Study abroad hit by economic crisis, survey shows

Nearly two-thirds of Brazilian agents expect to have sent fewer students abroad this year compared to last year, and nine in 10 say the exchange rate and economic crisis are the main influence on this decrease.

This is the finding of the BMI Brazilian Agents’ Survey 2015, carried out in July and August 2015, with responses from 71 agents from across Brazil.

Samir Zaveri, president and CEO of BMI, said: “It is obvious that the weakening of the Brazilian real to the US dollar, euro and sterling has had a significant effect on the confidence in the number of students they will send abroad this year, with 61% expecting a reduction in the numbers they send abroad. But it is also surprising that nearly 40% are expecting an increase.”

He said the increase may be due to many people opting for shorter courses of one to two months instead of four to six months but also choosing alternative destinations.

Agents reported that other than traditional destinations such as the US, Canada, UK, Ireland and Australia, the most interest in the last year was in studying in Argentina for Spanish (17%), Malta (17%), South Africa (15%) and New Zealand (14%).

According to BMI, English and Spanish are the most sought after language courses but there has been an increase in interest in other languages in recent years and the main European languages – French, German and Italian – are shown to be the most popular.

“Japanese is also popular and this is probably due to the large Japanese population in Brazil, especially in São Paulo,” Zaveri said.

Apart from the weakening of the currency, changing visa regulations, particularly in countries where permission to work is affected, is a major factor in students deciding whether they can afford to study abroad, BMI said in a press statement. So too is the availability of government scholarships.

Aside from the most popular courses, there has been growing interest in voluntary work in Africa and Asia; language courses in exotic locations such as the Caribbean and Mauritius; and courses in India and China.

In addition to the Agents’ Survey, BMI has also published visitor statistics from the BMI Salão do Estudante fairs which took place in the seven most important international student source markets in Brazil in September, with more than 33,000 visitors.

Each visitor is required to preregister or complete registration onsite and provide information such as which country they plan to study in, which type of course, any language they plan to study, and when they plan to undertake the course?

The visitor information shows that the US is still the number one overall destination but is being caught up by Canada, mainly due to increased ‘English as a Second Language’ numbers. It also shows a big increase in interest in countries like Argentina, Malta and South Africa – matching the responses of the agents.

The leading countries where visitors wanted to study, when naming as many countries as they liked, were US (32%), Canada (30%), UK (27%), Australia (27%), and Argentina, France, New Zealand (all 21%), and Malta, South Africa and Spain (all 20%).

Some 44% said they were interested in language courses.

Among language courses, English and Spanish remain the most popular. Postgraduate and undergraduate courses have also once again shown a significant increase, in line with media reports that many Brazilians are deciding to get an international qualification to obtain a better job when they return, Zaveri said.

The preferred length of stay was six months to a year (38%), with 26% intending to stay a year or more, 23% for three to six months, and 13% for less than three months.

Zaveri said among more than 25 agencies that participated in Salão do Estudante 2015 last month, most felt the situation would stabilise as soon as the currency stabilises and are optimistic that by spring of 2016, they will see the market bounce back.

“It should also be noted that up until 2014, when the currency started to weaken and many students stayed home to watch the World Cup, that Brazil had record year on year increases for five consecutive years, and so the expected decrease in 2015 is coming off an all-time high in students going abroad in previous years,” he said.