Is the Number of International Students Studying in the UK Sustainable?

QS welcomes the report published this month by the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for International Students. The report, which cites findings from QS’ International Student Survey, sets out a blueprint for the sustainable growth of UK international education.

Establishing an ambitious cross-departmental strategy for international student recruitment will help ensure the higher education sector remains one of the UK’s greatest exports.

Growth will only be possible if the UK’s immigration system encourages international students to choose the UK. The report’s recommendation that the Government should offer a clearly labelled and attractive post-study work visa which allows up to two years of work experience in the UK is welcome. As our findings from QS’ International Student Survey 2018 – cited in the report – show, 40% of prospective international students considering the UK stated that one of their top five considerations when selecting a study destination was the ability to get a visa after graduating.

Additionally, strategies for growth will only find success if the UK has a welcoming perception. We support the APPG for International Students’ recommendation that messages for international students regarding the UK should be welcoming, clear, simple and consistent, and developed in cooperation between Government and the sector. As our research highlights in the report, campaigns such as the #WeAreInternational and #LondonIsOpen have a positive impact, with 82% of prospective international students saying the campaigns have positively influenced their perceptions of the UK. Sending a clear message that international students are welcome in the UK is essential in sustaining the UK’s position in an increasingly competitive international market.

In this uncertain time for higher education, we are pleased to see our research and insights continue to inform both the HE sector and Government. Earlier this year, our insights were cited in the HE Commission’s report on higher education exports. And last year we submitted written evidence to the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into the impact of exiting the EU on higher education, which was subsequently included in the report.

Listening to prospective students by recognising and responding to their differing needs is vital if we are serious about developing a successful cross-departmental strategy in this key policy area post-Brexit. At QS we will continue to play our role by providing key insight and analysis at this crucial time for the sector.

QS’ 2019 International Student Survey is due to be published in Spring. To receive the 2018 International Student Survey report, visit and follow @QS_corporate on Twitter to stay up to date.


About the Author:

Paul Raybould is the Director of B2B Marketing & Market Intelligence for QS. In this role he works with universities to support their marketing strategy for international and EU recruitment - covering market research, student profiling, competitor positioning and digital campaigns. He is also responsible for managing the International Student Survey, examining the motivations and decision-making criteria of over 75,000 respondents in the world’s largest survey of pre-enrolled international and EU students Paul has 20 years of experience working in digital marketing, with a specialist interest in marketing automation, search engine optimisation, digital advertising, social media and performance measurement. Prior to joining QS he worked for a software company based in the Netherlands, and has a broad range of experience from having worked across a variety of sectors including UK government, publishing and data management.

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