian students by offering them pathways to the US using forged documents. Herguan follows earlier cases of Tri Valley University and University of Norther Virginia.

According to US ICE, Jerry Wang, 34- year old CEO of Herguan University and the University of East-West Medicine is charged with "conspiracy to commit visa fraud; use of false documents; aggravated identity theft; and unauthorized access to government computers." Majority of 450 students at Herguan are from India. Any guess, how these students were recruited?

I believe that in addition to unscrupulous activities of some universities, agents play an important role in this process. Here is my related post from last year--"International recruitment agents: Playing with fire?"

Herguan is listed as one of the universities for HoneyWorld--a Hyderabad-based education agent. Interestingly, Herguan is listed along with University of Bridgeport, Colorado State University and Wright State University among American universities served by HoneyWorld. This shows the risks involved for established brands in engaging with agent relationships. Some parents reported in Deccan Herald that "local consultants [agents] had lured them with job permits while studying and in some cases even assured that the students could work anywhere in the US if they went to Herguan University, and that there was no need to attend classes regularly."

Here is interesting discussion thread from 2009 mentioning student "referrals" which allow discounted tuition for students who recruit more students. Here is another example.

In my recent post, I highlighted that this is a very vulnerable time for Indian students as they are in the "search stage" of identifying their best fit options and given the double whammy of affordability and visa policy challenges, number of Indian students going abroad may get negatively impacted for fall 2012 admissions cycle.

In this vulnerable stage, US still seemed to be in a better shape as compared to other destinations because some of the traffic from Australia and the UK was expected to redirect to the US. However, Herguan may pose serious threat to Indian students headed to the US. There have already been reports of higher denials of visa by American embassies as seen in student discussion forums, and Herguan will make things tougher.

Visa related frauds which use education as pathways for immigration are an evidence of insatiable appetite for "foreign degrees" at any cost--fraud is accepted as fair by many and it is being propelled by technological sophistication.

In a recent article, Corruption in International Higher Education, Phil Altbach asserted "The first step in solving a major challenge to higher education internationalisation is recognition of the problem itself." Unfortunately, many do not want to recognize the problem and few others continue to fuel it.

Dr. Rahul Choudaha
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