4 Trends in international student recruitment

August 2, 2023

Jayde Robertson

Is your strategy sustainable enough?

Lights, camera, action! Welcome to the thrilling world of international student recruitment, where every interaction is a blockbuster hit and every student's journey is a compelling storyline. Education marketing is anything but boring. Every day we’re faced with a new challenge or trend to adapt to. And international recruitment is no different.

As the curtains rise on the stage of international education, we witness a captivating shift in global trends. From a change of audience and their preference, to destination fatigue, there has never been a more exciting time to enter the international student recruitment market. 

But first, what’s the driving force behind studying abroad?

Students have an array of motivations that drive them to pack their bags, hop on a plane, and embark on a life-changing study abroad adventure. Understanding these motivations is a pretty important step in creating a successful recruitment strategy. 

  • Academic merit: Possibly the biggest driving force behind the study abroad frenzy is the quest for academic excellence. Students yearn to learn from renowned professors, tap into cutting-edge research, and access state-of-the-art facilities that may not be available in their home countries. They seek intellectual stimulation, innovative approaches to education, and the chance to delve deeper into their fields of interest. Studying abroad offers them a transformative educational experience that transcends textbooks and classroom walls.
  • It’s personal: Let's not forget the personal growth and self-discovery that await students on their study abroad journey. They see it as an opportunity to embark on a voyage of self-exploration, discovering their strengths, passions, and true potential. They believe that by challenging themselves in a foreign environment, they will develop resilience, independence, and a sense of self-confidence that will shape their lives for years to come. It's a transformative experience that molds them into global citizens ready to tackle the complexities of the world.
  • It’s an adventure: And finally, the allure of adventure and wanderlust cannot be overlooked. Students are drawn to the thrill of exploring new destinations, unraveling hidden gems, and creating unforgettable memories. They dream of weekend trips to picturesque towns, spontaneous encounters with locals, and breathtaking experiences that will be etched in their minds forever. Studying abroad becomes the ultimate passport to adventure, igniting their spirit of exploration and fueling their thirst for new experiences.

The 4 trends driving international student recruitment 

The global trends in international student recruitment have been nothing short of captivating. Just like a gripping Netflix series, we've witnessed the rise of new destinations, the emergence of Gen Z as a driving force, and the challenges that come with adapting to a new normal. 

#1: Location, location, location! 

Traditionally, destinations like the US, UK, and Australia have held the spotlight as magnets for international students. However, the stage has expanded to welcome emerging destinations that are making waves in the international education scene. Countries such as Canada, Germany, and captivating Asian destinations have emerged as formidable contenders, enticing students with their welcoming immigration policies, affordability, safety, and promising post-study work opportunities. This surge in interest is not limited to a few regions; it's a global movement.

From the Middle East to Africa, Southeast Asia to Latin America, students from all corners of the globe are stepping onto the international stage. With booming economies, a rising middle class, and easier access to higher education, these regions are becoming powerhouses in the international student arena. The world is witnessing a magnificent shift as these students bring their unique perspectives and aspirations to the forefront.

#2: The forced adoption of a hybrid model 

Hold on tight, because here's where the plot thickens. The unexpected twist of the COVID-19 pandemic thrust the education landscape into uncharted territory. Institutions worldwide had to adapt swiftly, embracing online and hybrid learning like never before. The pandemic prompted a revolution in educational delivery, with institutions investing heavily in their online infrastructure and offering flexible study options. Suddenly, students could embark on an international educational journey without leaving the comfort of their homes. Hybrid learning became the new norm, providing students with the benefits of both physical and virtual experiences.

And the truth is, this shift towards hybrid learning has had a lasting impact. Even as the world gradually recovers from the pandemic, we continue to witness an upsurge in hybrid offerings. Educational institutions have recognized the advantages of this blended approach, catering to students who crave the flexibility to learn from anywhere while still yearning for the immersive experiences that only studying abroad can provide.

#3: The Gen Z perspective

But it's not just about the where; it's about understanding the audience that steals the show. Enter Gen Z, the tech-savvy, boundary-breaking generation that is rewriting the rules of international student recruitment. These young trailblazers demand more than just a degree; they seek transformation, experiential learning, and a global perspective.

As they embark on their journey through adulthood, we've witnessed a fascinating evolution in their preferences. Once labeled as a generation driven by entitlement and instant gratification, they have grown and matured, and their aspirations have transformed as well. Job security has emerged as a paramount concern for this generation, shaped by their observations of their parents' turbulent relationship with the economy. They are not simply after a degree; they are yearning for a secure future.

In light of this shift, countries that offer lenient immigration policies and work permits for graduates have captured their attention and become the preferred choice. These forward-thinking nations understand the desires of this generation, recognizing that attracting and retaining talent is a vital component of their own economic growth. In response to this demand, educational institutions have elevated their career services to new heights, going beyond academic excellence to provide comprehensive support for students' professional development. They are forging partnerships with industry leaders, facilitating internships, part-time job opportunities, and mentorship programs to equip students with the practical skills and experiences they need to thrive in their chosen fields.

This transformation reflects a deep understanding of the changing landscape of education and the evolving needs of Gen Z students. It's not just about the degree anymore; it's about preparing them for the complexities and challenges of the real world. Institutions are stepping up to the plate, fostering a culture of entrepreneurship, innovation, and adaptability. They are nurturing a generation of graduates who are not just well-versed in theory but also equipped with the practical skills, resilience, and global perspective necessary to make their mark in an ever-changing job market.

#4: Environmental consciousness

And this leads us to our final point - the environmental consciousness of this generation, and how it’s helped institutions find their truly sustainable voice. Students are becoming more conscious of their impact on the planet. They're thinking about the carbon footprint associated with travel and the sustainability practices of institutions. And guess what? Many higher education institutions have stepped up their game in direct response to this ethical demand. They're going green, promoting eco-friendly campuses, and integrating environmental education into their programs. 

As we wrap up our exploration of international student recruitment trends, it's important to keep in mind that trends come and go like waves.  But hey, that's part of the excitement, right?

So, instead of chasing every passing trend, let's focus on building a strategy that can withstand the test of time. It's about finding that sweet spot between staying flexible and sticking to our core values. We want to ride the wave, find the hidden gems within the trends, and create an integrated approach that keeps us ahead of the game in the long run. Remember, while trends may come and go, the heart of successful student recruitment remains the same. It's about offering exceptional educational experiences, fostering a supportive environment, and empowering students with the skills they need to thrive in our interconnected world.

Are you a marketer curious to learn about the aspects that affect our industry?

Or do you want to tap into our expertise to sharpen your tactics? Look no further than our free downloadable resources. We work hard to research our content - and offer it to you - free of charge.