Student Trends Across The World: New Report Series

For the last few months, the QS team has been releasing reports and carrying out webinars exploring different groups of international students across the world, covering everything from influences to motivations. The reports are designed to help universities target marketing campaigns to specific countries and regions, hopefully improving student recruitment rates.

In anticipation of our global overview report (coming soon!), we’ve rounded up some of the major differences between the regions that we’ve covered so far:

Latin America

In the Latin American countries covered by the series, prospective international students tend to be more strongly aware of “push” rather than “pull” factors. That is to say, they are more likely to cite aspects they feel to be lacking in their home nations as motivations to study abroad, rather than solely talking about the added benefits of the international study. This contrasts with regions such as the US and Western Europe, where pull factors typically play a much greater role.

Additionally, Latin American students stand out for their focus not just on what is currently lacking in their country – but on the opportunities available for them to make a real and positive impact. Many expressed a desire to study abroad in order to return with the knowledge and skills to set up businesses, contributing to the development of their nation. While many international students spoke about their international experiences giving them a competitive edge back at home, this desire to contribute not just to their own prospects, but the broader national development, was a trend we found most prominently in Latin America.


Like students in other developing parts of the world, students in India typically cite ‘quality of education’ as a major motivator for international study. Almost 75% of surveyed Indian students selected this as one of the top two benefits of studying at an internationally recognized university, compared to 53% of applicants from the US and 48% from the UK.

Additionally, prospective international students from India tended to be highly motivated to study abroad as a way of differentiating themselves in what they perceived to be a fairly glutted graduate jobs market, with many also keen to build on their entrepreneurial skills, in order to start their own company or help develop an existing family business.

In terms of their influences, Indian students were comparatively likely to cite the opinions of family members, and were also particularly proactive in seeking out feedback from students/graduates of institutions they were considering.


In the US, as you may expect, the picture is very different. US students are especially keen to assess the value of money offered by international study; they’re often seeking a good education, without the high price tag carried by leading US institutions. With highly ranked universities readily available in their own nation, their motivations for looking elsewhere may be to do with costs, as well as their appetite for new experiences, challenges, travel and cultural encounters.

Like students worldwide, US students are strongly motivated and influenced by employment prospects – and tend to be particularly keen to assess the networking opportunities available. They also want to assess how their international degree will be viewed by employers back in the US.

Compared to students elsewhere in the world, prospective international students from the US tend to be especially keen to access flexible study programmes, which can be ‘personalised’ to match their own set of interests. This reflects the generally more multidisciplinary approach to higher education in the US, as well as students’ strong sense of themselves as unique individuals, and their desire to retain a distinct identity – both personally and professionally.

This independence also impacts on the way US students approach the decision-making process. Compared to students elsewhere, they tend to want to assess the data and make decisions for themselves, with less importance attached to the opinions and advice of others.


International students from the world’s largest student exporter reflect a worldwide trend in being strongly motivated to improve their employment prospects – but this is intensified by the particularly competitive graduate labor market in China. Their desire to study at the most famous university possible largely stems from this context; they need to know their institution will be well-known by Chinese employers, in order to get a foothold.

Like students in other developing countries, Chinese students are also strongly motivated by the idea of accessing better quality facilities abroad; many feel that their own subject is best studied elsewhere. They are also keen to access more practical and interactive approaches to teaching and learning – a motivation which is also widely expressed by students in fellow BRICS nations India and Russia.

Want to find out more? Download the individual reports here.

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