The biggest factors for international students when choosing a course for university
Teaching quality matters a lot to international students, the report found. Source: Shutterstock

What goes through the international student’s mind when choosing which course to take in university?

In our previous article, we discussed the different stages of decision-making that a student goes through when deciding on their study abroad adventure. According to QS Enrolment Solution’s International Students Survey 2018 (ISS), the process is broken down into different factors and typically goes in this order: Subject, Course, Country, University, Town.

Which course to take is the second consideration, right after the subject or, as the report argues, both are often considered at around the same time.

What this means is that the decision on which course to take at university is a pretty big one for international students.

But what are some of the factors that go into the course selection process?

The study gives us an insight into this. The pollster asked respondents to state, “What factors are most important when choosing a course?” and their responses were as follows:

Factors % of respondents placing
each item in their top five
It leads to my chosen career 74
The course offers high quality teaching 67
It has affordable tuition fee options 53
It has a high graduate employment rate 49
It has a good reputation 47
It is well-ranked 41
It includes a work placement 35
I can easily meet the entry requirements 34
It has good student satisfaction ratings 33
I will be studying with like-minded people 33
It has flexible hours and delivery 16
It was recommended to me 11

Careers emerged as the most important factor to international students, followed by whether the course offers high-quality teaching and comes at an affordable rate to them.

“This demonstrates that future career considerations take place right at the start of the application process for many students.

“This was followed by the course having high-quality teaching, which echoes what we’ve seen in previous iterations of the ISS that demonstrates teaching quality is one of the core factors which defines their choices at an early stage in the decision making funnel,” the report wrote.

The survey, conducted by QS Enrolment Solutions (formerly Hobsons), is the largest survey of pre-enrolment for international and EU students; 67,172 students and 63 universities took part worldwide, producing responses from 28,020 prospective international students used in the report.

When they asked respondents the same question, but focusing on which country to study in, they found that teaching quality was the “number one consideration” when choosing a country.

“Whilst this further demonstrates its importance to prospective international students as a whole, it
also bodes well for UK universities abroad, as they have a longstanding reputation for teaching quality,” the report wrote.

How welcoming a country’s immigration policies are plays a role too, according to the report.

The destination country should be seen as welcoming to international students, the report said, possibly alluding to the UK’s “hostile environment” policies towards migrants as well as its vote to leave the European Union.

The report suggested: “Given the other markets which the UK is likely to be competing with, this reinforces the need for campaigns like #WeAreInternational to counteract negative perceptions associated with Brexit and how welcoming the UK is.”

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