Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment: Thinking Beyond China and India

With more than 260,000 students from China and India enrolled in the US, many American institutions are over-reliant on these two markets for meeting their international student recruitment goals. With the budget cuts, self-financed students are becoming increasingly important and Chinese undergraduate students are a lucrative and fast-growing segment. However, there are already concerns about concentration of Chinese students in some campuses and India had been showing stagnancy in last few years. This indicates that institutions need to look beyond China and India and cultivate other source countries.

At another level, there is a “stock market” mentality emerging in international student enrollment domain where stakeholders closely watch annual shifts in enrollment figures. However, it is important to look into long-term trends of emerging and declining markets. Here are some contrasting trends with four markets–two declining and two growing.

Japan and Indonesia have declined quite drastically. Decline in Japan is a due to changing demographics resulting in decline of college going pipeline. For Indonesia, decline in US numbers could be explained by attractiveness of Australia and Malaysia due to cost and proximity. Indonesia is second largest source country for Malaysia and third largest source country for Australia.

In contrast to Japan and Indonesia, Nepal and Vietnam have shown robust growth over a decade. Vietnamese students in the US have grown by more than six times in a decade. Even Australia gained from the demand of Vietnamese students by 167% in four years from 9,634 in 2007 to 25,788 in 2010. Likewise, Nepalese students in the US have grown by nearly three times in a decade. Australia saw a strong growth in Nepalese students from 9,106 in 2007 to 22,019 in 2010 (142% in four years).

This growth in internationally mobile students from Nepal and Vietnam is primarily driven by growing aspirations of expanding educated classes which in turn is supported by economic development. Both Vietnam and Nepal saw their GDPs grew by nearly three-times in a decade. What are your thoughts about these markets?

Dr. Rahul Choudaha


  1. Excellent post and most helpful infact for higher educational instituitions that need to have a continuous pipeline of international students.

    Dr. Choudaha, one question: Do you see a this trend also in the post-graduate level?

  2. The information prsented in your blog is most informative. It is very interesting to learn that so many international students come to the USA to study then return at the end of their study to their countries to make a difference in creating social changes.


  3. Hi Rahul
    I thought it might be interesting to compare your numbers to those of UK: students incoming from the four countries you've mentioned. Mostly a similar picture, but with one exception; however, our numbers are much smaller overall.

    Comparing years 2002/03 to 2009/10 (yrs for which I can access data)
    Japan 6685 4170 -38% change
    Indonesia 1135 1245 10% change
    Nepal 325 1190 266% change
    Vietnam 375 2645 604% change

  4. Thanks for the comments.

    @Joy: Majority of the enrollment in Vietnam (75%) and Nepal (60%) is at undergraduate level (IIE Open doors).

    @ Jessica: Thanks for sharing the UK stats.


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