Who All Is Interested in Studying Medicine in English in Italy?

In February of this year, I made a YouTube video called “How to Study Medicine in English in Italy“. Since then, this video has been watched about 2,400 times — 2,397, to be precise. Now, some of those views are the same person watching more than once, and some are robots rather than people. However, the sample size is large enough now that we can probably discount those multiple and non-human watchers, and get some sense of who, exactly, is interested in the video… and try to extrapolate from that what demographic, around the world, is curious about studying medicine in English in Italy. YouTube, in partnership with Google, makes excellent analytics available for videos. So, let us take a little look at my video’s statistics, and see what we can learn about interest in our international med schools, which, as I have said over and over, are a pioneering phenomenon in medical education. My video, by the way, is just under four minutes long and subtitled in English, so it is accessible to a wide range of people around the planet, regardless of their patience, or ability to understand my funny Connecticut accent.

First of all, we can look at the number of views, by day, over the whole time period — from February 12, when I published the video — until today.

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 9.05.02 PM

You will notice that the second day, February 13, there was a relatively huge number of views — 265 — compared to the rest of the time period. That is partially because the video had just been advertised, including on my Facebook page, so a lot of the watchers were classmates, professors, friends, and family — that is, people who are not interested in applying to study in Italy, but rather wanted to see me be my silly self on YouTube. They skew the results considerably. So to get a fairer analysis, let us chop off the first week of views. That leaves us still with 1,967 views. That is a sample plenty large enough, that we can draw some accurate conclusions from it.

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 9.12.43 PM

There, that’s better. You will notice that the number of people watching my video per day remains roughly the same — between about 5 and 25 — with the exception of two spikes, a small one on March 1, and a much larger one on April 10. I am at a loss to explain why there were so many views on those days. They do not correspond to any specific date in the admissions cycle, at least of which I know. If you can explain them, I would love to hear from you!

In any case, let us have a look first at gender and age. Overall, according to the analytics, the male/female breakdown of people watching the video are:

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 8.51.54 PM

This may come as a surprise, because in a number of countries, like the US, more women than men are applying to medical school. Meanwhile, here is the age breakdown:

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 8.50.48 PM

Almost an even number of men are watching the video, whether they are between the ages of 18 and 24, or 25 to 34. However, among women, the younger 18 to 24 group more than doubles the older 25 to 34 group. So interest in the course seems to tend to be more younger women, and older men. 35 to 44 are still a sizeable portion of the viewership, which is not completely surprising, because the English med schools in Italy do attract people in those age brackets. In our class of 47 students in Milan, we have had 3 students in the 35 to 44 age range, and another in the 45 to 54 (who ultimately withdrew from the course). At a certain point as you go to the right on that graph, you can start to guess that it is parents, grandparents, uncles, and so forth, of prospective students, who are watching.

Gender and age become much more interesting when we break them down country-by-country. These are the countries with the top eight number of views:

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 8.50.38 PM

Although about 2/3 of the viewership on the whole is men, in the United Kingdom, the split is much closer to 50-50. Furthermore, in Ireland, viewership is almost 2/3 women. Israel and India, on the other hand, have a large majority men. Why is it that in Ireland so many more women are interested? I do not know, and I am open to suggestions.

When looking at the age breakdown by country, what is curious is that Italy is a huge outlier. The largest-watching age group in Italy is 35 to 44. Given how few Italian students in these med schools are in that age range — in my class in Milan, we have literally zero Italian students above the age of 26 — these are probably not prospective students watching the video in Italy. Perhaps it is parents and relatives; but perhaps it is also administrators, professors, and others interested in English medical education in Italy. Maybe even the Italian minister of education, Stefania Giannini, who has graciously praised our course, has taken a look.

What I also find interesting is that among the UK, US, Canada, and Israel, you have a considerably older viewership. For the US and Canada, this makes particular sense; in these countries, medicine is only a graduate degree, and the average age of a US-American entering medical school is 24. In the UK and Israel, medicine is sometimes an undergraduate, and sometimes a graduate, degree, so that would also explain the older skew. In Italy, Turkey, and India, which skew younger, medicine is almost exclusively an undergraduate degree, which means that the incoming age of students is considerably lower. Ireland is kind of a funny case, because until 2010 medicine was only and undergrad degree, but now about five med schools in Ireland are offering a four-year graduate program. In any case, viewers from Ireland tend to skew toward the younger demographic, 18 to 24.

Now, let us look in more detail at what countries people are viewing the video from. First, the raw numbers. Here are the top 25 countries:

Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 8.49.15 PM

Italy is on top; no surprise there. What fascinates me is the average view duration. Cypriots (or, at least, people in Cyprus) have the stamina to sit, on average, through 3 minutes and 19 seconds of my video, while Moroccans have an average watch time of only 1 minute and 35 seconds. (Sorry, Morocco! Let me know what I can do to make it more interesting.) Italians are actually on the lower end of viewing time, as are Canadians and French, whilst Indians, Irish, and Saudi Arabians stick with me longer. I have no idea how to explain this; does it indicate that people in India, Ireland, and Saudi Arabia are more interested in the programs, if they learn about them? Your guess is as good as mine, and if you have one, I would like to hear it.

These raw numbers are interesting, in that they can tell you, in gross, where interest — and, perhaps, IMAT registration — is coming from. However, I am actually more curious in how popular English med schools in Italy are, in each country. To me, the most interesting question is: what number of people per the total population of each country is watching the video? That provides what I will call each country’s Popularity Index of English med schools in Italy. I divided the number of viewers into the country’s total population (in millions), and then ranked the countries by their Popularity Index:

Going by Popularity Index, our medical schools are over 10 times more popular in Israel than in Canada, and over 20 times more than in the United States. This table gives us a little bit of clarity about where in the world people know and care about our international medical schools, and where they do not. Europe. the Middle East/North Africa, and south Asia are well-represented; North America, a little bit; and South America and sub-Saharan Africa, almost not at all (Brazil being something of an exception).

Of course, there are some major limitations to this analysis. Population is not the best indicator of the number of actual potential applicants; young people make up a much larger percentage of the population of some countries (e.g., India) than they do others (e.g., Italy). Furthermore, issues like socioeconomic conditions, educational attainment, or even Internet access are completely ignored in this model. In sub-Saharan Africa, for instance, potential applicants may lack the ability to learn about the program simply because they do not have a computer, and the relative percentage of young people who have completed the necessary schooling may be lower. It could be that if students there knew about the courses and had the necessary educational background, they might very well be extremely enthusiastic about studying medicine in English in Italy. The People’s Republic of China is also missing from the table, I believe, because YouTube access is blocked there. What these statistics really tell us is where in the world the message has both gotten across that these schools exist and furthermore that people in these countries may have found the prospect of studying in these programs intriguing.Screenshot 2016-07-30 at 8.51.48 PM These statistics may also point the way to how, and where, the schools might wish to publicise themselves in the future.