QS’ International Student Survey, released on May 30, coincides with a new update from the UK government on its international education strategy, in which it was conceded that the country must “avoid complacency” when it comes to maintaining its stead in the international education sector.
“As a sector we have faced unprecedented challenges over the last two years due to the pandemic,” said QS CEO Nunzio Quacquarelli in a statement about the report.
“This year’s report looks closely at the UK’s IES and how institutions can reduce the risk of becoming over-reliant on any single market for their international recruitment by tailoring their strategies for specific geographies,” he continued.
He goes on to say that such an approach would most likely sustain the success already achieved by the UK, which hit its target of 600,000 students earlier this year.
“The survey shows that we as a sector can do more to attract students from those source countries outside the EU – we need to recognises and address the barriers that international students who plan to study in the UK face,” said Vivienne Stern, UUKI director.
She mentions such barriers as visa processing delays and international travel restrictions in their home country.
It follows recent reports that visa application centres of multiple countries have been closed in China due to persisting Covid-19 measures – including the UK.
“The net economic benefit of international students is clear and was recently estimated at £25.9bn”
The survey’s key findings, which looks at the view of over 110,000 prospective international students from across the world, said they would be more likely to consider the UK for their studies if it “enhanced post-study work rights to allow graduates to remain for up to three years”.
While schemes are beginning to crop up in the UK that encourage more post-study work, including the Graduate Route and the new visa for high potential international graduates, more needs to be done; and less than a fifth of respondents said they’d stay in the UK for more than three years given the opportunity.
“While most students are less oriented around remaining permanently and do plan to return home eventually… in the UK, the net economic benefit of international students is clear and was recently estimated at £25.9bn,” a representative from QS told the The PIE News.
“This represents a significant sum and demonstrates the potential impact an increase in the post-study work visa to three years could have on UK economic growth,” they added.
The report highly recommends that the UK government’s post-study work rights need to be brought in line “with its competitors” by implementing the aforementioned.
The recommendation of tailoring recruitment strategies came from the findings that, in China and Saudi Arabia, safety was cited as the “biggest concern” about studying abroad.
For India, Vietnam and Nigeria, the most pressing concern about studying overseas was the cost of living – which has been a concern for the UK population in recent weeks.
“We as a sector can do more to attract students from those source countries outside the EU”
Another worrying finding in the report pertained to mental health – nearly a fifth of prospective international students would not feel comfortable coming forward and asking a university for mental health support.
“The enduring stigma of talking about mental health in many locations across the world makes it essential that universities have established procedures and practices in place to cater to different students’ needs,” the representative said.
“Access to professional services in this area, which can effectively prioritise the anonymity of users are the most effective way for universities to make progress on this issue,” they continued.
“It is vital that the UK higher education sector continues to appreciate the diverse nature of each year’s international student intake, working to cater for the individual needs of each prospective student,” Stern added.