Is South Asia’s student mobility market set for growth?
“The state of student mobility from South Asia to the UK has been a nearly endless series of bad news since 2011, but green shoots in Bangladesh suggest that the region be set for growth again”
The following is an extract from the British Council’s Education in East Asia – By the Numbers report, ‘Is South Asia’s student mobility market set for growth?’, written by Jeremy Chan, Regional Head of Research and Consultancy, East Asia at the British Council. The British Council’s Services for International Education Marketing (SIEM) team helps UK institutions refine their internationalisation strategies to succeed in East Asia and around the globe. The full report is available to registered members of the British Council website here.
The state of student mobility from South Asia to the UK has been a nearly endless series of bad news since 2011, but green shoots in Bangladesh suggest that the region may have bottomed out and be set for growth again. This rebound comes not a moment too soon – and perhaps two years too late – as South Asia will be the most important growth market for international student mobility for the foreseeable future and has already recorded rapid rises in enrolments in Australia, the US and Canada since 2013. The UK cannot afford to fall any further behind.
“This rebound comes not a moment too soon – and perhaps two years too late – as South Asia will be the most important growth market for international student mobility for the foreseeable future”
For the UK, the South Asia region has made for a wild ride since 2009, when issuance of long-term UK study visas began to surge, only to collapse again two years later. Today, the region issues some 40 per cent fewer visas than it did in 2005, and more than 80 per cent fewer visas than it did at its peak in the middle of 2010. Demand for UK education continues to decline in four of the five countries in the region – India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Nepal – albeit at a slowing rate. More encouragingly, strong growth in demand for UK education from Bangladesh in 2014 points to glimmers of light at the end of the tunnel for the region as a whole.
Reasons for (cautious) optimism
It goes without saying that today’s visa applicants are tomorrow’s students, which means that new enrolments from South Asia at UK institutions have almost certainly continued to decline in 2014/15 on the back of falling numbers of applications for UK study visas. However, growth could rebound in time for the 2015/16 cohort, although even in this slightly optimistic scenario, mobility to the UK will return to growth more than two years after the South Asia market began to recover in other major English speaking host destination countries. This suggests that UK market share will not necessarily improve even with a rebound in enrolments – a function of both the severe decline in South Asia’s outbound student mobility market to the UK from 2011-14, as well as the more rapid increase in enrolments from the region in Australia, the US and Canada in recent years.
Indeed, Australia has reported especially strong growth in enrolments from all of South Asia in 2014, while the U.S. and Canada have seen overall increases from the region in 2013/14 – and Bangladesh in particular. The strong growth in enrolments from Bangladesh across all major markets suggests that its outbound student market is indeed growing faster than other countries in South Asia, with the ‘push’ factors for students from Bangladesh perhaps outweighing the ‘pull’ factors in any given host destination country.
“For the UK, in other words, a rebound in Bangladesh may only be a function of a rising tide lifting all boats”
For the UK, in other words, a rebound in Bangladesh may only be a function of a rising tide lifting all boats; UK market share will tell the full story of how the UK education offer stacks up against the competition. On this front, the latest visa application data suggests that the UK continued to lose ground in 2013/14 but may have recovered a bit in 2014/15 – after more than three years of consecutive decline in issuance of new long-term UK study visas to students in Bangladesh, its outbound student market returned to growth in 2014 and has increased at an annual rate of nearly 25 per cent through the first three quarters of 2014, according to data from the Home Office.
Continue reading here.