Cara Skikne

Around the World in 60 mins with Data – Changing Student Interest Trends for Southeast Asia


The pandemic has been a game-changer: student mobility has been largely affected and student interest in Southeast Asia has changed as well. This week’s webinar was led by our Studyportals Director of Analytics, Thijs van Vugt. Our expert guests included Kylie Colvin, Director of Strategy and Business Transformation: University of Nottingham Malaysia and Matt Durnin, Global Head of Insights and Consultancy: British Council.

Search behavior data from Studyportals shows student interest for on-campus full degree programmes varies widely across Southeast Asia. Over a year characterised by the Covid-19 pandemic, there has been a shift towards the countries that have been perceived to have handled the pandemic well.

Student interest in South Korea surged by 25.6% while student interest in Taiwan and Thailand rose 8% and 5.2% respectively. As expected, there was a big drop off in interest in March 2020 as the pandemic escalated, but some regions have recovered quickly.

“South Korea got a handle on it early on”, says Kylie Colvin, Director of Strategy and Business Transformation: University of Nottingham Malaysia. “Not only that, but they are also known for being very connected in terms of digital. They were giving away free rental devices for students to study online very early on. Similarly, Taiwan and Thailand have that perception as well.”

Countries in Southeast Asia that saw student interest drop sharply are Indonesia, with a dramatic 22.4% drop, Vietnam where interest slipped 13.2%, Japan where interest fell by 10.1% and Malaysia where interest slid 8.2%.

Interestingly Indonesia and Malaysia saw domestic interest climb by 23.8% and 24.5% respectively. Both countries have large numbers of students who would ordinarily be expected to study abroad but may have looked at domestic options during the pandemic.

Matt Durnin, Global Head of Insights and Consultancy: British Council says although there are ‘concerns around finances rising. That’s as we start feeling the second phase of the pandemic – the economic impact of it.’, he expects student interest to return to pre-pandemic levels.

Already there are signs of increased student interest, but this may be in part due to students hedging their bets and applying to multiple destinations ‘shopping around’ for different options.

For more insights from our experts, make sure to check out the recording.

And don’t forget – there are more data-driven analyses from Studyportals to come.

Watch this space for upcoming webinars. We hope to see you there!

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