International Education Update: Key takeaways from 2023

We’ve just released our Q4 update for our ongoing higher education research at United Media Solution. This article wraps up key points from the whitepaper report to provide international education marketers with insights for their 2024 strategy.


Key Highlights:

  1. Changing Dynamics: Post-pandemic, the motivations for Chinese students seeking overseas education have shifted. Geopolitical concerns, safety, rigorous entrance exams, and increased price sensitivity are now major factors influencing their decisions.
  2. Market Recovery: There’s a gradual recovery in the number of Chinese students studying abroad, though the numbers are still below pre-pandemic levels. The long-term outlook remains positive, with incremental growth expected as incomes rise, making international education more accessible.
  3. Preferred Destinations: The United States, United Kingdom, and Canada remain popular study destinations for Chinese students, although geopolitical and safety concerns have slightly dampened interest in North America. Recent visa changes have also taken the shine of the UK during this year – a change that Australia and New Zealand are likely to capitalise on.
  4. Affordability and Opportunities: The affordability of destinations is becoming more critical as Chinese consumers grow more price-sensitive. Moreover, post-study work rights and potential migration options are increasingly relevant, influencing where students choose to study.
  5. Impact on Accommodation: The influx of returning students to campuses has put pressure on accommodation, as many previous student facilities near campus locations, (especially those in need of refurbishments) were repurposed into apartments during the pandemic.
  6. Shift in Study Motivations: Economic headwinds in China are leading to a shift in study motivations, with more emphasis on long-term opportunities abroad. This includes a growing interest in post-study work rights and migration opportunities.
  7. Industry and Salary Trends: There’s a mismatch between the skills gained by students studying abroad and the immediate demands of high-growth industries in China. High-tech roles in China are attracting high starting salaries, indicating a trend towards technology-focused education yet many international students are still pursuing management and accounting.



This year international students around the world have contended with a series of macroeconomic challenges in their host countries and home nations. Although major pandemic disruptions are well behind us now, factors such as the high cost of living, geopolitical uncertainty, and access to suitable accommodation and employment opportunities are now top of mind for prospective students and parents. These pressures can impact study preference, location, student well-being and academic performance.

For those in China, the drivers for overseas study have shifted since the pandemic, with geopolitics, safety concerns, difficult entrance exams, and increasing price sensitivity influencing decisions. With more than 11 million new university graduates seeking work this year, competition is increasing. The long-term trajectory of Chinese students going overseas is still positive, poised for a gradual recovery as the world emerges from the pandemic in the short term

The affordability of destinations is increasingly relevant as more Chinese consumers become price-sensitive, and the cost of living in various popular cities will be under more scrutiny. The long-term opportunities presented by post-study work rights, and potential migration options are increasingly relevant and will need to be communicated to agents, parents, and students.

Various markets have seen a wave of students return to campus, putting pressure on student accommodation options. This has been increasingly difficult for many cities, as some accommodation was repurposed into apartments during the pandemic, and additional dedicated student accommodation was not required at the beginning of this year.

For UMS, it is important for us to understand the evolving challenges and opportunities in major education destinations. Our insights team has gathered the latest updates to provide a ‘report card’ on the education market recovery and the next steps to bolster enrolment from students in China.

Click the link below to access the full China Report Card in order to gain a deeper understanding into the evolving changes of international education.