Southeast Asian students increasingly consider studying abroad:

Southeast Asia serves as an important hub for international student mobility, with tens of thousands of students venturing abroad from the region annually. A recent report highlights significant trends in mobility and internationalisation within the global education sector. Notably, emerging markets beyond traditional giants like India and China include Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam.

New emerging markets:

The report highlights significant trends in outbound student mobility from Southeast Asia. In the academic year 2021-22, 132,000 Vietnamese students pursued studies abroad, constituting 37% of the market. Additionally, more than 50,000 students each from Malaysia and Indonesia engaged in outbound mobility during the same period.

Thailand contributed approximately 32,000 students to the international student body. While English-speaking destinations remain popular among Southeast Asian students, new interest groups are emerging. According to UNESCO data, Australia hosts the highest number of outbound students from Indonesia, closely followed by Malaysia. Malaysian students show a strong preference for the UK, Australia, and the US, with some opting for Japan and Jordan. Vietnamese students tend to favor Western destinations.

In 2019, China hosted 28,600 Thai students, 15,500 Indonesian students, and 9,500 Malaysian students. However, updated data beyond this year is unavailable. Reports indicate intensified competition from Southeast Asian countries for Western institutions, aiming to boost foreign enrollments to 400,000. Korea targets 300,000 students by 2027, while Taiwan aims for 320,000 by 2030.

Growth of TNE:

Transnational education (TNE) is gaining attraction not just for its cost-saving benefits in terms of travel and accommodation but also for its quality of education. Experts identify Vietnam as a solid market for TNE expansion. Australian education providers are actively pursuing opportunities to expand their TNE presence in the Southeast Asian market, particularly in niche areas catering to professionals seeking to accelerate their careers through micro-credentials and shorter degree programs.

Southeast Asian students are increasingly attracted to both standalone programs and those that facilitate a transition to study abroad experiences.

Furthermore, international schools are experiencing a surge in popularity, with enrollment numbers showing a significant rise. In 2022, approximately 600,000 students were enrolled across 1,905 international schools in the region, marking a nearly 25% increase compared to 2017. However, some education providers face competition threats in the Southeast Asian market.

International schools are becoming increasingly popular:

Enrollment in bilingual and international schools across the region has been on the rise, with approximately 600,000 students enrolled in 1,905 such schools in 2022. This represents a notable increase of almost 25% compared to 2017. However, certain education providers in the Southeast Asian market are facing competitive threats.

Agents play a crucial role in this landscape as parents increasingly rely on them, particularly in the wake of heightened concerns about sending children abroad post-pandemic. Parents seek individualised and personalised services, which can be challenging for education providers to deliver remotely from different countries and time zones. Therefore, it is imperative for education agents to adapt and grow to meet the evolving needs of families in this changing landscape.

Understand the supply and demand chain in Southeast Asia market:

Certain local education systems in Southeast Asia are grappling with quality and capacity constraints, thereby creating opportunities for international education providers. For instance, in the academic session of 2021–22, Vietnamese universities faced significant demand, with only 550,000 places available for new enrollments while receiving 795,000 applications, resulting in a shortfall of 250,000 places.

The economic development in the region has led to the rise of a middle class with increased financial capacity to pursue higher education. In response to these dynamics, transnational education (TNE) programs offered by foreign institutions can play a vital role. Given Southeast Asia’s status as home to rapidly growing economies, leveraging this market presents ample opportunities for the expansion and development of TNE programs.

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