Cara Skikne

A data-based case for geographic diversification


An overreliance on a few source countries for international students creates risk for universities in the face of uncertainties like geopolitical shifts, policy changes or border closures.  Taking a look at the core audience by destination can give a good indicator of the countries that should be on the radar of institutions. It is also useful to benchmark against similar institutions to find opportunities. 

To help stay ahead of the curve, it is essential to use data to your advantage. To understand how to interpret this data for your strategy, we spoke with our very own Jacopo Gutterer (Market Intelligence Analyst) about Studyportals’ latest data report – Diversify with Data: Insights for Higher Ed Institutions 

How was data used to measure diversification in various destination countries? 

“It’s a measure of how many and how much interest they generated to programs everywhere. It gives us a global overview of where students would like to study in the future. Artificial Intelligence predicts very interesting shifts in higher education and predicts it well. [There is] Way more demand from countries where higher education sectors are not that well known. It also predicts a bit of a shift from certain subjects to others. But that’s beyond the report.”  

How can universities use this latest report to feed their diversification strategies?  

“Universities know that they rely on few student groups for the bulk of their students. However, they are also in need of diversification. They need to diversify their user base, because just relying on a couple of countries is actually a very risky strategy. So what they are trying to do is actually to expand this list as much as possible, and to rely less on the main groups and more on the secondary ones. When we put these two groups together, we get to that 80% of enrollments that make their core audience and their core audience that should actually be a core occurrence center in their diversification strategies. [It] is a fantastic way to spot new markets or spot new opportunities and eventually, to spot blind spots in your diversification strategy.”  

How do students from different countries differ in their preferences for different kinds of institutions? 

“Origin countries are very different. We tend to take students out as a single, big friend of International Education, these students are moving abroad, but there are differences. There are differences, let’s say for students that care more about the ranking and prestige and social value of the degree. Then there are students [that] are more interested in the employability, the work study opportunities, and this is very much matters from country to country.  What you will see, for instance, is that there is difference between Indian students have when they are looking on universities in the UK, mostly looking outside of the Russel Group. So they still care about prestige. The same applies if you’re in the US and try to study in Canada. In Canada, they are actually way more active in checking for colleges than other groups. So there are differences. And you can see these differences just by looking at that previous enrollments or by looking at current interest. Both of them are valid measures to estimate what students want to see next.” 

Key takeaways

Our key takeaways from this conversation?  By using measures such as real-time interest and previous enrolments, institutions can better understand their core audience and stay ahead of the curve in attracting and retaining  a diverse cohort ofstudents. There are of course more nuances the more detailed the analysis – the core audience per subject area will vary by country.  It is also interesting how we see student preferences for different types of institutions by origin countries. Prospective students in Indonesia for example are more interested in Russell Group universities in the UK, while prospective students in Sri Lanka are more interested in the non-Russell Group universities.  

Learn more about how data can be used to diversify recruitment markers, by reading our latest report Diversify with Data: Insights for Higher Ed Institutions 


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