By Matthew Knott, News Editor of Study Travel Magazine

Plenty of industry data has been published on our daily news page this week, mostly revealing positive trends for sectors involved.

Firstly, we had the annual UK data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency relating to the number of international students studying at universities in the UK in 2013/14

A three per cent increase in non-EU students was met with a fairly grudging response from most industry commentators in the mainstream news. It is worth, therefore, highlighting the fact that this is the highest ever number of non-EU students recorded in the UK: 310,195.

There seemed to be envious glances towards the growth recorded in Australia and the USA in the last year, but these may be an unfair comparisons: Australia’s enrolment figures are recovering after two or three years of decline; the UK’s drop of one per cent in 2012/13was nowhere near as precipitous as Australia experienced, and I’m sure most UK international offices would prefer steady growth with an occasional slight blip to oscillating figures.

The USA certainly seems to be streaking ahead in terms of international enrolments – average seven-to-eight per cent growth over the last few years – but it does so from a much lower base. Non-EU students together with non-UK students from other parts of the EU constitute 18 per cent of the total student body, compared with just 4.1 per cent in the USA. UK universities need to be realistic about the capacity for further growth.

India again presented a concern for the UK with a further decline of 12 per cent in 2012/13, and this market has clearly been affected by changes to work rights. But seven of the top 10 non-EU source countries increased.

Enrolments from the EU have flattened out in recent years, but this is an inevitable consequence of the new higher fee structure introduced into the UK in 2012, affecting both UK and EU students: as it happens, EU enrolments have held up better than domestic levels, which dropped a further two per cent.

Over in New Zealand, there was more positive news with the release of January-to-August 2014 international student data, showing a 12 per cent increase compared with the same period last year, with the industry finally surpassing 2011 levels – the year of the Christchurch earthquake.

Further evidence of the importance of work rights for the Indian market was provided here. New Zealand experienced a 60 per cent upswing in Indian students in this period, and Education New Zealand credited this to the introduction of more generous work privileges as well as the positive impact of in-country marketing, including agent co-promotions.

Dr Paul Chellakumar, Patron of the Association of Accredited Advisors on Overseas Education (AAAOE) in India, told us the Indian outbound market remained steady in terms of total numbers, but said the UK had clearly lost significant market share to Australia, New Zealand and Canada.

For New Zealand there were positive trends from target markets including China, Indonesia and Brazil, and pleasingly Education New Zealand highlighted the strategic partnerships that have been formed with agencies as one of the factors driving this success.

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