Attracting International Students from Emerging Markets

One in two international students in the U.S. comes from China, India, or Korea. U.S. universities and colleges should reduce the risks involved with an over-reliance on select countries by diversifying international recruitment to other emerging markets, according to a new report from World Education Services (WES).

The study entitled, “Beyond More of the Same: The Top Four Emerging Markets for International Student Recruitment” (, identifies key emerging markets and offers strategies to higher education institutions to successfully nurture them.

The report reveals promising international recruitment potential in four markets, listed by order of importance: Saudi Arabia, Brazil, Vietnam, and Turkey. Survey respondents viewed these markets favourably due to their economic growth, expanding middle classes, and unique educational contexts.

Key findings include:

Saudi Arabia: With over 23,000 students currently enrolled in U.S. institutions, Saudi Arabia is and will continue to be an encouraging market due to the extension of the King Abdullah Scholarship Program. U.S. institutions that offer Intensive English Programs and skillfully engage with government agencies have the greatest potential to recruit from this rich pool of fully sponsored students.

Brazil: Due to the launch of the Scientific Mobility scholarship program, U.S. institutions can expect a healthy flow of nearly 50,000 Brazilian students enrolling in short-term programs over the next four years. Institutions that effectively differentiate themselves from competitors can capitalize on this market opportunity.

Vietnam: High recruitment potential is attributable to Vietnam’s growing middle class and strong study abroad interests particularly for U.S. community colleges. Institutions that identify and reach Vietnamese students with financial means should enjoy a good deal of recruiting success.

Turkey: Opportunities to recruit from Turkey are primarily from its graduate market and dual degree programs. Recognized as a tough market to develop but one with a lot of potential, institutions can overcome barriers by understanding the preferences and academic needs of Turkish student segments.

“Higher education institutions are under increasing pressure to diversify the mix of international students beyond the top three countries of origin. In this context, emerging markets offer growth prospects through a relatively untapped pool of international students. Cultivating them, however, is fraught with challenges. Institutions need to strategically identify, map, and nurture student pipelines in emerging markets to achieve international enrollment goals,” says Dr. Rahul Choudaha, Director of Research and Advisory Services at WES, New York.

About World Education Services (WES): World Education Services, Inc. ( is the largest non-profit credential evaluation service in the United States. WES has delivered over 750,000 credential evaluation reports to educational, business, and governmental institutions worldwide.

About WES Research & Advisory Services (RAS): WES Research & Advisory Services ( analyzes trends and issues in global education and advises institutions on best practices and strategies in international enrollment management.

About Dr. Rahul Choudaha: Dr. Choudaha is Director of Research & Advisory Services at WES, New York. He earned a Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Denver, a Master’s degree in Business Administration, and a Bachelor of Engineering degree from India.

About the Survey: The report builds on two rounds of surveys with experts in the field of international recruitment using the Delphi method—a mixed method forecasting technique based on the anonymity and expertise of the participants.