What will matter most to students?

With populations ageing, the pool of potential students is dwindling. However, tertiary education is regarded by many as crucial in a competitive global job market, and rising parental incomes, growth in demand for overseas courses among consumers in emerging markets and an increase in adult learning are all helping to drive global demand. This report identifies trends in student demographics and behaviour, as well as opportunities for marketers of related products and services.


Enrolment ratios up worldwide

Despite adverse demographic trends, enrolment rates in the tertiary sector increased rapidly in recent years. Globally, the gross enrolment ratio (i.e. the number of students at tertiary level – regardless of age – as a percentage of the five-year post-secondary age group) leapt from 35% in 2011 to 41% in 2016, and is forecast to rise to 42% in 2017. Growth was driven largely by higher demand in emerging markets, where incomes are growing and tertiary education is seen as the key to success in life.

South Korea, which sees a heavy focus on educational achievement, had the highest tertiary enrolment ratio in 2016, at 100%. However, the biggest jump among the key markets under review was in Turkey, where the ratio flew up from 62% to 90% over the five year period to 2016.

The importance of education as a share of household budget was highest in South Korea (at almost 6%). A good education is seen as a top priority in this country, with parents considering it to be crucial to their children’s success in life. Moreover, the lack of natural resources makes the nation highly reliant on human resources. There is intense competition for good schools, and parents pay large sums for their children to prepare for entrance exams (suneung).


Limited spending power

The main problem facing marketers is that students are generally on very tight budgets, with low disposable incomes. Moreover, they represent a transient market base, since they are only in higher education for a short number of years. Nevertheless, securing their loyalty at this early stage in their consumer lives can be rewarding.

Students are constantly looking for discounts and bargains in order to get the most out of their limited budgets. Word of offers and deals travels quickly, both online and on campus. Marketers can target them most effectively with offers and incentives both on-site and via digital sources, such as mobile advertisements and social media platforms.


A few key priorities for tomorrow’s students

  • Gaining a useful degree
  • Digital technology
  • Experience
  • Financial security


Students to drive growth in the sharing economy

Whether through need or choice, the sharing economy is very important for students, and they are likely to continue to eschew ownership in favour of renting and sharing, and intangible over material goods.

Students are frequent users of Uber and ride-sharing services such as BlaBlaCar, while house-sharing app Airbnb is often used by those travelling on a budget. A plethora of other peer-to-peer lending services are expected to develop in all kinds of sectors, from clothing, tools and sporting equipment to storage space. Lending and sharing appeals to millennials’ ethical sensibilities, as well as saving them the expense of investing in high-ticket items while they are struggling for money.