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Financing international student mobility

International student fees can significantly boost Higher Education Institutions’ (HEI) financial results. But competition is increasing for a piece of this lucrative market. Are you using the right techniques to capitalise on it?

The global marketplace for international students has increased rapidly over the past few years and it is worth an estimated £20 billion[1], providing a significant income opportunity for HEIs. But with more data available than ever before, students can compare institutions at the touch of a button. This is pushing HEIs to work harder to attract the savvy, price-sensitive international student audience.

The primary financial factor driving students' decision is, unsurprisingly, tuition fees. While students are willing to pay high fees, the reputation of both institution and country must be exceptional. So what can HEIs do to set themselves apart and attract the best and brightest international students?

Our recommendations:

  • Follow the leaders: learn from other industries and enhance financial models, including yield-management techniques
  • Provide an incentive to study: offer extra financial support to reduce the cost of living for select international students
  • Be diligent: consider your international enterprise options; assess the financial risks of overseas campuses; and recognise the challenges of working in regions with different social norms.

Our team has broad experience working in the higher education sector. And with member firms in 130 countries we can help you develop robust global or local business strategies that align with the wider political environment.

This is the second in our series of reports exploring the implications of international student mobility for HEIs. Future reports will address recruitment and reputation and changing trends in the sector.


[1] Grant Thornton estimate [based on reported income from tuition and fees in the US (US$ 19,754,000,000 [£13.8 billion as of 16 June 2016]: The Economic Benefit of International Students. Washington D.C.: NAFSA, 2014. Web. 7 June 2016.) and analysis of HEI income in the UK (£4 billion: Grant Thornton UK LLP. Adapting to Change. 2016. Web. 7 June 2016. The Financial Health of the Education Sector.) and Australia (A$4.7 billion [£2.4 billion as of 16 June 2016]: Ibid.)

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