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Most Popular Programs for MSM Partner Institutions, 2020/2021

An IDP Connect study concludes that “international student choices and motivations [are] increasingly driven by the availability of face-to-face teaching.” It further suggests that 43% of students are willing to start their programs online as long as there is a planned transition to face-to-face learning within three months. 


It would benefit higher education institutions (HEIs) in any country to offer in-person instruction to international students as soon as possible. The question is, which programs should they prioritize for this transition? In this article, I provide some insight into this by crunching the numbers for student applications for 2020 and 2021 by program.

Key Takeaways:

  • 43% of international students choose study destinations based on the availability of in-person learning
  • A majority (54.12%) of applicants to MSM partner institutions chose business-related program types for 2020 and 2021 based on MSM Unify data
  • HEIs should prioritize business, health and medical, and IT-related programs for in-person instruction to attract more international students

Mining the data

MSM has partner institutions worldwide that offer international students online, in-person, and hybrid courses. More than 4,500 partner agents use the MSM Unify platform to process applications, so it is a rich data source. MSM Unify is a marketplace for students providing end-to-end solutions, from college selection to post-admission support services.


For this article, I gathered the application details of international students on MSM Unify for 2020 and 2021. The total number of applications was 44,986. The data also included the institution, gender, and program choices. 


However, I thought it would be sufficient to focus only on program classifications and gender for this article. I collated the data by seven broad classifications: IT, business, engineering, health and medical, education, trade, and some BHASE and STEM programs. 


I took particular note of IT-related programs, given the seemingly sharp rise in interest in late 2020. My goal was to ascertain if that was true of MSM partner institutions. 

Let’s dig in.

Business programs lead the charge

Based on the MSM Unify data, business-related programs were the clear leaders on the board. These programs included supply management, marketing, finance, economics, human resources, and business administration. Health and medical programs and IT-related programs took second and third place.

international students programs bar graph

Specifically, 54.12% of applicants of both genders chose business-related programs, with a significantly higher number of male students (58%) more than females (41.5%). The reverse is true for health and medical-related programs, which garnered 24.22% of applications. Many more women (79.6%) applied in that program type than men (20.4%) did.


IT-related programs, on the other hand, came in third with 21.34% of all applicants. This is no surprise, as recent trends indicated that IT would be among the most popular programs in higher education. 


However, what is surprising is that more women (55.2%) applied for this program type than men (44.8%) did. Historically, women had lagged behind men when it came to IT.  Is this a fluke or a glimpse of things to come? That question deserves a bit more scrutiny in the future.

Program types to prioritize for in-person instruction

As interesting as that development is, the purpose of this article is to look at application trends to discover the most popular program types amid a pandemic.  


As far as MSM partner institutions are concerned, business, health and medical, and IT courses. HEIs looking to improve their enrollment numbers should take note and make every effort to prioritize these program types for in-person instructions.  (SUNEETHA QURESHI)

#PartnerForLife #InternationalEducation #InternationalStudents #MSM #GlobalEducationForAll

MSM VP Global Suneetha Qureshi

MSM President-Global Marketing Office (GMO)

Suneetha has more than 10 years of experience in the international education sector. As president of MSM GMO, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray in edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each GMO partner institution, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application pre-screening, 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.


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