The British Council has launched a new weapon in the global battle for international students amid concerns that demand for UK courses may be peaking.
The council has unveiled a new global data-gathering and forecasting tool that will track where international students are planning to study and seek the reasons for their decisions.
The undertaking was launched this week at the Edinburgh conference on the Prime Minister's Initiative for International Education.
The council hopes that the tool will give UK universities a fresh advantage.
It came as the council raised fears that an increasing number of smaller players in the international higher education market, including Malaysia, Singapore, Russia and Japan, are beginning to chip away at the market share of bigger recruiters, including the UK.
The tool will draw on a survey of about 60,000 students worldwide, combined with economic and demographic information gathered by the Economist Intelligence Unit, to provide detailed regional pictures. The results will be used to review the British Council's long-term 2020 Vision strategy.
Pat Killingley, director of the council's marketing arm, Education UK, said: "Markets are changing so fast we need to have a better understanding of what is happening and what is likely to happen in two to five years."
Surveys conducted so far suggest that UK institutions can no longer rely on their reputation for high-quality courses and must do more to promote a wider lifestyle package, including real opportunities for work.
There is growing demand for flexible options that allow students to keep their costs down by spending just one or two years studying in the UK.