79% of international student growth “should come” from Asia by 2025

Published 22/02/2022

Almost 80% of growth in the international student market “should come” from Asian countries by the year 2025, according to a new report from Western Union Business Solutions.

Are you ready for 2025?, the new higher education outlook report from the business money transfers company, offers a market deep-dive into prediction about what the post-pandemic future might look like.

In a PIE Webinar on February 17, WU Business Solutions’ head of market insights Nawaz Ali explained the report’s generational overview.

“Based on conversations we’ve been having, universities post-pandemic are looking to plan forward after what has been the biggest economic crisis we’ve seen in two generations,” he said.

The findings show the most growth coming from Asia. The usual countries that support markets, China and India, feature, but the appearance of Vietnam and Nepal as emerging players, even possibly superseding Germany, is “surprising”.

Photo: WU Business Solutions

“All those countries featuring that we wouldn’t deal with day to day…I want to understand more about those push factors,” said Dino Leo, head of education, Europe, at WU Business Solutions.

Other key findings of the report largely come out of the ‘big four’ countries: Canada is predicted to receive rising numbers of Indian students, with an increase of around 40,000 by 2025, compared to 2019.

“The special visa processes that Canada has to make it easier for Indian students is expected to increase their market share of Indian students,” Ali said.

In the UK, the report predicts despite the fallout of Brexit, 85,000 more international students are expected to study in the UK from the EU.

“There’s a lot of debate and discussion about how Brexit would affect student mobility from Europe.

“The special visa processes that Canada has to make it easier for Indian students is expected to increase their market share”

“Despite that, UK numbers are still expected to increase; the prestige of UK universities attracts students, and the geographic proximity of EU to the UK makes it easier to get there and get home, so it is expected to drive an increase in international students coming to the UK,” Ali explained.

Nepal’s outreach will largely impact Australia, where WU predicts that it will overtake both Malaysia and Vietnam, entering the top three list of inbound markets for student mobility in the country.

“Nepalese global outbound students expected to increase by 3.1% CAGR between 2019 and 2025, due to a 58.6% rise in Nepalese households with incomes above the widely viewed $35K threshold,” the report reads.

“With a 21.4% outbound mobility rate in 2019, Nepalese students have a high tendency to study overseas. Australia is set to capture 42% of those students by 2025, due to geographic proximity, excellent casual work and graduate prospects,” it continues.

It follows a promising growth seen before 2021 in the country.

“Nepal’s outbound student mobility rate more than doubled from 9.1% in 2015 to 22.8% in 2021. The country’s worst earthquake in 80 years has had a significant impact on its education sector,” Ali said.

Another key country where growth is expected regarding outbound mobility is Kazakhstan, which the report predicts will become a “influential market in coming years”, growing from just under 80,000 to over 100,000 by 2025.

Despite these emerging countries, the main, dominant player in the market regarding outbound mobility will be China.

“From our university’s perspective, we think that the Chinese government will definitely continue to offer the strong support and encourage international collaborations, especially in the education sector,” said Peter Chen, head of the China office at the University of Huddersfield who also joined the webinar.

Despite the confidence in growth that is marked out by the report, Chen also mentioned that border reopening was still necessary to restore full confidence.

“Parents still think the number one important thing is safety – because of the Chinese culture,” Chen added.

He also explained that in reality, other factors would come into predicting that massive market growth.

“I think short term exchange products are going to be a massive market… and the perspective of vocational education has also become more popular here,” he explained.

Inbound growth predictions in the report state that the US will “remain the dominant inbound market”, receiving another 165,000 students by 2025.

Photo: WU Business Solutions

Australia, Canada and the US are predicted to reclaim their dominance by the halfway point of the decade.

Leo also talked about the cogs in the machine that are the payments providers, and how the changes on that may affect the diversification of students in outbound mobility.

“The pandemic has forced payments into their next iteration… four years ago, I was at the university walking a mile long line of students trying to hand over cash at a finance office – now payments are online… they’re not moving back,” Leo said.

According to Rajiv Sharma, the managing director of education, medical and NGO for North America at WU Business Solutions, work rights will play a part in revitalisation, but at the same time could be a double edged sword looking at different markets.

“The pandemic has forced payments into their next iteration”

“I think the intel around the immigration policies that president Biden will be deploying to redeploy those Islamic country-based students to come into the US is valid but the other challenge is the King Abdullah Scholarship program,” he explained.

“A lot of those individuals repatriate back to the region or to Saudi Arabia… which means you lose the opportunity for them to be functional economy contributors in country,” Sharma added.

Chen mentioned that, in China, the local job markets find this to be a positive outlook.

“More and more state-owned companies in China, and some top private sector companies, are looking for the employee who did their first degree at the overseas university… they want to see their different experiences they can gain during their college time,” said Chen.

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