Transnational student mobility and university trends in 2018

Market Research Study Reveals Findings on Global Student Recruitment Practices and International Student Growth Markets for 2018    


Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) and BMI Media, a leading student recruitment event organiser, have revealed findings from new market research entitled, “Transnational Student Mobility and University Trends in 2018: University Marketing Methodologies, Offerings and Student Recruitment Strategies”, which launched at the 2018 BMI UAE Global Education Fair in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

The new report follows up on their first market research study on the priorities and preferences of transnational students in 2017 and focuses on transnational student growth around the world, target markets for recruiting transnational students and core insights into student recruitment.

To gather these insights, they surveyed 104 universities from 41 countries across six continents, with a majority of these universities being based in the USA, UK, Canada and the UAE.

The report found that 68% of the institutions have been in operation for over 30 years, while 38% of respondents have more than 20,000 students, indicating long standing and reputable universities. In addition, 14% of the participating universities were offshore International Branch Campuses (IBC’s), located in the UAE, China, Malaysia and more.

India to overtake China as fastest-growing international student target market for universities

One of the main results of the study showed that India is widely perceived as the fastest-growing market for transnational student recruitment. Moreover, a majority of surveyed institutions anticipate increased marketing activities in India in the next twelve months, putting China at a close second place.

The bi-lateral economic and commercial ties between India and UAE are at an all-time high; with relations being strengthened across a range of areas including trade, investment, energy, artificial intelligence and space. UAE universities can expect to benefit from these strengthening relationships with an increased number of Indian students travelling to the UAE for university studies.

Speaking at the launch of the study, Mohammad Abdullah, Managing Director of DIAC, said: “Globalisation has transformed the education landscape, fuelling the rise of borderless higher education and a growing transnational student market worldwide. This trend plays a key role in bridging barriers and bringing countries closer together. Our second study with BMI Media helps broaden our understanding of the motivations and student recruitment practices of the world’s higher education institutions, as well as the obstacles universities face when recruiting students from abroad.”

He added: “Through our research, we aim to continue driving the development of higher education, and identify opportunities for universities, students and agents alike. The UAE is a growing higher education hub with 83% of the UAE universities surveyed experiencing growth and the student numbers at DIAC increasing by 7% over the previous academic year. The government’s recent changes to residency visa regulations for students will definitely support this trend.”

While most universities perceive India as the fastest-growing market for transnational student recruitment, the country topping that list is currently still China, closely followed by India, Nigeria, Saudi Arabia and Pakistan. These findings highlight the increasing willingness of students from across emerging markets to pursue higher education abroad.

Rupert Merrick, Director at BMI Media, said: “In partnership with DIAC, we set out to conduct the second research study to shed light on the growth markets for transnational students and the strategies universities employ to attract them. Our findings have confirmed that the education landscape is shifting. For instance, we were intrigued to learn that most of the educational institutions surveyed expect India to become the fastest-growing student market, a position that was dominated by China for the past decade.”

New insights into global student recruitment practices

Other key findings of the study include:

  • The demand for transnational education is on the rise.
    • 42% of the respondents witnessed growth of up to 5% in the academic year 2017/2018.
    • 80% of UAE universities experienced transnational student growth.
    • Only 14% recorded a loss in transnational student numbers, 60% of which came from the U.S. where universities are experiencing a well-documented decline due to current government policy across a range of issues.
  • The biggest obstacle for transnational student growth is government policy, especially in the USA and the UK. The current US visa regulations and foreign policy deter students from going there, while in the UK, Brexit has created uncertainty for students from the European continent regarding their post-study working rights.
    • The second-ranked obstacle is the comparative cost of the higher education programmes, followed by a lack of funding, economic factors abroad and visa issues.
  • The most effective student recruitment activities are agent recruitment events, followed by student recruitment fairs and digital advertising, which are considered critical for universities seeking to attract international students.
    • Among the least effective methods are various forms of traditional marketing, such as print, television and radio advertising.

Over the past years, emerging education hubs such as the UAE and Malaysia have provided viable alternatives to established destinations such as the USA, UK, Australia and Canada. With a focus on Business, Management and STEM-related subjects – which receive the highest uptake in student numbers – paired with simplified application processes and supportive government policies, universities are in a strong position to increase enrolment numbers of transnational students.

Readers can download the report “Transnational Student Mobility and University Trends in 2018” online and contact BMI with any enquiries.

About Dubai International Academic City

Dubai International Academic City (DIAC) is the world’s largest Free Zone dedicated to Higher Education. Established in 2007, as part of TECOM Group, DIAC aims to develop the region’s talent pool and help establish the UAE as a knowledge-based economy through the provision of multi-tiered academic institutions that are internationally accredited. DIAC is located on a fully-appointed 18 million sq ft campus with state-of-the-art facilities. It is home to 27 universities from 9 countries, including Amity University Dubai Campus, Heriot-Watt University Dubai Campus, University of Wollongong Dubai, BITS Pilani Dubai Campus, Hult International Business School, Murdoch University Dubai, and The University of Manchester Middle East Centre., to name a few. DIAC provides more than 500 certificate, diploma, undergraduate, post graduate and PhD programmes to over 27,000 students of 150 nationalities and continues to grow as per the needs of its robust and talented academic community.

About BMI Media

Founded in 1987, BMI are the experts in international student recruitment. BMI was established to help institutions from around the world increase their international students from Asia, Brazil, Latin America, the Middle East and beyond. BMI is well known for their market-leading international student recruitment fairs, agent workshops, high school visits, university networking events and online digital marketing services. BMI’s clients include universities, language schools, government associations, higher education colleges, boarding schools and educational agencies from 40+ countries.