The research presented by FPP Edu Media and Intead
Research shows changes in student demand for US
Students from Latin America and Asia are most sensitive to Donald Trump becoming President and his political actions since, according to research from FPP Edu Media and Intead, while Hotcourses Group findings showed the number of students who were 'very interested' in studying in the US dropped by 19 per cent after he took up Presidency of the US.

The research presented by FPP Edu Media and Intead (International Education Advantage) at the NAFSA 2017 Annual Conference & Expo, which surveyed 56,582 students from 29 countries in February 2017, reported that 25 per cent of students had changed their study abroad destination in the past 12 months.


The election of Trump had a widely negative effect on potential students' destination of choice, with 63 per cent of students from Brazil saying they were 'less likely to study in the US' now compared with 61 per cent from Mexico, 51 per cent from India and Indonesia and 50 per cent from Argentina.


The recent Executive Orders which banned travel from certain countries, the last of which was overturned in March 2017, also had a negative effect. Saying they were least likely to study in the US because of the policies were 58 per cent of surveyed students from Brazil, 56 per cent from Mexico, 48 per cent from India, and 47 per cent from Indonesia.


Presenting the data, Ben Waxman, CEO of Intead, said that although the data appeared negative, he didn't believe students would act on it. "We believe students will follow through with the study abroad plans they have already made for the US and UK [but] we do think there will be a drop off in students coming from India to the US and UK this year."


He continued, "Mostly, we see our results as indicative of students expressing their distaste for US and UK foreign policy statements and actions. We also believe that in the next two years we will see the universities with high percentages of international students already on campus growing stronger, drawing more international students.


"Meanwhile, those universities with a low percentage of international students already on campus are going to struggle to increase and will likely see declines in the numbers of international students."


When asked about using agents, an average of 50 per cent of those surveyed said it was 'very helpful' to meet an agent in person in their country. The top three countries in this category were the Philippines with 60 per cent, Ecuador (58 per cent), and Chile (56 per cent).


The countries where it mattered least to meet an agent face-to-face were Italy (23 per cent), followed by India (34 per cent) and Spain (37 per cent).


Of the 29 surveyed countries, an average of 49.7 per cent of students said that meeting an agent was 'very helpful', compared to an average of 51.8 per cent who said that meeting an admissions officer was 'very helpful' - a different of 2.1 per cent in favour of admissions officers.


"This must be considered on a per country basis," said Ben. "Agents are effective in pretty much every market. They must be selected with care and well trained in how to talk about your institution.


"In countries where students prefer an admissions officer, travel to that country and close agent management are really important. In countries where agents are essentially equally preferred, training of agents is critical and frequency of travel can be reduced."


In another session, findings by Hotcourses Group, based on data extrapolated from 2,626 prospective international students from November 1, 2016 to April 30, 2017, compared with the same period in the previous year, gauged the impact of the US election last year.


While students who were 'very interested' in studying in the US post-Trump dropped by 19 per cent, the figure for 'somewhat interested' increased by six per cent, and 'not interested' by five per cent.


In particular, prospective international students from Latin America dropped the most in the 'very interested' category, falling from 72 per cent to 46 per cent. The least affected individual market was Vietnam, which decreased by nine per cent.


Acknowledging that the US was still the most searched for destination across their sites overall, Simon Emmett, CEO of Hotcourses Group, said that the time was now for schools to communicate positive messages to students and alleviate concerns, as well as highlight institutional strengths.


He added, "Mexico is the top country for our Latin American site, accounting for 16 per cent of traffic, so it is perhaps expected that this region saw the biggest drop in those very interested in studying in the US, considering Trump's campaign messages on immigration and trade."


Looking at study destinations specifically for Middle Eastern students, the UK overtook the US to become the number one searched for location with 23.6 per cent share of searches, with the US on 19.7 per cent. In the same period the year previously, the US came out on top with 27.4 per cent. Canada also gained popularity in the recent data, increasing by 4.8 per cent.


"Canada's attractiveness through work opportunities and welcoming visa policies appears to be creating a strong pull factor at the expense of market leaders the US and the UK," said Simon. "This is something we've seen not only in the survey but also in our real-time Insights data, where Canada has gained more than any other country in prospective student searches in the last 12 months."



By Georgina Deacon

Staff Journalist