Agents Survey 2024: Students Flock to New Study Destinations


  • INTO’s annual global survey of education agents reveals a rising number of applications for study abroad submitted by both students and agents. 
  • This increase is attributed to students’ uncertainty regarding the policies of their preferred destinations and their search for the most advantageous options. 
  • Additionally, alternative study destinations in Europe and Asia are gaining significant popularity due to recent policy changes in the Big Four study destinations.

The 2024 edition of INTO University Partnerships’ Global Agent Survey has been published amid growing competition for international students and fluctuating policies in leading destination markets.

1240 agents from over 65 countries participated in the survey conducted in March 2024. Respondents from China and India comprised approximately half of the sample.

Affordability Concerns

As INTO notes: 

“Policy discussions often overlook the significant impact of affordability on international students. Contrary to the belief that university ranking or prestige is the primary quality indicator, over 80% of surveyed agents indicated that cost is becoming a central focus in study abroad discussions.” 

Price sensitivity was highest among respondents from Africa (96%) and lowest among those from the Middle East (75%).

Rise of Alternative Destinations

Three of the “Big Four” destinations – Australia, Canada, and the UK – have tightened their immigration policies and become more expensive for students. As a result, agents report an increasing number of students applying to alternative destinations, particularly in Europe and Asia.

Agents from South Asia and the Middle East & Africa regions most frequently cited Europe, with Germany and Ireland being particularly popular. Chinese agents observed a growing interest in regional options, especially in Southeast Asia. They also noted a rising demand for international schooling options, more localized pathway programs, and an increased emphasis on geographic and cultural proximity. 

INTO suggests this indicates substantial opportunities for future growth in transnational educational arrangements.

International Students “Hedging Their Bets”

Students are increasingly applying to multiple institutions and destinations, often working with several agents to maximize their chances of acceptance. This trend is evident from the finding that 21% of agents submitted applications to over 60 universities in 2023, and 11% to more than 100 institutions.

As INTO notes: “Students have strong incentives to submit numerous applications. Factors such as limited availability of visa appointments, significant delays in visa decisions, and uncertainty about evolving policies encourage students to have backup plans in case their preferred destination becomes less desirable or accessible.”

INTO highlights the administrative burden this trend places on institutions. With a high volume of applications, universities face pressure to allocate sufficient resources for admissions, leading to lower conversion and enrollment rates as they struggle to identify serious applicants.

Destination Specialists Are the Exception, Not the Norm

Less than a quarter of agents reported specializing in sending students to a single destination in the past year. Over three-quarters (78%) recruited students to multiple destinations, with 44% sending students outside the Big Four (Australia, Canada, UK, US), and about a third (34%) sending students to institutions across the Big Four.

INTO concludes: “In this global, highly competitive, and increasingly crowded landscape, it is crucial for universities and colleges to communicate their unique offerings to stand out and be effectively positioned among a global array of options.”

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