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Recruiting Intelligence

Emerging Markets Research Summarized: Know Your Neighborhood


In 2019, the Intead team along with FPP EDUMedia conducted primary research to assess the influencers, interests, and political reactions in African and Latin American student populations to help institutions like yours tap emerging, or what we now consider, evolving student markets. 

More than 12,300 international students from over a dozen countries responded to our survey. What we learned has helped shape some really important conversations with clients looking to broaden their international reach.  

Enrollment ambiguity continues to push us to explore new opportunities. We encourage you to return to this research for still relevant guidance as you look for ways to grow, diversify, and strengthen your international recruitment strategy.  

If you want to chat about how you are building your Fall 2024 strategy or the tactical execution approaches we have found most valuable, Ben and Iliana will be at the NACAC conference presenting alongside our colleagues from AIRC and Middle Tennessee State University on Sept 22 in Baltimore. Can we schedule a time to chat? Coffee's on us! 

We know folks are short on time and just want us to get to the actionable points. So, we took the key ideas from our previous research and put them into a one-pager comparing Africa, Central America, and South America. You can grab that at the bottom of this blog post.  

In the full Emerging Markets e-book, available to Intead Plus members, you will find very helpful recruitment strategy insights: 

  • How your university can best appeal to student prospects in specific evolving regions and countries (segmentation)  
  • Influential messaging tips that highlight your strongest differentiators (stand out in the marketplace)  
  • Effective distribution channels to reach your target audience with those differentiators.  

To get the free one-page comparison, read on… 

Spoiler: Across the board, we found that the U.S. academic brand remains strong and international students continue to apply and enroll in U.S. institutions regardless of the political climate. Those who choose the U.S. as their top destination may have a particular life outlook, but the overall numbers suggest that there is still a significant market for most U.S. institutions to tap while the U.K., Australia, Canada, and Germany continue to gain market share. Barring world catastrophes (a real concern given pandemics, severe weather, and political conflicts), the overall number of students seeking study abroad is projected to continue to rise significantly over the next decade. 

Overall, we see the opportunity to attract new international students growing, not shrinking, in the years to come. The question will continue to be: which markets represent the best opportunity for your institution? 

To pique prospective students’ interests and ultimately win their application and enrollment, institutions need to adjust their messaging. It’s all about the conversations: how you differentiate and demonstrate the value of studying at your institution takes on new intention and new language.   

From our findings, we were also able to gather big picture recommendations (and heads up: there’s a lot more of these available in our full e-book): 

  • Emphasize your differentiators. The key to an effective marketing strategy is differentiation. What makes your university unique and what will draw international student prospects? How will you emphasize international student support services and career connections your institution can provide?
  • Consider where you have room to improve. A self-assessment is always a good idea as part of your market research and recruitment planning.

    Before we launch our marketing initiatives for our clients, we make sure we know where we are strong and where we might fall down. We don’t want to overpromise and underdeliver to our target markets. When that happens, you know you are going to hear about it. And your other prospective students will hear about it too as they scroll through their social media.

    Avoid that scenario by taking a look at your competitors—those institutions where your applicants often enroll instead of coming to you. Think about cost, student services, campus safety issues, and career support.

  • Stay on top of the issues your prospects likely care about. Monitor immigration and work visa policy changes, currency exchange rates, and the local news coverage of U.S. politics in your target countries. You cannot control the political environment or alter international exchange rates, but you can stay informed, advocate, and message effectively. Social justice is an important student topic that many institutions do not mention in their communications. 
  • Advocate. Support ACE, NAFSA, AIEA, and other powerful groups working to educate the U.S. Congress and other world leaders about how policy changes affect the education industry.  

Regarding specifics about emerging and evolving markets and how to reach them...we found common themes across student populations in both Latin America and Africa. These are not ground-breaking observations, but important reminders (our full e-book goes into the details): 

  • Availability of student services (i.e., help applying for OPT) and concerns about getting a visa to study in the U.S. are two primary influencers for prospective international students.  
  • Career opportunities and affordability are consistent concerns for international students in general.  
  • Students with prior international travel experience at a younger age are more likely to act on their desire to study abroad. 

In addition, international students living in countries throughout all three regions—Africa, Central America, and South America alike—all engage with a variety of social platforms with WhatsApp coming out on top and Facebook and YouTube following closely in both second- and third-ranked places.  

When comparing the three regions, things start to differ slightly across a variety of our measurements.  

For example: 

  • Undergraduate, graduate, and post-graduate programs were of more interest in Africa, and English Language learning was of more interest in Latin America.   
  • Respondents in Central American and South American countries were less concerned with degree reputations and cutting-edge technology and resources when selecting a university in the U.S. than students in Africa.  

These important nuances continue throughout our analysis. If you really want to be effective at targeting evolving markets, you need to get country specific.  

If you want a high-level overview of these regions and student influencers, interests, and political reactions, download our free one-pager HERE. 

But if you want more detailed insights, our complete e-book offers 16 country fact sheets across Africa and Latin America. These country-specific fact sheets will help you learn more about priority messaging, social media platform usage, top five influencers when selecting a U.S. institution, top motivators, program interests, and more.  That’s the benefit of Intead Plus and the many student recruitment resources available to our members. 

And if you have any questions, do reach out. We’re always happy to chat.  

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