International student mobility flows are shaped by the broader political climate, bilateral terms, demographics and economic trends. For a long time, the international student recruitment market was dominated by the US and the UK. While these countries are still at the top of the charts, their market share of total international students has been dropping over the years (down from 51% in 2000 to 29% in 2015). Needless to say, the percentage of market share lost by the top players is soaked up by emerging international study destinations.
This article offers a bird’s eye view of the international student recruitment market and takes a quick look at how the shifting sands will impact the student housing market. Here are the key factors that are redrawing the map of international student mobility.
1. Sustained economic growth in Asia
One of the key drivers for education is the rise in the spending power of a country & aspirations for career advancement, combined with the lack of top-tier higher education institutes. Asian economies, including China, India and Malaysia have witnessed a surge in their middle-class numbers. The number of middle-class and higher-middle-class households in these nations are expected to rise for the next two decades. Government scholarships, continued economic growth and positive demographic trends in Asian nations will ensure that Asia remains the powerhouse that will fuel the demand for higher education in the coming years.
2. Rise of regional higher education centres
One of the primary factors pushing students from Asia to choose international study is the dearth of top-notch educational institutes in their home country. However, Asian countries like China, South Korea, Japan and Malaysia have invested heavily in education and can now count many of their universities among the top 100 worldwide.
China, hosting over 500,000 international students, ranks behind only the US and the UK as an international student destination. A majority of the international students in China originate from surrounding nations (60% from Asia, 18% from Europe, 11% from Africa and 5% from the US). The Chinese government is taking concrete steps to attract a larger number of international students. Malaysia, Japan and South Korea have also raised the standard of education and are able to attract international students. The top universities in these countries are offering courses in English, thereby removing the language barrier.
The availability of quality education closer to home will undoubtedly soak up a number of students aspiring for quality education. However, the demand in these countries still far outstrips the supply and Asian students will continue to choose traditional student destinations like the US, UK and Australia for the next decade.
3. Competition to US and UK from Australia and Europe
India, the second largest market for international student recruitment, continues to expand. Indian students are ‘value seekers’ and the decision to study aboard is seen as an investment. As a result, the visa and post-study work policy of the nation has a major impact on the choice of destination. The political climate, immigration complexities and post-study work restrictions in the US and the UK are pushing Indian students to explore other, more favourable destinations.
The top market, China, is witnessing a similar trend. The number of Chinese international students has grown to more than 500,000 in 2015-16 from just above 100,000 in 2005. However, the rise in the number of Chinese students in the UK has been gradual. On the other hand, Australia has cornered a huge chunk of the growing Chinese international student population.
In addition to the competition from the Asian universities, the traditional markets are also facing a lot of competition from European nations like Germany (5%), France (6%), Australia (6%), and Canada (3%) is also taking their share – many of which offer better visa and post-work opportunities to international students.
How will this impact the student housing industry?
The number of international students in a country is not the only factor that determines the need for purpose-built student accommodation (PBSA). The PBSA market has thrived in specific locations in the UK and the US owing to the presence of a large number of international students with significant spending power and a desire for quality living. These factors will ensure that the UK and the US stay the top destinations for student housing investors.
However, the flow of students into the European market sparked entrepreneurial activity from individuals and adventurous investors. This activity is making PBSH a known quantity in the top EU destinations. The Australian student housing market is also maturing and has emerged as an attractive destination for student housing providers. Over the next few years, we may witness France, Germany, Netherland, Spain and Canada and other destinations attract investments from the top student housing investors, owners and REITs.
Read a related article: How international student mobility trends are reshaping the student accommodation market