The latestICEF i-graduate Agent Barometer has revealed a drop in attractiveness for both the UK and the US as study destinations among education agents for the third consecutive year. A survey of potential reasons for the decline included growing apprehension around visas, economic concerns and the global political landscape.
Established in 2007, the Agent Barometer monitors the opinions of education agents worldwide and provides an insight into agent’s perceptions of international education markets.
The 2017 survey featured 1,456 respondents from 107 countries, an increase of 31% on the 1,111 respondents the previous year.
Respondents were widely distributed by country with only India (16%), Nepal (7%), Brazil (7%), and Nigeria (5%) accounting for 5% or more of the total.
Agents reporting global political concerns among their clients grew from 30% of respondents in 2016 to 35% in 2017
Almost four-fifths (79%) indicated that they recruit for undergraduate programs and 76% for post-graduate courses, up slightly from 74% the previous year.
Nearly three quarters (74%) of agents said that they also recruit for language programs, and half (49%) promote secondary schools and vocational training courses (48%).
Reflecting the recent surge in international student numbers going to Canada, the county was the top destination for agents sending students of all program levels in 2017, with 52% of respondents reporting placements there, followed by Australia with 50%.
While the US was the third most favourable destination with 45%, it was down 2% on 2016 placement figures and 8% on 2015.
The UK showed an even more significant decline, with less than a third (32%) of agents placing students there in 2017 – a drop of 10% on 2016 numbers.
The number of agents reporting global political concerns among their clients grew from 30% of respondents in 2016 to 35% in 2017.
Country breakdowns, however, reveal even greater anxiety about the global political situation, particularly among students going to the US (76%) or the UK (48%).
Similarly, the global economic situation was a concern for clients going to the US (52%) and UK (51%), with Canada coming in third at 25%.
While both the US and Canada (49% respectively) topped the poll for countries where work visa concerns were encountered, student visa concerns were most prominent in Canada (61%) while financial concerns were reportedly an issue for students mainly in Australia (53%) and the UK (50%).
Despite the decline in some areas, the US topped the poll of best study destinations for MBA programs for the eighth year running with 31% of the vote, down from 41% in 2016. It was also the number one option for work and travel/study programs (27%).
For the third year in a row, the UK was the first choice for English language courses with 29% of the vote, followed by Australia and Canada with 22% respectively.
Less than a third (32%) of agents placed students in the UK in 2017
Canada was the firm choice for high school study (35%), vocational diplomas (33%), undergraduate study (25%) and postgraduate study (26%).
When it came to student and parent worries with regards studying abroad, there was a significant shift between concerns prior to departure and after student’s arrival at their study destination.
Difficulties with language were highlighted as the main concern prior to leaving according to 60% of respondents, however, it dropped by almost half to 31% upon arrival in the host country.
Financial difficulties (52%) and personal safety (445) were also high on the list of concerns prior to departure but were generally superseded by cultural difficulties (57%) upon arrival.
Difficulties with accommodation were highlighted as a major concern both before departure (46%) and upon arrival (52%), echoing recent reports around international student housing shortages.
“The Agent Barometer tracks mobility concerns reported by agents across several key categories. Whereas financial issues and concerns about the global economy predominated in the early part of this decade, we now see a greater emphasis on concerns around safety and security,” CEO of ICEF Markus Badde told The PIE News.
“This indicator encompasses both personal safety, which registers as an area of marginally greater concern this year, as well as the broader global political context, which shows a sharper increase as an area of student concern for 2017.
“We can imagine that this reflects major political currents in leading study destinations, such as the US and UK, along with regional disruptions around the world.”