A Promising Shift: 57% of US Educators Now Focus International Student Recruitment on India in 2023

Key takeaways:

  • US higher education institutions have noticeably changed their recruitment strategies, placing emphasis on recruiting students from India. 
  • India has emerged as the key international market for US graduate programs, according to 77% of graduate recruiters.
  • US educational institutions are exploring growing markets, including Vietnam, South Korea, Brazil, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Canada, in an effort to diversify their international student populations.

For years, India and China have consistently led the way in sending international students abroad for education. In the United States alone, the majority of international students come from these two powerhouse countries. In the 2021/22 academic year, Statista reported that China sent a total of 290,086 students, while India sent 199,182 students.

While China has always been a major focus, a recent study found that US higher education institutions are now shifting their recruitment strategies due to the growing unpredictability of the Chinese student market. Educators are now putting even more effort into recruiting students from abroad, particularly from India.

Rethinking Recruitment Priorities

The IIE’s Spring 2023 Snapshot on International Educational Exchange research reveals a significant change in the demographics of international students in the United States. For the first time in ten years, international graduate enrollment (41%) has surpassed international undergraduate enrollment (36%). The Council of Graduate Schools (CGS), which also emphasizes the rising demand for US graduate programs, especially master’s degrees, supports these findings.


The report also highlights India as the top priority recruitment market for US graduate programs in 2023. More than 77% of graduate recruiters said that India was their main market. This trend aligns with CGS data, which shows an increasing number of graduate applications and enrollments from Indian students. In fact, India accounted for 38% of all graduate applications to master’s and doctorate programs in the fall of 2022.

While China remains an important market, it is mentioned less frequently (42%) in terms of graduate recruitment. Notably, recruiters are paying closer attention to Brazil (34%), South Korea (34%), and Vietnam (35%). Additionally, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Canada are gaining importance as markets for graduate recruitment initiatives.

While the research highlights India as the leading market for graduate programs, it also discusses the various priorities for undergraduate programs. Vietnam, listed by 48% of recruiters as a priority market alongside India, stands out as a formidable competitor. The sustained relevance of South Korea (41%), Brazil (40%), and China (39%) as top countries for attracting undergraduate students, is further evidenced by these numbers. Although undergraduate recruitment is less intense in Nigeria (29%), graduate recruitment is more significant (37%).

Leveraging Current International Students

The most recent data show that specific approaches work well in engaging potential students. An astonishing 70% of recruiters rely on the viewpoints and experiences of current international students, who have emerged as the most influential source for undergraduate programs. International partnerships, online recruitment events, social media outreach, and alumni engagement have also proven effective in capturing the attention of potential undergraduates.

The recruitment situation for graduate programs is similar. Current international students continue to play an important role, with 66% of recruiters recognizing their importance in attracting new graduate students. Online recruitment events have also demonstrated their usefulness, with 60% of recruiters using virtual platforms to communicate with potential prospects. Furthermore, alumni relationships, social media outreach, and international partnerships have all proven their importance in recruiting exceptional students for graduate programs.

Recognizing the influence and opinions of current international students, universities in the United States are deliberately harnessing their insights to improve recruitment efforts. By tapping into their networks, universities can recruit prospective students and create a welcoming environment for future enrollment. Over two-thirds of educators rely on the views of current international students.

Moving Forward

The Spring 2023 Snapshot from the IIE offers insightful information on the changing landscape of international student recruitment in US higher education. The modifications made by US educational institutions, responding to the volatile Chinese student market and exploring opportunities in India and other emerging markets, demonstrate a concerted effort to diversify student populations. 

Moreover, by harnessing the perspectives of current international students and implementing comprehensive strategies, US colleges and universities can continue to attract top talent, foster global partnerships, and bolster the economic and educational advantages offered by international education. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)

MSM President

Suneetha has worked for 15 years in the international education sector and 25 years overall for her work for other industries. As president of MSM, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray into edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each MSM partner institute, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application prescreening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.


She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.

Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.



We will be happy to send the MSM reporter to your inbox every Thursday. Please enter below details to confirm your subscription.

Get in Touch

Get In Touch

Get In Touch

This website uses cookies to assist to personalize content, analyze our traffic, and to assist with our promotional and marketing campaigns. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising, and analytics team who may combine it with other information that you’ve provided to them or that they’ve collected from your use of their services. For more information about your cookies and how to change your settings, refer to our Privacy Policy.​



We will be happy to send the MSM reporter to your inbox every Thursday. Please enter below details to confirm your subscription.

Yes, I would like to receive the Top 12 trending news from the international education industry.