Changes to established international student trends caused by factors such as September 11, the threat of a global recession and the emergence of new student destinations -bring home the message that no one within the education travel industry can afford to be complacent. A recent report by the British Council showed the popularity of the USA and the UK, as first choice study destinations for students from various Muslim countries, declining. This is one indication of shifting paradigms within the industry (see page 2).
The UK has traditionally relied on a network of familiar student markets which have provided a solid foundation from which to expand its international student base. However, global changes mean that this approach can no longer be relied on. UK independent schools recorded decreases in a number of key student markets this year including the USA, Japan and Germany, and schools are increasingly adapting their courses in order to attract students (see page 5).
Shifting trends in the student market are a reflection of the organic nature of the education travel industry, which has recently seen attempts by Europe to assert itself as a destination for international students. A new scholarship programme introduced by the European Union will encourage more international students to go to Europe for postgraduate study, while the German government has also introduced an immigration law which will make it easier for foreign students to work in Germany (see page 2).
Government measures to encourage the free flow of international student traffic across borders are often introduced in response to specific economic and social conditions. Germany's new immigration bill is a direct bid to encourage skilled workers to the country to meet national demand, while the Japanese government's decision to increase the number of test dates for international students wanting to study in Japanese universities is in response to increasing Japanese student numbers enrolling in universities overseas (see page 2).
Changing economic fortunes and the need for a workforce equipped with relevant skills are strong reasons for governments to attempt to redress any economic or social imbalance through their education systems. The importance of the English language in the business world also helps shape trends in the industry. In our feature on secretarial courses in the UK, an agent in the Netherlands reports that English for secretaries courses became more popular in response to a growing need for English in the national business environment (see page 9).
The Malaysian government has recently introduced English-medium classes for maths and science subjects in recognition of the importance of competing internationally in these subjects and increasing the competence of the country's workforce (see page 3). An increased level of course provision in these fields at home, as well as the increasing numbers of UK and Australian university off-shore campuses, could affect the number of students from this market studying overseas in the future.
However, continued growth in the Chinese student market promises to ensure year-on-year growth in student numbers for most education sectors worldwide. UK independent schools report an increase of over 40 per cent in Chinese student numbers (see page 5), while schools offering academic preparation in Canada confirm that the Chinese market continues to show good promise.