Tieca reveals Thai student trends

02, March, 2015

The UK is the most popular study travel destination for Thai students, according to data presented by the Thai International Education Consultants Association (Tieca) at last week’s Alphe Asia Conference in Bangkok, Thailand, with 35.9 per cent of market share in 2013.

Nithiwat Chaichanasiri (left) and Patcharaporn Boonkerd of Thai agency association Tieca present association data at the Alphe Asia conference

New Zealand was the second most popular destination with 32.52 per cent, followed by Canada, the USA and Australia. The data was based on a Tieca survey completed by 56 member agencies, representing an estimated 19.2 per cent of all Thai students heading overseas.

The statistics also revealed that the UK was the most popular destination for postgraduate degree programmes (74 per cent market share) - "a must for Thai students", said Patcharaporn Boonkerd, adding that the one-year length of the courses in the UK, along with scholarship opportunities, made this country cost effective.

Language/summer (37 per cent share) and undergraduate programmes (39 per cent share) in the UK were also popular, and changes to student visa regulations in the UK which disadvantaged students from some countries had not affected enrolments from Thailand negatively, Boonkerd added.

Statistics from embassies in Thailand indicate that Australia was the most common destination with 21,762 Thai enrolments in 2013, followed by the UK (8,367), USA (7,314), New Zealand (2,250) and Canada (1,333). However, Boonkerd noted that the Australian embassy recorded the number of courses international students enrolled on, whereas other embassies calculated total student numbers or student visas issued, which could account for the discrepancy.

“[In Australia] from 2009-to-2013, numbers have gone down a little bit,” said Boonkerd. “Australia predominantly gets Thai students doing master’s [degrees], but the exchange rate over the past few years has made the UK more cost effective. Australia has also extended master’s degrees from one year to two years.” The country was popular for college/vocational courses with 56 per cent of market share in 2013, due to the variety of subjects on offer, she said.

New Zealand was very popular for high school studies (36 per cent share), although numbers dipped in 2011 and 2012 because of the Christchurch earthquake. This allowed numbers at Canadian high schools to pick up.

Canada fared less well for undergraduate enrolments with only two per cent market share, because the country does not give conditional offers, making the admissions process more difficult for Thai students, Boonkerd said. However, the country was fairly popular for both ELT and work and travel programmes in 2013, and because there are post-study work opportunities.

Meanwhile, the market share of the US declined n 2013. Boonkerd said, "We think one of the reasons is because most US universities and colleges don't pay commission. Most Thai agents do not charge a service fee to the student, so most agents don't push it unless the student is really insistent." Delegates also questioned why Ireland did not appear in the data, and Boonkerd said this was because the country is not heavily promoted in Thailand.

Schools from varying sectors and countries said that Thailand was a market with growth potential due to the general demand for study abroad and a growing middle class population. Anglo Continental, a UK-based language school, has a large Thai student market because of strong agent partnerships.

Kenneth F. DiSaia, Senior Vice President at Johnson and Wales University (JWU) in the USA, confirmed that Thai student numbers had dropped over recent years. “At one time, we had a great number of students from Thailand and our faculty enjoyed having them in the classroom. Through competition and pathway programmes, JWU saw a decline in enrolments.”

Nonetheless, DiSaia believes Thailand is a strong market and sees the agency model as an effective route to bringing student numbers back to previous levels. “We need to build stronger partnerships with educational consultants and we found that all consultants we spoke with [at the conference] had a great deal of interest in partnering with JWU and promoting our educational system.”

The Tieca presentation echoed some of the findings of Study Travel Magazine’s most recent Agency Survey article on Thailand.





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