StudyTravel: Chinese students looking to UK, major research shows

Market research of more than 2.3 million potential students by Chinese agency association BOSSA has shown that the UK is currently the most searched-for destination, while general demand for study abroad remains strong, despite the challenges of the pandemic.

Mar 2, 2021 StudyTravel Magazine

During a joint presentation recently with market research company Bonard, BOSSA shared the results of data gathered from 2,343,259 potential students interested in study abroad from the iBossa platform, launched last year and designed to connect customers with member agencies.

BOSSA found that 25 per cent of the potential clients profiled (592,368 people) expressed a preference for studying in the UK, followed by the USA (24 per cent), Canada (11), Australia (nine), Germany (eight), France (six), Switzerland (five) and New Zealand (four).

Jon Santangelo , Spokesperson for BOSSA, said that the U.S. would most likely remain the most popular destination in terms of absolute numbers, but the UK has been gaining traction due to more favourable visa policies implemented in recent times.

In the 2019/20 academic year, the number of Chinese students in higher education in the USA increased by only 0.8 per cent to 372,352 students, which included more than 71,000 students engaged in post-study Optional Practical Training (OPT). Meanwhile, UK universities experienced a 17.2 per cent increase in Chinese students to a record level of 141,870 in 2019/20.

Jon said that English-taught programmes in Europe were gaining massive interest, and explained that as more second- and third-tier city-based consumers enter the market, agencies were seeing more dispersion into non-Anglo study destinations. He added that Asian destinations, such as Japan and Singapore, will also be beneficiaries from a growing market

Bonard, meanwhile, conducted in-depth research with 25 major chain agencies in China on the second half of 2020 compared with the first six months. Igor Skibickij, COO and Head of Bonard China, showed two-thirds of respondents indicated either an increase or slight increase in inquiries for the UK, while Singapore scored similar numbers. The USA and Australia, meanwhile, experienced a decrease in interest.

Around 1.3 million of the students profiled through iBossa (55 per cent) were interested in postgraduate studies overseas, while 41 per cent were looking for information on undergraduate programmes, and four per cent for secondary/non-degree courses. Jon commented that the latter category does not reflect the size of the market in usual times, but that parents are currently more cautious about sending secondary-level students overseas.

More generally, Jon said that agents expect demand for study abroad to continue on an upward trajectory after the pandemic, but that secondary education, summer camps and short-term programmes would take the longest to recover, although agents expect this year to be better than 2020.

He added that agents expected most degree-level students to continue with study abroad plans this year.

At least eighty per cent of medium-to-large agencies in China continue to operate normally, according to market research by Bonard, although many of them may have restructured with redundancies.

Respondents were generally not optimistic about online programmes, with 78 per cent indicating that these could not replace face-to-face courses, Igor said, and agents indicated limited demand from students.

However, Bonard found that 79 per cent of Chinese agents profiled said they were favourable towards online b2b workshops as a way of connecting with overseas educators. There was less enthusiasm for online student fairs, with more than half of respondents (54 per cent) stating they were not interested in this type of event.

A poll of delegates during the seminar also found that 57 per cent of educators considered online b2b events to be the most relevant recruitment channel in China right now.

In terms of advice for educators, Jon recommended delegates to maintain ongoing agency relationships and build new ones and also suggested they provide regular updates on the latest policies, flexible deposit/cancellation policies and clear guidance on quarantine measures.

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