QS Enrolment Solutions’ Research Reveals the Views of International Students on the Future of Higher Education and Brexit

LONDON--()--Universities must harness the opportunities presented by international students’ expectations, according to a new report from QS Enrolment Solutions, the student recruitment and retention solutions company. The unique survey spoke to 67,172 prospective international students, 28,020 of whom were considering studying in the UK. The report recommends that now is the time for the UK Government to work with the Higher Education sector to develop a comprehensive programme of engagement in key target markets to help promote one of the UK’s greatest exports, Higher Education.

The Harnessing Opportunities in Global Higher Education report by QS Enrolment Solutions launched today (8 May 2018) is the sixth annual International Student Survey (ISS) by QS Enrolment Solutions – the largest of its kind – surveyed students from 191 countries who plan to study abroad.

Harnessing the opportunities presented by international students’ expectations of the future of Higher Education

International students expect universities of the future to offer a very different experience to the universities of today where they envisage that the Higher Education sector will place far greater emphasis on digital delivery with most lectures being online. Those surveyed also said they see a positive future for the sector with more institutions and more people going to university. The top five characteristics selected when asked about how the sector could look in 10 years’ time were:

  1. Most lectures will be online
  2. Students will be able to get a qualification from any university regardless of which country they live in
  3. More people will go to university
  4. Universities will be part of continuous learning
  5. There will be more universities

Andy Nicol, Managing Director of QS Enrolment Solutions, said: “As the changing political and socio-economic dynamics influence the views of potential applicants, universities should continue to listen closely to international students. Institutions that listen, adapt and differentiate their offer, while developing strategic approaches to international student recruitment, will harness the opportunities available within the global Higher Education market.”

Promoting Higher Education as one of the UK’s greatest exports

While there is still uncertainty amongst international and EU students regarding the impact of the UK’s exit from the European Union, there are significant opportunities for the UK Higher Education sector to grow the number of international students that study in the UK from key markets in Asia and Africa.

  • This year’s research found that 39% of prospective students from within the EU said they were less interested in studying in the UK because of Brexit, while only 10% of prospective students from outside the EU have been put off from studying in the UK due to Brexit.
  • Nearly a third (32%) of respondents from the EU were not aware that students who start their course in 2018/2019 would continue to pay the same fees as domestic students for the duration of their course.
  • Students from countries outside the EU including Pakistan, Sudan, Ethiopia China and Hong Kong are significantly more likely to be interested in studying in the UK as a result of Brexit, largely due to the drop in the value of the pound making a UK education more affordable.

Furthermore, the International Student Survey shows that giving international students a strong sense that they are welcome when they are choosing university is crucial to maintaining the UK’s status as a top international study destination:

  • The degree to which a place feels welcoming is one of the most important factors influencing prospective students’ choice of country to study in, with 69% of respondents citing as an important consideration.
  • Welcoming campaigns continue to be an effective strategy to combat against the negative perceptions around Brexit with 82% of respondents saying that campaigns like #WeAreInternational and #LondonIsOpen persuaded them that the UK is welcoming.
  • Welcoming campaigns are most effective with prospective international students from China (85%), India (85%) and Nigeria (83%).

Patrick Whitfield, Director of UK & Europe at QS Enrolment Solutions, said: “Now is the time for the UK Government to work together with universities and other stakeholders to do more to promote one of the UK’s greatest exports. To enhance this, we believe that UK universities and sector stakeholders must continue to support welcoming campaigns that champion the UK as a study destination for international students.”

“With the current uncertainty in the sector as the UK prepares to exit the EU, any future proposals which help to make the UK a more attractive place to study from a financial perspective should be more widely publicised. Financial concerns are one of the main reasons for the pessimism surrounding the issue of Brexit, especially from prospective students coming from the EU. By adopting the recommendations from this report, universities can achieve success and maintain the UK’s global leadership in higher education.”

Professor Sir Keith Burnett, President and Vice-Chancellor of The University of Sheffield who co-founded the now nationwide campaign with the President of the Sheffield Students' Union, said: “It is crucial to understand the importance that the shared message of #WeAreInternational has had to potential international students from around the world. The power of this campaign comes from its central truth, which is not restricted to any single university or even country - that education and knowledge at its best transcends borders and talent speaks to talent across the world.

“Yet for this to be the case, international students and scholars must know that they are welcome in their home-from-home. The #WeAreInternational campaign allows universities, students, businesses and partner organisations to say what must be heard - and amplified - around the world, with government policies backing these words with action."

Paul Blomfield MP, Shadow Brexit Minister and Chair of the APPG on International Students, said:

“This year’s International Student Survey report is particularly timely. A sensible Government response to the challenges we face as a country would be to build on our strengths – and we have few greater assets than our university sector. We need to change policies and send a clear message around the world, along the lines of the #WeAreInternational campaign, which was launched in Sheffield. This report highlights its impact and we should take every opportunity to repeat its message to international students – you can be sure of a great welcome when you come to study in the UK.”

To download the full report visit http://www.internationalstudentsurvey.com/2018/ or follow QS Enrolment Solutions @QSEnrolmentS and #ISS2018

Note to Editors:

  1. With offices in Australia, Malaysia and the UK, QS Enrolment Solutions (formerly known as Hobsons Solutions) is a global market leader in research and understanding of international and domestic students. Each year we deal with hundreds of thousands of students globally, giving us a unique insight into the student recruitment market. Our research, strategy, enquiry, admissions and enrolment services mean we have hands-on experience of the obstacles and opportunities within specific countries and regions, helping clients mitigate risk, benefit from our existing relationships, and build sustainable recruitment strategies in an increasingly complex marketplace.
  2. The International Student Survey 2018 was conducted by QS Enrolment Solutions from November 2017 to March 2018. The International Student Survey is the world’s largest survey of pre-enrolment for international and EU students. This report focuses on the responses of 28,020 prospective international students who identified that they were considering studying in the UK.
  3. QS Enrolment Solutions partnered with 63 universities from around the world to survey their prospective student database. The survey sampled 67,172 prospective international students globally, with 191 nationalities represented. The size of the data set along with the number and quality of the responses has enabled very robust student segmentation and insight into the influences of international student’s decision-making processes, how they engage with universities, and what they expect from universities in the lead up to making their final decision.
  4. Additional regional reports have been produced as part of this series, including reports focusing on Europe, and Australia & New Zealand, as well as a global report.
  5. QS Enrolment Solutions formerly operated under the name Hobsons Solutions. On 6 October 2017, QS Quacquarelli Symonds Ltd announced the acquisition of the Hobsons Solutions business, the leading provider of international enrolment management solutions to universities worldwide. The acquisition will allow QS, a leading and trusted brand in higher education research and student information services, to build on its global product offering and realise data and service synergies with the Hobsons Solutions portfolio. For more on the acquisition, see here: http://www.qs.com/faq-items/qs-acquisition_2017/.


QS Enrolment Solutions
Philippa Alway

Release Summary

Universities must harness the opportunities presented by international students’ expectations, according to a new report from QS Enrolment Solutions.


QS Enrolment Solutions
Philippa Alway