UK institutions have become accustomed to looking toward established key source markets such as India and China for recruiting international students. While these markets have proven to be reliable, institutions often overlook the untapped opportunity available in other vast markets such as South and Central America. In this article we will explore trends and possibilities for international student recruitment within Latin America to help UK institutions navigate this diverse market. We will also share insights by 2 of our in-house experts who have extensive experience working with the Brazil and broader Latin America student markets.
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Using our IQ Demand Tracker tool, which tracks the search behaviour of millions of prospective students, we consider postgraduate demand from Brazil for key English-speaking study destinations over the period 25/08/2020 to 25/08/2021. Unsurprisingly the US holds the highest share at 39.90%, followed by Canada (30.99%) and the UK (25.09%). The UK is thus firmly among the top three destinations of choice and well above the remaining competing destinations. Over the year-long period, the UK saw a slight drop in demand, after outperforming Canada for a brief period.
Demand from Brazil for key English-speaking markets (25/08/2020 to 25/08/2021)
These trends mimic findings by BELTA Research in 2020 (Brazilian Education and Language Association Research), which places the UK as the fourth most desirable destination among Brazilians, after Canada, the US and Ireland. Ireland is a popular study destination due to its cheaper living and study costs. Natalia Sousa, Senior Digital Marketing Executive for the Hotcourses Brazil brand, adds that Portugal has recently become a popular study destination among Brazilian students too. She says: “This is due to its easy application process, the fact that grades in Brazil are accepted by most Portuguese universities and that there is no language barrier. The cost of living in Portugal and tuition fees are also much lower compared to the UK. Many Portuguese universities are also giving students the option of studying in English.”
Of all the countries in Latin American, Brazil shows the highest level of demand for international study with the UK indicating a better performance for postgraduate-taught courses compared to undergraduate. Using the same parameters as the graph above, but filtered by undergraduate only, the UK shows just 14.36% of market share, compared to the US claiming a dominant 44.81%. Demand for postgraduate studies in the UK is therefore much more robust compared to undergraduate.
The reality is that while demand from Brazil for studying in the UK is high, conversion is relatively low. Natalia says: “Higher education in the UK is perceived as one of the best in the world due to its leading universities. The UK is also perceived as a safe place to live with a high quality of life. On the other hand, it is perceived as a very expensive destination to study with high exchange rates.”
Natalia believes that the most effective way for institutions to engage with prospective Brazilian students is to frequently share information about scholarship opportunities and financial support, providing information and support about the university application process and promoting internship opportunities at established companies, as many Brazilian students seek to live in their destination country on completion of their studies.
Reflecting on what content has been most popular on Hotcourses Brazil, Natalia says: “Content about scholarships is very popular and can bring the most engagement and conversions among Brazilian students. Recently, especially after the pandemic, topics such as online courses have become very popular. We have written articles about free online courses available at popular university websites and they have been very successful in attracting traffic.”
UK institutions need to be innovative and responsive to increase conversion in the Brazilian market. The key is to understand what this audience values and how to effectively engage with them. Natalia says that the following factors are top of mind for this audience: a favourable exchange rate, an English-speaking country, safety and quality of life, policies that allow international students to combine their studies and work activities, and an easy application process. The UK already ticks many of these boxes and institutions should tailor their content to address and illuminate these factors when engaging with their Brazilian audiences.
Brazil is an important market for the UK, especially considering that it falls within the top 5 source destinations for the UK, as shown in the graph below. While some of the other source markets have shown turbulence over the last year, demand from Brazil has been steady, claiming 5.48% of overall share.
Demand from key source markets for UK (25/08/2020 to 25/08/2021)
Brazil is by far the most dominant source market in the Latin America region with 49.62% of market share. Mexico comes in second position with 10.72%, followed by Colombia with 7.82%. Though demand from these non-Brazilian markets is relatively low, they show a steady and consistent trend.
Demand from Latin American countries for UK (25/08/2020 to 25/08/2021)
Considering the broader Latin America market, Andreyna Rodrigue, former Digital Marketing Manager for Hotcourses Latin America, believes that the high tuition fees and cost of living in the UK are the main obstacles for this market. She says: “The best way to engage with Latin American students is presenting all the resources available to support them financially (scholarships), promoting the opportunity of working while studying and/or applying for internships with well-known companies - most students decide to study abroad with the idea of staying as permanent residents. Promoting student support services is also advisable, as students want to feel protected by their university in case they have any issues while they are studying abroad.”
In addition to sharing content around the abovementioned themes (scholarships, safety etc.) to boost engagement, institutions should consider the subject areas being researched by prospective students.
Among Mexican users, Health and Medicine is the most researched subject area for study in the UK, followed, in second position, by Creative Arts and Design. Drilling further down into the sub-disciplines under Creative Arts and Design, Music has the highest market share of demand.
In Brazil, however, it’s a slightly different story. Health and Medicine is also the top searched subject area among Brazilian users, but Social Studies and Communications comes in second position. University marketeers should take heed of these subtle differences when targeting different student markets to ensure that messaging is aligned with what local audiences are interested in.
Subject area demand from Brazil for UK (25/08/2020 to 25/08/2021)
The Latin American market poses many opportunities for international student recruitment. Despite the US and Canada being the most popular destinations for this market due to their geographic proximity, the UK still performs well in terms of demand and is perceived favourably due to its high quality of education. The focus for UK institutions should be driving that healthy demand to higher levels of conversion, starting with effective and targeted engagement based on the needs and interests of this unique student audience.
To find out more about our IQ Demand Tracker tool or to see how our expert teams can help your institution tailor marketing campaigns specifically suited to the Latin American market, reach out to us on email@example.com. With our clients, we go into much more market details, sharing various additional insights including:
Real-time analytics focused on filtered demand based on region, city, subject, subdiscipline, study level and more
Benchmarking against self-selected competitor set to shape future recruitment and identify your competitive position
Tracking your institution’s performance over time and showing the effectiveness of specific campaigns
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