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ApplyBoard Data Reveals What International Students are Searching For

Earlier this week, we analyzed ApplyBoard internal data to understand what prospective international students are willing to spend on their education. Today, we look at where students are interested in spending their money.

The pandemic altered the economic landscape of most countries. In turn, it also changed opportunities in the job market. We’re seeing that reflected in what prospective students are searching for on the ApplyBoard Platform.

In a second look at ApplyBoard internal data, we explore what students are interested in today, look at how their preferences have evolved over time, and project how this will impact which sectors attract the most international talent in the future.

Key Insights at a Glance

  • Since 2019, the percentage of students searching for health sciences has increased from 7.8% to 11.2%, while general sciences rose from 12.5% to 15.9%.1
  • Management is the most common field of study search term on the ApplyBoard Platform in 2022.
  • Health sciences is the fastest-growing and third-most-searched field of study.

ApplyBoard Platform Trends – Field of Study

The first decision most international students make is what field of study they want to go into. And while interest and passion are driving factors, they’re not the only variables that influence what prospective students search for.

Before committing time and resources to an education, students need to be able to draw a line from their field of study to post-graduation work opportunity—something ApplyBoard’s Recruitment Partner Pulse Survey found was the number one consideration among students.

For these reasons, field of study search trends are one of the best predictors of future international student behaviour.

The ApplyBoard Platform allows users to search programs using grouped field of study terms. This helps users explore related programs without having to search by specific program name. Here’s a look at the breakdown of the general field of study searches among ApplyBoard users from 2019 to 2022:

When we reviewed our internal search and application data back in 2021, we expected the growing interest in business, management, and economic programs to continue post-pandemic. But what we thought at the time might be an indicator of future student search trends turned out to be an outlier.

We’re actually seeing the distribution of searches on the ApplyBoard Platform settle back to 2019 levels, particularly within the top three.

The Rising Popularity of Health Sciences & General Sciences

The most significant post-pandemic effect we’re seeing is the increased interest in health sciences and general sciences. From 2020 to 2022, the percentage of total searches under health sciences increased from 7.8% to 11.2%, while general sciences increased from 12.5% to 15.9%.

This makes sense given the evolution of the job market in these fields, particularly health sciences. Some of the world’s largest destination markets have reported increased job vacancies in many health science fields, particularly nursing.

UK

Consider the UK. Health and social work accounted for the highest number of vacancies of any industry in January of 2022.

Prior to the pandemic, UK job vacancies within these sectors grew by over 100% from 2013 to 2020.2 Taking these stats into account, it’s far more likely this sector’s need for talent will continue growing, rather than fade away.

Canada

The demand for medical and health studies programs at Canadian institutions, especially at Canada’s U15 universities, also increased substantially in the years leading up to the pandemic. The past two years have served as a reminder that medical and health professions in every country are critically important.

Students are drawn to fields of study which set them up for long-term success. Today, health sciences offer students a path to a career with job security and stability. Look for this growth to continue as job opportunities in these fields continue to bloom.

What International Students are Searching For

When prospective students are searching on the ApplyBoard Platform, they can get as specific as they like. Inputting unique text to search for particular programs allows students to find the program that’s right for them.

You would expect these search terms to line up with the most popular field of study searches, but that’s not the case. Let’s take a look at what users have been searching for so far in 2022:

Management has been the most common field of study search term on the ApplyBoard Platform so far in 2022. The frequency of management searches increased steadily over the past 18 months, growing by over 460% from March 2021 to June 2022.

Students’ interest in management programs has steadily increased since 2020, when it ranked as the 12th most commonly searched term. As students look for all pathways to a career in business, management is picking up steam as a viable option for international students to break their way into commerce.

Health studies made the biggest leap up these rankings, rising 24 spots since 2020, reinforcing the momentum this field has seen in our general field of study search filter.

This is confirmation that the surge in nursing searches during the pandemic was much more than a reaction to COVID-19. The pandemic may have raised regional awareness around the deficit of healthcare workers, but the need for expansion in this sector carries benefits far beyond fighting COVID-19. This response from students tells us that health studies looks to be the field of study with the highest growth potential in the near future.

Schools offering programs in this field should be including them in their international recruitment strategies, educating prospective students on the career options available to them in health sciences and nursing.

Looking Forward

Business and STEM programs have monopolized the interest of international students for a long time. And while the majority of students studying abroad still fall into those buckets, the fields of study experiencing the fastest growing interest will shape the future of international education.

COVID-19 raised long-overdue awareness that heath sciences and general sciences are two areas that need smart, capable people more than ever. ApplyBoard search data indicate students are taking notice. As institutions look to evolve alongside their students, here are a few recommendations for how to leverage this information:

  • Bring health sciences and nursing to the forefront of international recruitment strategies, alongside STEM and business.
  • Keep their fingers on the pulse of which job markets are growing nationally, as they will dictate the future of student interest.

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About the ApplyInsights Team

Led by ApplyBoard Co-Founder and CMO Meti Basiri, the ApplyInsights Team analyzes the latest government, third-party, and ApplyBoard internal data, to provide a complete picture of trends in the international education industry. They also work with industry experts and ApplyBoard team members to gather local insights across key source and destination countries, where ApplyBoard has helped more than 300,000 students around the world.

 

FOOTNOTES:

1. All data courtesy of ApplyBoard, unless otherwise stated.

2. Office for National Statistics (ONS), Vacancies and jobs in the UK: February 2022. 15 Feb 2022.

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The most important stories in international education, backed by data