For US, recruiting the usual suspects is not enough

US universities should aim to recruit more students from Saudi Arabia if they are to reduce their dependence on students from China, India and South Korea, according to a report.

November 8, 2012

Institutions are over-reliant on students from those countries, a risky strategy in an “unpredictable” global economy, states Beyond More of the Same: The Top Four Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment.

It argues that the four most important alternative sources of students are Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Vietnam and Turkey.

“Today, almost one in two international students in the US hails from China, India or South Korea,” the report says.

“A significant decline in the number of prospective students from these traditional markets is unlikely in the near future, but the unpredictable global economy and environment draws attention to institutions’ over-reliance on these sources.”

The report by World Education Services, a non-profit organisation, says that Saudi Arabia’s King Abdullah scholarships have since 2005 “dramatically contributed to the outflow of Saudi students to overseas institutions…Between 2000 and 2010, the international mobility of Saudi students increased threefold, and in recent years nearly 90 per cent were funded by scholarship.”

However, it adds that there are problems with Saudi students’ “academic preparedness” for university education.

The publication is based on an anonymous survey of senior US university managers with experience of international recruitment.

Brazil is another crucial target for US universities, largely because of its $1.7 billion (£1.1 billion) Science Without Borders initiative, which will fund 100,000 undergraduates and postgraduates across the world over the next four years.

“Although the average stay for scholarship-funded Brazilian students is short, the size of Brazil’s student pipeline guarantees a promising future for US universities,” the report says.

Vietnam is another fertile market because of its “growing middle class” and “strong study abroad interests”, while in Turkey there is great demand for US higher education because of difficulties accessing home institutions and poor graduate employment prospects.

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