The long awaited Augar review of post 18 education was finally published last week, with the UK education sector and media poring over its wide-ranging recommendations. But in all the debate around FE funding and HE fees, you might have missed the publication of another interesting report. The 2019 QS International Student Survey, Growing Global Education, published on 29 May, is essential reading for those of us working in international student support.
Although the survey is conducted at a global level, QS provides a country level analysis for the UK. To an extent, the report reiterates what we already know – that the UK education sector has a world-class reputation for quality in teaching and research, but that a more generous post study work offer would make the UK even more competitive in the global education market. The report also reminds us that many students from outside the EU see Brexit as an opportunity that facilitates their access to UK university places.
Unsurprisingly, the survey highlights that the most important factor for prospective international students (and their families) when choosing a country to study is that it is welcoming to international students. That is why student-facing campaigns with user-generated content, like #WeAreInternational are viewed positively overseas, particularly in African and European markets. UKCISA supports a range of campaigns, including #WeAreInternational and Discover You – Study UK, as these are an accessible way to communicate key messages to a wide audience. We’re also pleased to be supporting forthcoming research by AGCAS and UUKi into employment outcomes for international students, which help to provide evidence for both recruiters and campaigners.
Online sources tend to be the first or only port of call for many international students when searching for information, with 84% of students using social media to research courses, institutions and visa requirements. Facebook continues to be a rich source of information, with YouTube, Instagram and other channels on the rise since last year. The survey also shows that a majority of international students are looking for help in applying, and are increasingly considering or using the services of education agents. UKCISA’s website contains a wealth of information and practical tips on choosing a course, fees and applying for a visa. And we’re not just for prospective students – we also have advice on all aspects of life in the UK, from culture and customs to practicalities like healthcare access. We continually review and update these resources on our website, and promote them via the social media channels that are most popular with international students.
Perhaps the most important survey finding is that UK government’s messaging to international students could be clearer and more persuasive. Following the launch of the Government’s new International Education Strategy, UKCISA is exploring ways to amplify positive messages to prospective and existing international students, and to ensure practical information is clear and unambiguous.
It is somewhat alarming to note in the QS analysis that just 61% of students were aware that the UK Government has confirmed that EU students starting at a UK university in the 2019-20 academic year will continue to pay the same tuition fees as UK students and have access to existing financial support for the full duration of their course. When key information like this is not clear, it’s an indication that UKCISA could do more to support our members and UK government to get positive messages out to those who need to hear them. With the Universities Minister, Chris Skidmore, just last week confirming this policy would be extended to EU students starting in 2020-21, we have to seize the opportunity to communicate this, and future policies resulting from the International Education Strategy, to ensure international students receive clear and consistent information to inform their choices and maintain growth for the UK education sector.
The full report is available for download at qs.com/portfolio-items/international-student-survey-2019.
Please pass on to colleagues across your institution to help us all ensure our messaging to international students is consistent and timely – and on a format they’ll read.
If you've not already done so, you can pass on our news item for students about the confirmation of home fees in 2020-21. Remember you can sign up to our monthly students' newsletter for updates and information you can easily forward on to your students.