Bangladesh: Middle class growth helping to drive demand for study abroad

South Asia – Bangladesh, India, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka – is home to about 25% of the world’s population. Perhaps somewhat overshadowed by its larger neighbours, Bangladesh nevertheless has a population of around 160 million all by itself, almost half of which (48%) is under the age of 24. With that burgeoning college-aged population, it is no surprise that tertiary enrolment in the country has also been booming. More than three million Bangladeshis are now enrolled in higher education, and the country’s University Grants Commission projects that that total will climb to 4.6 million by 2026. Even so, tertiary participation rates have lagged behind regional leaders, such as India and China, and the domestic system has struggled to keep pace with demand, in terms of the number of available spaces, the quality of education, and employment outcomes for graduates. As we noted in an earlier report, private providers have come to play an increasingly important role in expanding domestic access to higher education. New legislation, first brought forward in May 2014, has also opened the door to foreign universities setting up joint ventures in Bangladesh with local partners. Nearly three years on, however, there has been little progress in this respect and recent reports indicate that Bangladesh’s Education Ministry has moved to block University Grant Commission-backed branch campus applications from British and Australian universities. “Private university owners have routinely opposed government moves to allow foreign universities to open branches in Bangladesh, and have been influential,” reports University World News. “Sources suggested lobbying by these groups may have been behind the refusal by the ministry to grant approval to foreign branch campuses.”

A big bump in outbound

As domestic capacity continues to lag behind demand, growing numbers of Bangladeshi students are pursuing post-secondary education abroad. The latest data from UNESCO indicates that nearly 31,000 Bangladeshis were enrolled abroad in 2015, a 33% increase over the two years from 2013. The leading destination, Malaysia, received about 20% of those students in 2015, with other major receiving countries, including the US, the UK, Australia, and Germany rounding out the top five destinations for Bangladeshi students.

A surging middle class

A recent report from the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) describes Bangladesh as “the surging consumer market nobody saw coming.” On the strength of steady economic growth, stable inflation, low public debt levels, and growing remittance inflows, the population of “middle and affluent consumers” (or MACs) has grown to about 12 million people, or about 7% of the population. This is still small compared to more advanced economies in the region, such as Vietnam (21% MACs) or Indonesia (38%). But, as the following chart reflects, that middle class base is growing quickly in Bangladesh, at around 10% or 11% per year, and at a pace that outstrips many other Asian markets. “If Bangladesh can maintain this pace, its MAC population will grow by 65% over the next five years,” says BCG. “By 2025, it is expected to nearly triple, to about 34 million.” the-current-and-project-proportion-of-middle-class-and-affluent-consumers-in-bangladesh-and-other-selected-markets The current and project proportion of middle-class and affluent consumers in Bangladesh and other selected markets. Source: Boston Consulting Group The other notable characteristic of Bangladesh’s middle class is just how concentrated it is geographically. While this will change over the next decade, as reflected in the illustrations below, Bangladeshi MACs are heavily concentrated in two urban areas today. the-geographic-concentration-of-mac-consumers-in-bangladesh-2015-2015 The geographic concentration of MAC consumers in Bangladesh, 2015-2015. Source: Boston Consulting Group “Currently, around 80% of Bangladesh’s MAC population is concentrated in two cities: Dhaka and the eastern port city of Chittagong,” adds BCG. “We see the dispersion of wealth unfolding in two waves. In the first wave, most of the MAC population growth will occur in Dhaka and Chittagong and will begin to take off in smaller cities in the eastern half of Bangladesh.” The BCG report concludes that, “Very few global companies saw this market coming, so market leadership is very much up for grabs.” It cautions that the market is very value-conscious and that any marketing effort should stress both quality and value-for-money, or ROI. It notes as well that mobile technologies are being widely and rapidly adopted by Bangladeshi consumers and that digital marketing programmes must be well-optimised for mobile. For additional background on this important emerging marketing, please see:

Canada implements Study Permit Cap and Reforms post-graduation Work Permit program.

Last 22 January 2024, the Honourable Marc Miller, Minister of Immigration, Refugees and Citizenship Canada (IRCC), announced significant measures to stabilise the growth of study permits and safeguard the integrity of Canada’s international student system. Prime Minister Trudeau emphasised the vitality of international students in Canada and the need to protect them from concerning practices.

In response to numerous concerns, the government will cap new international student permits at approximately 360,000 for 2024, marking a 35% decrease from the previous year. These measures aim to protect genuine students, alleviate pressure on essential services and ensure a sustainable path forward for international education in Canada.

Prioritising fairness and a sustainable future

The Canadian government will implement a two-year cap on study permits to address challenges posed by rapid increases in the number of international students. This emphasises the government’s commitment to protecting the welfare of international students and ensuring a positive educational experience. The decision, aimed at promoting fairness and sustainable growth, reflects the nation’s dedication to maintaining the integrity of its immigration system.

The newly introduced measures highlight a commitment to fairness, with individual provincial and territorial caps established based on population. The term “caps” refers to limits or restrictions on the number of study permits issued to international students in each province or territory of Canada. Its purpose is to regulate and manage the influx of students and align with the resources available in different regions. For example, if the provincial cap is set at 10,000 study permits only, and the province exceeds this limit, only the first 10,000 eligible applicants would be granted the study permits. Furthermore, the caps are also weighted by population, meaning provinces or territories in Canada with larger populations may have higher caps than those with smaller populations.

Lastly, this addresses concerns about rapid increases in international student numbers, focusing on regions experiencing unsustainable growth. The temporary measures are designed to foster a supportive environment for genuine international students, with plans for ongoing collaboration between the government, provinces, territories and educational stakeholders to refine sustainable pathways and recognised institution frameworks.

Changes to the post-graduation work permit program

Beginning 1 September 2024, positive changes to the Post-Graduation Work Permit program aim to provide international students with increased opportunities. Graduates of master’s and other short graduate-level programs will now be eligible to apply for a three-year work permit, ensuring a more extended period for gaining valuable work experience. This addresses previous limitations on work experience for master’s graduates. Open work permits will only be available to spouses of international students in master’s and doctoral programs. However, international students who begin a study program as part of a curriculum licensing arrangement will no longer be eligible for a post-.

Moreover, adjustments will exclude students enrolled in master’s and PhD programs under curriculum licensing arrangements. Current study permit holders will not be affected, aligning the program with the broader goal of promoting integrity and fairness.

Each province and territory will receive a cap, weighted by population, resulting in more substantial decreases in areas with the most unsustainable international student growth. Ontario, with an expected 50% decrease in student numbers, is anticipated to be the hardest-hit province, according to ministers. As of 22 January 2024, study permit applications submitted to the IRCC will require an attestation letter from the relevant province or territory.

The provincial and territorial caps signify a considerate approach to addressing the impact on various regions. While urban metropolitan areas, notably the Greater Toronto Area, might experience more noticeable changes, the government’s emphasis on collaboration and consultation with stakeholders highlights a commitment to a positive and balanced transition. The recent requirement for attestation letters from provinces and territories is an additional step in ensuring a streamlined application process.

Temporary measures and future assessments

The announced temporary measures will be in effect for two years, with a reassessment of new study permit applications in 2025.  The temporary cap is viewed as a positive step toward creating a more sustainable and supportive environment for international students in Canada. The government’s commitment to reassess the number of study permit applications in 2025 reflects an ongoing dedication to adapting and redefining policies collaboratively.

During this period, collaboration with provinces, territories, learning institutions and national education stakeholders will continue to develop a recognised institution framework, establish sustainable international student levels and ensure adequate student housing, demonstrating a positive commitment to international student success.

Reception and concerns

While advocacy bodies welcome the efforts to curb potential issues, concerns about the overall cap’s potential impact have been acknowledged. The government recognises the importance of a balanced approach. It is committed to dialogue with provinces, territories and institutions to address concerns and pave a sustainable path for the international student community. They intend to work closely with institutions to address these concerns and restore Canada’s reputation as a welcoming destination for international students.

In summary, Canada’s recent measures signify a positive shift towards creating an environment that prioritises the well-being and success of international students. The commitment to fairness, collaboration and ongoing reassessment reflects a nation dedicated to fostering enriching educational experiences while maintaining the integrity of its immigration system.

To learn more about the opportunities available for international students and get updates about education in Canada, don’t hesitate to get in touch with our team at




Discovering and navigating more opportunities for international students in the US

The United States is one of the first choices for most international students, offering quality education and a pathway to a prosperous future. As a dream study abroad destination, the US beckons with top universities, diverse courses and advanced research facilities— practically a haven for STEM students. Furthermore, programs such as Optional Practical Training (OPT), Startup Visas and H-1B Visas open doors to real-world experience, presenting a unique opportunity for those aiming to study and establish a long-term career in the US.

Let’s explore why the US should be one of your preferred destinations for studying abroad in 2024.

Education in the US and post-study opportunities with STEM

The allure of studying in the US has never been higher, as renowned institutions offer academic excellence and cutting-edge research courses. The diversity of programs caters to every passion—data science, business or art history. Beyond academics, the US is also a melting pot of cultures, fostering lifelong communities and expanding worldviews.

The US provides a treasure trove of post-study opportunities for those venturing into STEM fields. Programs like OPT, Startup Visas and H-1B Visas align with the country’s commitment to nurturing international talent and ensuring a robust workforce. The US also offers flexible financing options, with numerous scholarships, financial aid options and prestigious fellowships like Fulbright or Stanford Reliance. These opportunities make studying in the US a dream and an attainable reality.

The EB-5 Visa Program

As international students aspire to realise their American dream, the EB-5 Visa program provides a strategic financial advantage. While the traditional route to US citizenship can be lengthy, the EB-5 program, officially the Employment-Based Fifth Preference Visa Program, is a streamlined, fast and efficient route. With an average processing time of 48 months, students applying at the start of their degree may achieve conditional permanent residency by graduation, providing a seamless transition from education to a potential career in the US.

International students studying in the U.S. may often expect their yearly tuition to cost between $25,000 – $70,000. Public universities provide cost-effective options, with an average tuition of $10,740 for in-state students and $27,560 for out-of-state students in the 2021-2022 academic year, reflecting a 2.2% decrease compared to the previous year, according to CollegeBoard data. While private schools may cost $38,070, their tuition expenses are the lowest since 2017-2018.

As international students consider the financial implications of studying in the U.S., the EB-5 Visa program emerges to alleviate the costs. The EB-5 visa presents a significant benefit for international students by removing the challenges of securing a work visa and finding employment post-graduation.

The program emphasises tangible advantages such as reduced tuition fees, permanent residency or Green Cards for family members, freedom in residence and employment locations and the potential for a US passport. This also allows access to resident funding, making education more affordable for U.S. residents. Children may also benefit from reduced tuition fees, and the entire family can obtain a US passport.

Holistic approach to education and residency

The US offers more than just education; it provides a launchpad for personal and professional growth. Combining top-tier education and strategic programs like the EB-5 Visa opens doors for international students, ensuring a holistic and enriching experience in the land of opportunity. The EB-5 Visa program isn’t just a financial strategy; it’s a ticket to realising educational dreams and securing a brighter future for international students.

So, whether you’re aiming for academic excellence or seeking a permanent foothold, the US stands ready to welcome varying career options.

To know more about the exciting opportunities for international students at GSP’s partner institutions, please contact our North American team at