Outbound totals to ‘grow at slower pace’ this decade

Published 14/03/2024

While the global outlook for outbound student numbers remains positive, the international environment will be “more competitive” and growth will be “modestly weaker” up until 2030, a new report has suggested.

The paper, commissioned by the British Council and conducted by Oxford Economics, projects that slowing world GDP growth will also see a slowdown of outbound student numbers per nation.

The research found a historic correlation between GDP and outbound student numbers.

The predicted average GDP growth pace of 4.2% in the period to 2030 will be down from the 5.5% average in the two decades before the pandemic, it said.

Extrapolating the link between GDP and outbound numbers, the report says that global outbound student volumes will grow at a rate of around 4-4.5% per year on average in the period up to 2030.

A more strategic approach to targeting of markets and allocation of resources will aid in international student recruitment targets, the research suggested, highlighting certain “rising stars” in the outbound student mobility market.

“At a time of increased competition for international students, the UK must work to maintain its position as a global leader in higher education,” said director of Education at the British Council, Maddalaine Ansell.

“This study outlines that although international student numbers will continue to grow, we should not be complacent.”

The most significant growth rate slowdown is in China, India, Vietnam, Nigeria and Indonesia, the report says.

However, it acknowledged that “the sheer scale” of the Chinese market, with the number of middle- and high-income households set to increase by 66m in this decade, compared with the 37m rise in the 2010-19 period, “sets it apart”.

“Although the rate of growth is slowing, growth in absolute level terms is rising and the conditions for continued strong expansion of this outbound student market remain firmly in place,” it said.

“Favourable macroeconomic and demographic projections” in India, on the other hand, will “provide strongly supportive conditions for future growth in outbound student numbers”.

Brazil and Pakistan are projected to see an increase in the pace of growth in the 2019-30 period, it added.

Bangladesh, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam are all named “rising stars”, with strongly supportive conditions for future growth and moderate risk levels, but significantly lower outbound student volumes compared to China and India.

“Although the rate of growth is slowing, growth in absolute level terms is rising”

The research also details the risk associated to key markets for international student recruitment.

The macroeconomic risk levels in China are “moderate and significantly lower” than in many other emerging economies. In India, risk levels are also “moderate”, due to low level of GDP per capita, banking sector fragilities and substantial fiscal deficit.

Nigeria, Turkey, Ghana, Pakistan, Brazil and Mexico have “particularly high levels of macroeconomic risk”, having experienced significant levels of economic volatility and turbulence in the past.

“However, risk levels must be balanced against growth prospects in forming a rounded view of each of these markets,” the report noted.

High-income advanced economies such as Canada, France, Germany, Hong Kong (SAR), Ireland, Italy, Japan, Singapore, South Korea and Spain combine relatively low growth prospects with stability and diversity to the UK higher education sector. Photo: British Council

Pakistan, for example, looking beyond its current macroeconomic challenges, “has a strong medium-term demographic and macroeconomic outlook which can provide supportive conditions for strong future growth in outbound mobility”.

Countries with low macroeconomic risk include Saudi Arabia, the US, Hong Kong and France, the report detailed.

Geopolitical risk are outside the scope of the report, it added.

It continued to say that the “extent to which macroeconomic and demographic conditions will be supportive of growth in outbound student mobility will vary considerably across countries” this decade.

The explanatory power of real GDP and middle- and high-income households has a lag, implying that macroeconomic conditions will have a delayed passthrough to outbound student markets.

Exchange rates, it added, have shown to have “more immediate impacts, particularly in lower income, more price sensitive markets”.

Oxford Economics has developed an Outbound Students Opportunity and Risk Index, split into two pillars, growth potential and risk profile.

The British Council will help the UK sector to “consider how it can attract students from some of the developing markets identified in the research”, Ansell added.

The post Outbound totals to ‘grow at slower pace’ this decade appeared first on The PIE News.