Student recruitment data: the Middle East

The following data is based on the past two years of traffic from Middle Eastern countries to Hotcourses International websites and includes over 3,000,000 users.

Source countries

The top five countries where traffic to Hotcourses International websites originates are Saudi Arabia, Egypt, UAE, Algeria and Iran. After a period of decline from March to September 2018, Saudi Arabia has surged back ahead, and now has the highest market share with 27.2%. Egypt ranks second with 19.7% at the moment but was briefly leading from June to September 2018. The UAE has trended upwards in the last 9 months and overtook Algeria, now having double its share. Algeria dropped off particularly since February 2019. 

The surge in traffic in the last month might be linked to the fact that across the region, exam results are released around the end of June each year. However, among the top five only Egypt and Algeria experience an increase in share - suggesting that proportionally the results-boost is higher in these countries than others.


Interact with the graph below to see which study destinations are most popular for visitors to Hotcourses International websites from Middle Eastern countries. You can break down the popularity of major study destinations by country of origin, and see how traffic has fluctuated over the past year. 

Please note: The labels at the ends of the lines won’t necessarily be exactly the same as the relevant end point on the line. This is because the line is calculated with a 3 point moving average to create a smoother line, whilst the label is the exact figure.

Across the Middle East, the most popular study destination is the UK, despite the fact that the UK’s share has fallen four percentage points in the past two years, down to 21.4%. The US was overtaken by Canada in August 2018 as the second most popular destination, but has now returned to growth and is narrowly behind the UK with 19.0%.

Australia over the past two years closed the gap and now ranks fourth before Malaysia.

Saudi Arabia 

For Saudi Arabian students, the UK and USA have held firm as the top two most popular destinations. The US has been particularly strong in recent years and now ranks first as the most popular destination. Its share has increased by nearly five percentage points up to 27.0% over the last two years.

The US increase could be expected to continue to rise due to the Mubtaath scholarship scheme. This is a Saudi government program which provides full scholarships to over 10,000 Saudi students studying in the US.

The next three most popular destinations are Australia, Canada and Malaysia which have all converged to around 9%. Canada’s low point came in early August 2018 as a result of the Saudi-Canada diplomatic dispute where Saudi Arabia ordered its students to leave Canada for alternative destinations. It doesn’t appear that any one destination in particular benefited from this, but rather slight corresponding increases were seen across a variety of destinations.

Despite bouncing back from this drop, over the last six months Canada has continued to trail away for market share, whilst the UK and US rise.


For Egyptian students, the UK narrowly remains the most popular destination, as the US has consistently risen over the last year. After rising to 17% in December 2018, Canada has steadily declined.

Below this, we see Germany rising from 4% share to about 7%, including a spike in March 2019. 
For one week in March, Germany was second only to the UK (by 0.18%). This coincides with announcements of partnerships between Egypt and German universities. The German Universities Alliance (comprised of 11 universities) officially opened registration for students in Egypt.

Australia has been relatively flat over the two years, and Malaysia has decreased from 7.4% to 4.4% share.

United Arab Emirates (UAE)

In the UAE, Canada has almost doubled its market share over the past two years, rising from 13% to over 24%. This appears to be largely at the expense of the US and the UK, as both countries have fallen by about five percentage points over the same time frame - though the UK isn’t in any immediate danger of being overtaken by other destinations.

New Zealand looks ready to move into the top five study destinations. Whilst Malaysia has fallen from almost 11% to just over 6%, New Zealand has steadily risen from 5.4% to 6.6%.


In Algeria, the UK now ranks second: its market share has deteriorated quite sharply dropping from 33% in April 2018 to 14% in June 2019. Canada, after peaking at 24% in December 2018, has dipped to 16.3% but still ranks first. Malaysia has recently reemerged as one of the major destinations and now ranks fourth.


Subject interest has stayed relatively steady over the region. The top three subject areas are Health and Medicine, Engineering and Technology, as well as Business and Administrative Studies.

Middle East Subjects - UUK (002).JPG 

Author: Tristan Conoley, Senior Data Analyst, IDP Connect