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For higher education in the UK to become truly global, personalization is key


Developing our collective understanding of what influences international students to make the leap to study far should be high on the agenda. That’s why UCAS and the College Council have just published the opinions of nearly 1,300 students considering applications in several countries.

For some, this decision is made early, and 10% think about higher education abroad before the age of 11. UCAS studyfinding that a third of the UK’s desire for higher education is formed in primary school.

Although 83% of entrants from the UK have chosen their diploma subject before entering the university, for prospective international students the exact opposite is true. They attach more importance to the quality (83%) and reputation (75%) of a university or college compared to the quality (70%) and reputation (58%) of the subject area.

It also follows that when asked to rate the importance of 12 different factors, the reputation of universities or colleges in their chosen countries was special. Half of the respondents took this place in the first place.

It is therefore not surprising that 55% of international students turn to providers of higher rates, compared to 28% of the UK cohort. This trend is even stronger for students from the Asia-Pacific region; namely Singapore (85%), Malaysia (74%), Hong Kong (69%) and China (78%). Meanwhile, Irish applicants are abandoning this trend and are likely to be placed with lower-rate providers – their proximity to the UK could lead Irish students to behave in a similar way to domestic students.

“The most common motivation for studying abroad is to experience life in another country”

The most common motivation for studying abroad is the experience of living in another country (chosen by 75% of respondents), which indicates that applicants are focused not only on the pursuit of academic achievement, but also on a comprehensive student experience. This finding is reflected in a previous UCAS poll, which found that international HE entrants are 10 percentage points more interested in meeting new people than home entrants, and 7 points more likely to be interested in “university life”. ‘and having fun.

For UCAS, this highlights the benefits of personalized information and advice for international entrants through UCAS hub and our new one Myriads on the UCAS platform, which allows students to research and seek graduate study, as well as receive funding and find work and housing in one place.

The attractiveness of the UK as a place for international students has been reinforced Graduate route at the same time students are five times more likely to give work in the country of destination compared to their country of residence as a top priority. Similarly, if a visa allows, people are four times more likely to plan to stay in the country of study than not.

For students from Nigeria the most important factor for studying abroad is gaining the skills to support their careers (80% chosen) and they are more likely to be interested in employment after graduation (52%); meanwhile, for students from India the most important factor is that higher education options are “better quality” (75% of respondents from India).

There are some aspects of student support that vary from region to region, with students from China and Hong Kong having stricter requirements for more detailed instructions on the application process (63% and 58% of students respectively), and students from Nigeria feeling that additional posts from their chosen universities or colleges about their processes and experiences would be useful to them (54%).

This means that UCAS is calling for the next iteration UK International Education Strategy support a national approach to promoting the UK. This is due to the growth of intelligence at the national level regarding different values, motivations and interests in key markets, such as priority countries identified in the framework of IES update that the HE sector will diversify its attractiveness into more markets.

Although personalization has long dominated the narrative of informing about student choices in a domestic context, it is time to apply the same prism to the enrollment of international students.

About the author: This is a sponsored post from Claire Marchant, who has been the CEO of UCAS since 2017. Claire is passionate about reform and values, and in particular the benefits that education can bring both to a person’s overall life chances and to creating a more productive society. She is honored to lead UCAS at this time of significant change in the education sector and has the opportunity to transform its services to students, universities, colleges and student advisors.

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