A recent report from Hobsons, which surveyed more than 40,000 prospective students from over 200 nations, confirms the importance of career prospects as a primary motivation for intentional study.
The survey was completed by both prospective undergraduates and postgraduates, accounting for 61% and 35% of responses respectively. The remaining participants were looking at foundation, vocational or English language programmes. Respondents were 46% Asian, 20% African, 15% European, 12% North American and 7% Oceanic.
Employment prospects are key
The major trend identified in the report is just how important employment prospects are to students. This extends further than just degree choices and the notability of their chosen university, and additionally incorporates opportunities available to work in their chosen country, both during and after their course.
In fact, 40% of students said they would travel to study in a location where the demand for employees was high, and 38% specified high earning potential as a basis for their degree choice.
This is backed up by QS’s own research. The QS World Grad School Tour Applicant Survey 2015 showed a strong focus on employment prospects from applicants, and in QS’s recent series of student mobility reports, around 50% of students from each surveyed region named improved employment prospects as one of the top two benefits of studying at an internationally recognised university.
Furthermore, research carried out in the run up to the UK’s EU referendum found that Brexit would be off-putting to many students, as it could curtail their ability to continue working in the UK after graduation.
Immigration rules at the heart of the debate
Almost half of those surveyed said that immigration rules, and the freedom to live and work in a country, were key to their decision-making when looking at international institutions. Only 23% of respondents stated that they would return home immediately after graduation, with the majority suggesting they wished to stay on for at least some time.
This is not just a reported statistic, but a visible phenomenon. In the UK, for example, the harsher visa conditions placed on students saw a drop in international applicants as applicants turned to nations with more liberal work restrictions.
Students are looking for quality
One figure from this report may be startling to higher education marketers: 42% of students said that they would prefer to stay in their home country, if the standard of education there was at a similar level to abroad, and around 25% said they would consider not attending university altogether, if there was a better way of achieving their educational goals.
Moreover, some of the major “source” countries in Asia, notably China but also Japan and Malaysia, are attempting to attract more international students, while retaining more of their own domestic students. This could lead to fresh challenges for institutions which rely on these markets.
This being the case, the pressure is mounting on university marketers to make their universities as appealing as possible, in an ever more competitive market.