How international students choose which university to go to
The London School of Economics and Political Science has the highest proportion of undergraduates in the UK. Source: Shutterstock

New app Niche burst into the scene recently to let us view all colleges in the US by using a student-based, self-reporting technique to detail what it’s really like to study at a higher education institutions in the US. Think Yelp, but for colleges.

Niche has answers from millions of students from all over the world, sharing their own personal experiences of studying at a particular institution. It covers information from K-12 schools to neighbourhoods, giving prospective students an insight into university towns.

But how do international students filter this information, from Niche or otherwise, before arriving in what is likely to be the biggest decision of their lives thus far?

QS Enrolment Solution’s International Students Survey 2018 asked prospective international students, “What is the order of decision making for prospective international students when applying to universities?”, giving us a first-hand perspective this decision-making process.

It’s an important query as it allows students, universities and stakeholders to pinpoint the different priorities and information gathering habits at each stage of the application process.

Here’s what they found:

Stage Factors % of respondents who decided
this is the preferred option
for this stage
1 Subject 59
2 Course 49
3 Country 30
4 University 21
5 Town 18

“Given that the differences between subject and course, and city and university are fairly minor, it’s a fair assumption that these decision-making processes are happening at the same time,” QS Enrolment Solutions wrote in the report.

The survey also asked students how many other countries they were considering apart from the UK and whether this correlated with the number of universities they applied to.

The town universities are located in play a minor role in prospective international students’ decision-making process. Source: Kyle Myburgh on Unsplash

The findings show prospective international students will consider three other markets in addition to the UK (3.3 to be exact) – the most popular being Australia, United States, Canada, Germany and the Netherlands.

As for correlation, they found there to be “direct correlation” between the number of countries which they consider and the number of universities they enquire with or apply to:

“Whilst around 77 percent will only consider five universities or less (with five being the maximum they can apply to via UCAS), this means that a significant proportion (23 percent) are considering applying to six or more universities underlining the increased competition UK universities face from their global

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.

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