Exploring emerging student markets: a US perspective | IDP Connect USA Skip to main content

Reliance on a small pool of international student markets can be risky business. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted that market behaviors 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 domestic and international students. 

The volatility of student demand 

In this article, we will explore some of the emerging markets for US institutions to consider as part of their marketing and recruitment strategies. Using our IQ Demand Tracker tool, which tracks the search behaviors of millions of prospective students, we looked at demand from source markets for the US over the last two years. For the purposes of this article, we will focus on a range of markets: Turkey, Indonesia and Thailand.

19 July 2019- 19 July 2021 (source market demand for US)

Demand from Turkey

After Brazil, Turkey has been the most prominent source market for the US over the last 2 years. From the beginning of the 2-year period, Turkey saw rising growth, culminating in a major spike in December 2020 before dropping beneath Brazil and India . It’s clear that demand from Turkey for the US is strong , but the recent decline may indicate that US institutions need to put extra effort into marketing initiatives to maintain momentum. 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. Other key destination markets, such as the UK, are also successfully vying for the Turkish market, making it even more imperative for the US to drive recruitment campaigns tailored to the needs of prospective students in cities across Turkey. City Demand in Turkey When looking at global city demand for the US over the last year (19/07/2020 -19/07/2021), interestingly Istanbul comes out at the very top, outperforming major Indonesian, Chinese and Indian cities. It should be considered a key market for US institutions.

Global city demand for US 

Unsurprisingly, within Turkey, Istanbul has 36.01% of market share, followed by Ankara (12.31%), Izmir (9.91%) 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 and 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. US institutions can use this data to customize city-targeted recruitment campaigns to drive conversion of more Turkish students.

City demand in Turkey for US

Demand from Indonesia

Indonesia has shown steady growth in the 4th position for the bulk of the 2-year period. Demand peaked in May 2020 before seeing a gradual decline, perhaps in response to the pandemic. Notably in the last 2 months, there has been another sharp increase in demand, which may suggest that the US’s vaccine rollout is instilling confidence in prospective students. US institutions need to continue 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, US institutions should focus on their global rank, the world-class quality of education available 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 US. City demand in Indonesia Looking at the last 12 months (29/06/2020-29/06-2021), Jakarta has the highest share of demand (29.10%) of all Indonesian cities for higher education in the US. 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 11.08% 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. Marketing efforts should be guided by these types of trends and tailored accordingly.

City demand in Indonesia for US

Demand from Thailand 

As an emerging market, Thailand shows steady growth throughout the 2-year period, then climbs into 4th position in April 2021. 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 US 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 US, Bangkok is second from the top, indicating significant interest from Thailand for the US. City demand from Thailand

Thailand’s demand is generated predominantly from Bangkok, with 55.24% of share. Its next biggest urban generator is Chiang Mai with only 4.97% of share. For Bangkok, the top three subject areas are Health & Medicine with Psychology as the top sub-discipline, Business & Administrative Studies with MBA as the top sub-discipline, and Engineering & Technology. US institutions can use these insights as a starter guide for how to approach the Thai student market.

City demand in Thailand for US

Data-led insights for portfolio development 

Other emerging markets worth exploring include Mexico, Vietnam and Colombia, with each of these markets appearing in the top ten for US demand. Interestingly, Lima features as the 4th city for US demand, despite Peru not featuring in the top 10 source markets. 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, US institutions can strategically engage with new markets and gradually diversify their portfolios.

IQ services

Get in touch with our client team on us.info@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.

Franki Clemens
Franki Clemens23 August 2021

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