Demand for overseas study at all-time high, but don’t panic – Sable International’s Brent Morris

There has been a massive uptick in applications to study abroad and overseas universities are getting hundreds of thousands of applications. That is according to Brent Morris, managing director: Study Abroad of Sable International. Morris told BizNews that parents, and students who are thinking of studying elsewhere, should however not panic and advised parents not to overload their offspring with additional programmes. He said it was a lot simpler than you would think to get South African students into overseas universities. South Africans are popular because of the diversity they provide and Sable International has a 99% success rate with students they put forward. They don’t charge students for the service. – Linda van Tilburg

Don’t panic, keep it simple and don’t overwhelm with additional programmes

I think the first thing that I need to say is, don’t panic. I speak to parents all day and the common trend is to panic and to listen to people – and everybody’s got advice. ‘You need to do this and you need to do that.’ I had a parent come to me a little while ago and they were making their child do A-levels in the evening because someone had told them that they need A-levels to get in. A-levels is a UK curriculum programme. They were charged R30,000 a month for A-levels and it turns out they were going to use the USA. You can use A-levels for the US for some credits, but it’s not necessary to get it. It’s not essential. So, don’t panic. It’s not as difficult as you think to get into these universities. Try not to overwhelm them. It’s really important. I would rather a student do really well in their matric because they weren’t trying to do ten other extra programmes to get them in than mess up their grades because they’re so overwhelmed with additional programmes. Again, I had a friend of mine call me. He wants his daughter to do all these extra software programmes on top of her curriculum. What for? It’s not going to help them get in. If anything, it’s just going to overwhelm them and they’re going to be short on their grades and that reduces their options. Just focus on keeping it simple because it’s a lot simpler than you realise to get into these universities. 

Countries like Dubai are offering study opportunities to build their economies

Dubai has some amazing opportunities because they’re building a massive education hub or have built it already. There are a number of different top international universities now building campuses there from the UK to Australia, to the USA, to Canada: they all have major campuses now in the city. They’re offering a lot of their top programmes or even joint programmes where you can study part-time there and then move over to the country involved to finish studying. I think what’s exciting about studying in Dubai is that it offers a great kind of work-study balance, so you can work during the day and study at night. From there you can work part-time while you are studying and there’s a really simple way to transition into your work visa once you graduate or even during your studies. They really are building a kind of pathway into the working world because again, it’s a hub for commerce and I think they’re desperate for highly skilled workers, which they have been for a number of years. So, I think they’re just trying to build on that.

That’s what you’re finding in a lot of these countries where commerce is growing. They’re trying to grow their education around that. You look at Australia where they’ve got something like 600,000 shortages of employees, I can’t remember the exact amount. On the back of that, they’re trying to grow their education around it. They’re trying to fill the gap through education, same as the UK. So are all these big countries because they realise that the only way they’re going to do it is through education. There’s a huge desire for these countries to bring in international students because they know that these people are going to have great employment opportunities and it means that everybody wins. The student wins because they get a great job after studying and the country wins because they get a good employee to stay  afterwards and enhance the country. 

Demand for overseas study at an all-time high but accommodation is scarce in some cities

Accommodation is really becoming a major issue now in big cities in the UK for example, well even in Australia. Cities like Manchester and Edinburgh just have no accommodation. So, getting in early is really important, booking accommodation as soon as possible. Even before you apply for your visa, I would recommend looking at accommodation options purely because the demand is so high at the moment. Everybody’s looking at studying abroad. In the whole of South Asia, I think a million students go overseas a year to study abroad. That’s really saturating the market and making it a little bit more challenging to find things like accommodation and even the right programme. Programmes tend to be sold out quicker. It’s the first time we’re really seeing this high demand. 

Full scholarships at undergraduate level very unlikely, but opportunities for post-grads

There are scholarships available. The way to look at it is at undergrad level, very unlikely. So, it’s worth noting that if you’re going to go for an undergrad degree, the possibility of a full scholarship, especially in a country like the UK or Australia, is very unlikely unless you get an outside organisation to sponsor you. When it comes to the universities themselves, I don’t know of any undergraduate full scholarships that we have available to any of our partners. At postgraduate level there are some available. Again, it’s a process. You have to apply for it and there’s a very, very limited number. There are a lot of partial scholarships. We’re looking at around 10 to 20% partial scholarship. What students can also do is look at outside bodies, professional bodies or government bodies. So, there’s the Chevening scholarship or the Commonwealth Scholarship for the UK, where they offer full scholarships for those countries, but they’re only for postgraduates. So, really students looking at undergrad, are going to get around 10 to 20% tuition discounts. I don’t want to call them scholarships because they are more discounts than scholarships. It is very seldom that they’re actually based on grades. A lot of the time they’re based on where the student comes from. They are regional scholarships because they want diversity. They love having South Africans because we bring great diversity; we integrate well and we perform well. 

99% success rate in placing students last year and no charge

Working with someone like us obviously makes a huge difference because we can just simplify it. We take all the stress away. We do pre-check. We work for the universities so we have a direct line with them. When you come to us, it’s as if you’re working with the university. We’re able to communicate with the university around your application to make sure that when we process that, it’s got a much higher chance of getting acceptance. Our acceptance rate is around 99%. We’ll tell you before we apply whether you’re going to get in and try to stop you before we waste your and everybody else’s time. We don’t charge anything either. The universities pay us because we work for the university; we don’t actually work for you as a student. We work for them. Our job in our contract is to help the university to get the right student. So by default, we’re helping you get into the right university. It works both ways. It’s mutually exclusive. We are contracted to make sure that you are right for the university. These universities are getting literally hundreds of thousands of applications. They’re overwhelmed. They can’t even process them. A university told me the other day that they just ignored 4,500 applications last term because they couldn’t get to them. However, they process every single one of ours because they know when we submit an application, we’ve checked, it’s accurate. It’s got all the documents. We know exactly what we’re doing and we’ve got a direct line to the universities.

Visit Sable International’s free Study Abroad Expo in February in Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Stellenbosch, or Harare. Meet international universities, explore your options – for undergrad and postgrad – and receive real-time, expert advice on studying abroad. Bring your academic documents along to apply on site.

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