Every year, over 5 million international students are on a journey far from home. Some are following in the footsteps of family before them while others are forging their own path.
To get to this point, they’ve made one of the most important and expensive decisions of their lives. Spending possibly the largest amount of money they’ll ever spend, next to buying a house—up to US$100K to US$200k.
This is easily a decision that will change the trajectory of their lives and, in many cases, that of their family, so the individual impact is understandably huge.
But the impact it has on the wider market is often significantly undervalued and underserved.
International students underpin the economy
The international student market has undercurrents that touch many important parts of the global economy. It directly impacts government decisions on skilled migration, GDP, and job creation.
In Australia alone, it’s our 3rd largest export after iron ore and coal. International students make up approximately 25% of the campus population and generated $37.6 billion in revenue for universities in 2019.
Up to 1.2 million students will come here, many of whom will emigrate, buy homes and have multiple visits from their family.
Multiply that by other leading destination markets for international students like the USA, UK, and Canada, and you begin to see the sheer scale of the behemoth that is the international student market.
It’s a lynchpin in the world economy but it lacks the right tools or infrastructure to effectively serve its players.
The market is facing a challenging future
The number of mobile students globally is set to significantly increase in the next decade. Up 30% to 7 million by 2030 based on pre-COVID research, but this could be underestimating the appetite.
COVID has temporarily halted student flow, but history has shown that these periods are often followed by a spike. For example, after the SARS scare of the early 2000s, international student numbers peaked.
The drive for people to seek out better opportunities for their families after times of turbulence is ingrained in our psyche and will not go away easily.
This growth undoubtedly places a huge strain on the current outdated recruitment infrastructure.
No one is getting the outcomes they want
Institutions are paying a large amount of money to recruit students, but are navigating a black hole to find them. They’re unable to discern between effective and ineffective recruitment agents. Relying on countless phone calls and emails, as well as jumping on a plane to build and manage their recruiter network one at a time.
Recruitment agents want to help find the right match but are stymied by a lack of access to do it effectively. 70% of students use an agent to guide them through their options. But the average agent in, say, India has less than 10 university partnerships—at most, up to 50—so they are advising students from a small inventory pool.
Students are navigating through and relying on this ambiguity to make a life-defining decision. Even with the sophistication of the Australian international student market, often 1 in 3 students could change their degree when they land here.
Operationally, this is a high-friction marketplace with too much bias, and clunky, offline processes that don’t make sense anymore.
In an era of one-click everything, international student recruitment is still largely analog.
Robust workflows for agents
There are over 200 grading systems in the world.
Often, recruitment agents use a matrix of directories, worksheets, and word-of-mouth to translate a student’s grading system into one that’s accepted in the country to which they’re applying.
That’s followed by researching university websites and brochures to identify the relevant options, which is a time-consuming and manual process.
The technology already exists for agents to sit with a student, enter their academic score, and know with 100% accuracy for which universities they are eligible.
This is just one part of a multi-step workflow that can be optimised to enable faster applications and better quality matches.
Smarter data for institutions
Coming out of COVID, universities will be eager to overcome this year’s shortfall in student numbers. Universities Australia estimates losses of $3-4.6 billion in revenue in 2020 alone.
They might be thinking, “We’ve got 70% of our students coming from this region. We’re really desperate to diversify and attract students from Nigeria, Sri Lanka and Indonesia.”
Or, “We’ve invested so much into recruiting potential students only to be disappointed because their visa fell through at the eleventh hour. We need to focus our budget and efforts on qualified applicants.”
A centralised marketplace has the power to unlock analytics over who they’re attracting. Enabling them to make informed decisions about how to invest their marketing dollars.
At scale, this data can also give institutions visibility over agent performance. As well as identify bottlenecks within their own processes – an important contributor to losing quality students to faster competitors.
The right support system for students
At the heart of this equation sits the student, making one of the most overwhelming decisions of their lives. Rebuilding the supply chain can help create an exceptional experience for them.
Securing an enrolment is just the beginning. Next, they’ll need to obtain a visa, find accommodation, among other things.
Once they land, they’ll seek out suppliers to help them transition into local life: find social groups, tutoring support, and local mobile phone providers.
After they graduate, they’re part of a highly-skilled, highly-motivated cohort of talent. Exactly the kind of ambitious and diverse minds employers are desperate to attract.
Yet, these experiences require separate, truncated processes that don’t serve the students’ time and effort well.
The future is even bigger
Booking international study placements isn’t like booking a holiday. These are highly-complex transactions over long buying cycles.
The market needs:
- Democratisation of access to courses
- Powerful software tools to manage complex workflows between multi-party transactions
- Vetted suppliers/buyers and supervised transactions to instill trust
The convergence of these factors makes now the right time to build a new procurement marketplace that’s fit-for-purpose. The technology and market appetite exists, but too few are addressing the root of the problem.
Many current EdTech players in the space are simply digitizing existing clunky processes.
They’re doing nothing to prepare the market for the growth to come.
The market needs a new marketplace that allows universities, recruitment agents, and students to seamlessly find and transact with each other, anywhere in the world.
This is what we’re solving with our one-stop-shop for international education—Adventus.io.
A marketplace that students, institutions, education agents, and more can trust to deliver meaningful outcomes at every step of the journey.
Creating this integrated supply chain is about more than just creating process efficiencies. We’re laying the foundation for one of the largest macro industries in the world to come online and get connected to a world of opportunities.
If you want to be part of a team transforming how the world accesses international education, we’re hiring.