In this first article in our Inbound Insight series, we look at the rising number of students from Egypt choosing to study abroad, and explore what this cohort look for in student accommodation based on data gathered through the Global Student Living Index.

UNESCO figures show that the number of students from Egypt travelling abroad to study has almost tripled in the past decade – 16,709 Egyptian students were studying abroad in 2012, while 47,243 Egyptian students studied abroad in 2022. Egypt is now the third largest sending country in the Middle East, after Morocco (63,001 students) and Saudia Arabia (58,936 students). The number of outbound Egyptian students can be expected to continue to increase significantly given the pressures on Egypt’s domestic higher education system and a burgeoning youth population.

Outbound destinations

Of the 47,243 outbound students from Egypt studying abroad, 11.68% studied in Germany, 8.69% in Turkey, 7.98% in the United States, and 7% in Saudi Arabia. Other key destinations for Egyptian students include Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Malaysia and Russia.

What’s contributing to this growth?

An economy that had been growing prior to the war in Ukraine, a large population under the age of 25, and challenges for local universities in coping with increasing demand have all contributed to the growth of Egyptian students seeking to study abroad.

Like many countries, Egypt’s economy has been negatively impacted by “commodity price shocks” related to the war in Ukraine and the value of the Egyptian Pound against the US dollar has plummeted. However, prior to these setbacks the Egyptian economy grew by 6.6% in FY2021/22, double that of the previous financial year. The World Bank reports that the Egyptian economy is expected to improve over the medium term.  The number of households with higher incomes is also growing and is projected to increase by 50% by 2030.

For those who can afford it, studying abroad is increasingly likely to be viewed by Egyptian students as an opportunity to gain an advantage in a job market notable for its high youth unemployment rate which has hovered around 25-30% for several years. The unemployment rate of those with tertiary education in Egypt is also high – sitting at around 22%. While Al-Monitor reports that in part, the high level of unemployment of graduates is a result of many jobs in the Egyptian labour market requiring vocational skills rather than tertiary-level skills,  there are also reports of a general ‘mismatch’ between available jobs and the subjects studied by students.

Egypt is the most populous country in the MENA region, with a population of almost 107 million, and just over fifty percent (51.63%) of the population under the age of 25. As at 2020, there were estimated to be 23 million K-12 students in Egypt. Egypt currently has 24 public and 26 private universities and is working with foreign universities to establish international branch campuses as part of the country’s 2030 vision. However, it is predicted that the country will struggle to meet the demand for higher education.

Priorities for students from Egypt

Students from Egypt are likely to prioritise studying in courses in areas of skills shortages given the challenges graduates face in obtaining employment and increasing interest in emigration.  Egypt’s current economic situation suggests that this student cohort is also likely to be more price-sensitive and place a high priority on support to find opportunities for paid employment while studying. Post-study work visa options are also likely to be a key influence for Egyptian students when deciding where to study abroad.

Data from the latest Global Student Living Index (2022 Q4) shows that Egyptian students, like most internationals, rely heavily on university accommodation offices and official websites to find housing, with social media preferred over general web searching as a backup method.

Compared to most international students, Egyptians place more emphasis on the quality of accommodation in their decision about where to study, with 69% rating this as Very Important, compared to 60% of international students in general. They also place less importance on the ‘type’ of institution (47% vs 57%), focussing instead on the specific course they want.

When looking for accommodation, Egyptian students are slightly more likely to be doing so independently, with no involvement from their family (38% vs 33%), but like the vast majority of international students, they will generally be making an accommodation decision remotely with only around 12% able to visit in advance.

The size and quality of the bedroom is particularly important to Egyptian students with just under 30% of those already living abroad saying they would be prepared to pay more to improve this in their current accommodation, compared to just 12% of the wider international student population.

When it comes to the overall accommodation experience, Egyptian students are generally as happy or happier with their accommodation than other internationals. On average, Egyptian students give their accommodation a +25 NPS score, compared to the average +20 from other international students.

Operators need to continue to invest in ensuring that induction materials, in particular, are suitable for their diverse audience as this is one area where Egyptian students were less satisfied (34% rated Very Good vs 42% of other international students). Carbon literacy and other sustainability education should be a particular area for focus with these students, as although concern about climate change is high, behavioural data indicates that there is more work to be done to ensure Egyptian students know how to use their buildings efficiently.

The most significant differences between Egyptian and other international students is in the specific struggles they experience during their time abroad. In this regard, Egyptian students are much more likely to highlight challenges finding part-time work (46% vs 28%) and feeling homesick (42% vs 26%). These are both areas in which the support of accommodation providers would have a significant and meaningful impact on this growing population.