Capitalise on targeted student recruitment opportunities, US HE told

BridgeU’s Mapping International Student Interest in the USA 2020-21 report identifies nuance in the international student recruitment market that may have been overshadowed in previous research.

While the analysis “seems to re-enforce the prevailing narrative that Covid-19 has negatively impacted the USA’s standing with international students”, “popular” recruitment markets such as India and Thailand continue to enjoy growth.

The Middle East has also seen interest grow by some 1.09% among prospective international undergraduate applicants to the US, the research showed.

“Much of our analysis seems to re-enforce the prevailing narrative that Covid-19 has negatively impacted the USA’s standing”

US universities can capitalise on opportunities certain regions by expanding local networks with international schools and strengthening regional partnerships, tailoring virtual events to students and collaborating with schools to communicate “holistic benefits of their institutions”, BridgeU urged.

Although traditional student recruitment markets have widely shown drops in interest, specific cities tell a different story to the “prevailing narrative of decline”, it said.

While overall interest in the US for 2021 across Asia fell 3.1%, with all cities in Singapore, Vietnam and Indonesia recording declines, a handful of cities in other countries showed an increase in interest.

China and Taiwan may have seen overall decreases of -3.61% and -4.97%, but individual cities including Shanghai (+1.86%) in China and Kaohsiung (+3.68), Taipei (+12.81) and Nantou (+28.57%) in Taiwan reported rises.

Despite Brazilian cities of Recife, São Paulo and Brasília declining -26.41%, -8.56%, -0.83%, respectively, Salvador recorded an interest increase of +23.86% and Rio de Janeiro +5.66%.

A similar picture in the UK – where overall interest in the US as a study destination fell -1.56%, saw interest from BridgeU students in Sevenoaks in Kent rise by +8.33%, London by +3.61%, Winchester +4.83% and Cobham +3.08%.

Heidelberg and Berlin saw +7.5% and +1.84% in interest from Germany, and in Spain, Vigo rose +40% and Marbella +2.94%.

Previously, agents have suggested that UK has been the “standout performer” in the race to recruit international students throughout the pandemic, and that US will likely lose market share.

BridgeU’s research collected statistics from counsellors and advisors assisting students at secondary schools in over 300 cities across 120 countries, rather than education agents.

In addition to the nuanced picture the research reveals, it also highlights that BridgeU students in 48 countries have “defied” trends.


BridgeU students in India and Thailand led the way with total rises in interest of +5.29% and +5.2% respectively, with South Korea (+4.61), Egypt (+4.44), Netherlands (+4%) and Kenya (+3.67%) showing similar trends.

“Much of our analysis seems to re-enforce the prevailing narrative that Covid-19 has negatively impacted the USA’s standing with international students,” BridgeU said.

“We can surmise that the US government’s failure to sufficiently contain and respond to Covid-19 has, apparently, had a knock-on effect for students who are applying to university in 2021.”

Decreases in interest in the country as a study destination have come from traditional markets such as China, but “also from more unexpected places, such as the United States itself”, it noted.

“Even in those countries where overall student interest may have diminished, US admissions teams & recruitment professionals should take note of those cities and localities where shortlists to the USA have, in spite of the events of 2020, increased,” BridgeU suggested.

International admissions at US universities “can and must seize” opportunities in these cities, it urged.

“The localised nature of the interest in a US higher education makes it more important than ever that admissions teams adopt a targeted and data-driven approach to their recruitment efforts.”

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