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Reliance on a small pool of international student markets can be risky business. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that market behaviours of all varieties can be notoriously hard to predict. Institutions that rely on a broad spectrum of source markets are much better placed to ensure stable growth and movement across their portfolios. Not only is a diversified portfolio bound to lead to less volatility and higher returns, but it also means that campuses are filled with a more diverse international student body, which in turn enriches the student experience for both home and international students.  

The volatility of student demand

In this article, we will explore some of the emerging markets for UK institutions to consider as part of their marketing and recruitment drives. Using our IQ Demand Tracker tool, which tracks the search behaviours of millions of prospective students, we looked at demand from source markets for the UK over the last two years. Unsurprisingly, the highest levels of demand came from India. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on some of the other less prominent markets shown in the graph below.  

29 June 2020- 29 June 2021 (global source market demand for UK)

Demand from Indonesia

Indonesia is a market worth taking note of. Over the 2-year period indicated in the graph, Indonesia showed the second highest demand up until April last year, before remarkably overtaking India for about 2 months. Since its peak in May 2020, demand has declined with Turkey steadily moving into second place from July 2020.  

UK institutions need to work hard and innovatively to secure share from the Indonesian market, as many excellent regional universities in nearby countries such as Singapore and China successfully recruit Indonesian students. To stay competitive, UK institutions should focus on their global rank, the world-class quality of education on offer and destination attractions. Indonesia is one of the world’s most populous countries with 50% of the population under the age of 30. It also has a fast-growing middle class and is seeing a rise in prospective students looking to foreign shores for higher education opportunities. It could be the next powerhouse of international student supply for the UK.  

City demand from Indonesia

Looking at the last 12 months (29/06/2020-29/06-2021), Jakarta has the highest share of demand (29.58%) of all Indonesian cities for higher education in the UK. While the temptation may be to concentrate marketing efforts solely on this dominant market, Indonesia has many other cities worth nurturing too. Surabaya, for instance, is a city of nearly 3 million citizens and has 10.88% of overall market share. 

The key to effectively targeting these markets is to understand what prospective students from these different cities are researching and interested in. Through the IQ Demand Tracker tool, we’re able to drill into these details. In Jakarta, the most searched subject area for the UK is Social Studies and Communications, whilst for Surabaya, Health and Medicine comes out as most popular. Marketing efforts should be guided by these types of trends and tailored accordingly.

City demand in Indonesia for the UK

Demand from Turkey

Turkey is another prominent emerging market that has made some serious headway over the last 2 years. Turkey hovered just beneath Indonesia until July 2020, before seeing an increase in demand moving it into second position beneath India. It reached its peak in December 2020, followed by a drop starting in February.  

The strong momentum shown by Turkey since March 2020 presents a good opportunity for UK institutions to capitalise. Even though other key English-speaking study destinations are becoming increasingly competitive, the UK has the advantage of close geographic proximity to Turkey. Over the last 20 years, Turkey has seen impressive economic growth, leading to increased employment and incomes and more prospective students looking to broaden their horizons at foreign universities. Active recruitment campaigns tailored to the needs of prospective students in cities across Turkey are a good way to maintain high levels of demand and drive engagement and conversion. 

City Demand in Turkey

When looking at global city demand for the UK, interestingly Istanbul comes out at the very top, outperforming major Indonesian, Chinese and Indian cities. It should be considered a key market for UK institutions. Unsurprisingly, within Turkey, Istanbul has 36.66% of market share, followed by Ankara (12.70%), Izmir (8.37%) and a broad variety of other Turkish cities. For these top Turkish cities, Health & Medicine is the most researched subject area, followed by Engineering and Technology, and Applied Pure Sciences. When drilling down further into Health & Medicine for instance, we can see that Psychology, Medicine and Dentistry are some of the most popular searches. UK institutions can use this data to customise city-targeted recruitment campaigns to drive conversion of more Turkish students.   

Global city demand for the UK 

City demand in Turkey for the UK

Demand from Thailand

Thailand has shown steady growth in 5th position over the last two years, briefly overtaking Brazil at the end of 2019. It saw a dramatic increase in April 2021, which could be due to active marketing drives on IDP’s student-facing websites. As the second-largest economy in Southeast Asia after Indonesia, Thailand is cited by the World Bank as being one of the great development success stories, having moved from a low-income to an upper middle-income country in less than a generation. With this type of growth comes increasing aspirations for higher education abroad. The UK is likely to face strong competition from other key English-speaking study destinations such as Australia when it comes to the Thai market. However, when looking at global city demand for the UK, Bangkok is third from the top, indicating significant interest from Thailand for the UK.  

City demand from Thailand 

Thailand’s demand is generated predominantly from Bangkok with 55.63% of share. Its next biggest urban generator is Chiang Mai with only 5.04% of share. For Bangkok, the top three subject areas are Health & Medicine with Medicine as the top sub-discipline, Business & Administrative Studies with MBA as the top sub-discipline, and Social Studies & Communications with Economics as the top sub-discipline. UK institutions can use these insights as a starter guide for how to approach the Thai student market.  

City demand in Thailand for the UK

Data-led insights for portfolio development

Other emerging markets worth exploring include Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Vietnam and Nigeria. All these markets appear in the top ten for UK demand. Nigeria is particularly interesting with Lagos coming 4th in overall student demand for the UK, after Istanbul, Bangkok and Jakarta. These insights offer a glimpse into the wide spectrum of untapped opportunities available to institutions. Using data-led insights that highlight the nuanced interests of prospective students in different countries and cities around the world, UK institutions can strategically engage with new markets and gradually diversify their portfolios.  

IQ services 

Get in touch with our client team on internationalclientteam@idp-connect.com to discover how your institution can use our IQ services, including Demand Tracker, for more detailed data-led insights and support on strategic portfolio development.  

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If you’d like to find out more about  IQ International services, please get in touch with  our client team

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Franki Clemens05 July 2021