Report shows a shift towards emerging study-abroad destinations

A recent survey reveals that international students are applying to a record number of universities and destinations. This records a shift towards emerging study-abroad destinations.

The INTO Global Agent Survey 2024 surveyed 1,240 recruitment agents from 66 countries. This includes all major and emerging student source markets. Over 11% confirmed they submitted applications to 100+ universities last year. The trend signals an intensely competitive landscape for universities recruiting overseas students.


Moving towards diverse global destinations

87% of agents globally noted an increase in the number of institutions students applied to this year. 84% of respondents say that students were also applying to more destination countries than in the previous year.

There’s an increasing attraction towards destinations outside of the “Big Four” English-speaking countries (US, UK, Australia and Canada). Europe, particularly Germany and Ireland, was cited as an emerging study destination, especially by agents from South Asia. Chinese agents also highlighted a significant interest in other Asian destinations, specifically Southeast Asia and spots within the China region. This switch to local destinations is in line with a rising interest in international schooling options, more localised pathway provisions and a heightened sense of priority given to geographic and cultural proximity.

This trend towards emerging study-abroad destinations motivates agencies to become multi-destination specialists. Tom Hands, Chief Recruitment Officer of INTO University Partnerships, also calls on universities to differentiate their offerings to meet new enrolment challenges clearly. “The survey underscores the need for strategic positioning and adaptive solutions to navigate the intensifying environment,” he added.


Considerations of international students

Cost continues to be an influential factor across all markets. This applies even in countries like China which have been perceived as having greater price insensitivity and less reliance on scholarships. Career opportunities are also growing as a vital consideration for international students. 87% of agents highlighted it – up 5% from last year.

“More than ever, students and parents are looking for a strong return on their investment, and careers have become a major consideration for study abroad decision-making. Universities are challenged to provide tailored employment support to students and alumni in order to attract talent from across the globe in the face of very stiff competition,” said Mr Hands.


Service satisfaction is key

The report also tackles the most important factors for agents in cultivating productive relationships with institutional partners. 99% of education agents underscored the importance of response speed to enquiries and applications. They shared that these are key to efficient admissions processes in securing international enrolments. Other considerations include available incentive packages and choice of degree programs.


Rise of global certification

Agent training and regulation have taken increasing prominence over the past few years to ensure consistently higher standards across the sector. Of those sending students to the UK, 79% of agents indicated that they had received some form of training from the British Council, a partner in the Agent Quality Framework. By contrast, only 17% of US education agents have received training or certification. However, this may only reflect the complex and expensive processes in the country.

Still, many agents have shared their participation in other training and certification programs from various organisations, including accredited bodies, rankings organisations, internal company training and different universities.


The INTO Global Survey Agent 2024 reflects the increasingly dynamic international education sector, including the increasing shift towards emerging study-abroad destinations. It provides valuable insights for recruiters and institutions alike to improve their processes and better support international students. To stay updated on the industry, check out our blog or contact our business development experts.

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