Developing a strong reputation to boost international student enrolments

Six orange dots, the QS and The PIE's logo.

Many UK universities are finding themselves in a tough spot.  

According to HESA, revenue from tuition fees is rising, but rapidly growing expenditure means nearly 60% of UK universities reported a loss in 2021/22 – and that’s with finances bolstered by international student volumes to the UK outperforming overall growth in international student numbers worldwide. So, with the UK Government curbing migration via international student numbers, that tough spot is looking more pernicious – and precarious – than ever. 

Before the government announced the limitations on dependents last year, we launched a pulse survey to ask prospective students how this change would affect how they feel about studying in the UK.  

One in four students said they’d be less likely to consider the UK as a study destination. Those interested in Russell Group institutions weren’t immune, with one in five prospective Russell Group students saying they’d be less likely to consider the UK. 

Since the restrictions came into force from January 2024, there has already been a drop in international student visas being issued. Negative media rhetoric about rising numbers of international students has also contributed to feelings that the UK is less welcoming to them – an issue many in the sector tried to combat through the relaunch of the #WeAreInternational campaign

The data indicates that students are becoming wary of the UK; so how can institutions succeed this year, and grow and diversify their international student cohort? In a free webinar titled ‘Thriving, not surviving: A data-led approach to recruitment resilience’, QS experts will help attendees learn how to build a resilient recruitment strategy to thrive in 2024.

Delivered by QSers Kym Nguyen, Vice President of Student Recruitment, and Matteo Quacquarelli, Vice President of Strategy and Analytics, join virtually on the 16th April 2024 at 14:00BST.

The session will discuss six levers UK institutions can use to be resilient this year. One way is utilising the UK’s existing excellent reputation. 

Existing accolades 

UK universities have a strong reputation among employers and academics.  

Using data from the QS Global Academic and Employer Surveys, mapped alongside international enrolments, the correlation is strong. The stronger your reputation, the higher your international student enrolments.

Data showing Imperial College London's reputation score remaining steady, and their international student enrollments increasing.

As we’ll share at the session, academic reputation is critical to effective long-term recruitment strategies. Taking University College London as an example, their reputation score held steady between 2017 and 2020 – a time when many UK universities’ score decreased. This helped to boost their international student enrolments by nearly 4,000 between 2019 and 2021– the fifth highest in the UK in terms of volume over that time.

Want more insights from QS? 

We are the official Insights Partner for The PIE Live Europe. Join us there for our insights session, where we’ll go into more depth on how UK universities can thrive this year. 

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