Demand for “Value for Money” to Drive Future of International Student Mobility

mobility of international students by income level UIS Rahul Choudaha DrEducation

Meet the New International Student” is a comprehensive story featured in the Chronicle of Higher Education on the emergence of “budget-conscious, job-focused” student. The analysis covers a range of perspectives and highlights the following themes:

  • More students will come from a wider range of countries
  • Students will shop for value
  • Students will seek specialized programs that offer a strong promise of employability
  • International students will be recruited from colleges’ backyards
  • Students will earn American degrees without coming to America

I am quoted in the article about the rise of “the bargain hunter” who is in search of “value for money.” This is in contrast to the growth driven by “prestige seeking” international student who had relatively more resources to and was willing to pay top dollar for top quality. I argued that there is an untapped potential of demand coming from students looking for value. “They see a real benefit in a foreign degree but are limited in their ability to pay for it. This student is looking to gain global experience, while minimizing the cost.”

The analysis of student mobility data from UIS indicates that Upper Middle Income countries surpassed High Income countries as a source of international students in 2004 and experienced dramatic growth in the following decade. This growth in demand for overseas education among Upper Middle Income was mostly driven by China.

Since 2013, Lower Middle Income countries are experiencing significant growth in international student mobility. While the recent 2018/2019 data is unavailable, it is very likely that Lower Middle Income countries would have surpassed High Income countries as a source of international students. This growth would be led by countries such as India, Nigeria and Vietnam.

The key strategic question confronting universities and colleges in High Income countries is how to maintain international student enrollment when demand for overseas education from China is stagnating of declining and students from Lower Middle Income countries face affordability challenges. At the same time, English-taught programs in Asia and Continental Europe are posing new competition in which offer lower cost of education and hence may be more attractive to the “bargain hunter” seeking value for money.

These are critical times for higher education institutions in English-speaking destinations to reflect, asses and pivot their strategies to recalibrate value for money for international students and to sustain future enrollments.

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