Postgrad students use rankings, prestige to decide which school to attend – survey
Students of Harvard University gather for their graduation ceremony. Image via Shutterstock.

Students who are considering where to pursue their postgraduate studies find global university rankings and a university’s reputation as the most influential factors, according to a British Council Education Intelligence survey.

In its latest Student Insight survey, the British Council looked into what convinced prospective U.S. postgraduate students to choose the UK as their study destination.

The survey, involving focus groups and over 230 American postgraduate students, found that despite the debate in academia regarding the validity of world university rankings, students still find them a useful source of information.

When researchers asked respondents what were the most persuasive factors in making their decision, more than 50 percent said that an institution’s position in the world rankings was a top factor in the decision-making process.

A university’s ranking and its status are major deciding factors for prospective students. Image via Shutterstock.

Besides rankings, students also use a university’s overall reputation as a deciding factor.

One of the participants in a focus group explained: “[By looking at rankings] I was able to eliminate many schools fairly quickly as not being right for me.”

Besides rankings and prestige, students were also influenced by the academic profiles of potential academic supervisors or course directors and whether scholarships or bursaries were available.

A university’s official website is often the first place a prospective student will go to while conducting research on where to study.

“I figured that the best information is how a department and school choose to present themselves,” said one student, as quoted by The PIE News.

However, many students commented that they would like to see universities be more accessible and engaging through social media, such as Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat.

Students also said that they appreciated when institutions responded to their queries personally, with 42 percent saying that a conversation via telephone, Skype, or Whatsapp with someone from the university had been very helpful and left them with a positive view of the institution.

Additionally, information on visa requirements and applications were among the most useful pages on a university’s website for international students looking to study in the UK. Students also looked at details regarding courses, accommodation, and facilities.

However, the content on a university’s website can be a hit-and-miss sometimes.

Students found some existing content on universities’ websites, such as webinars on life in the UK, videos on courses, and 360-degree campus tours, were not that helpful. Instead, they wished more specific information on course content, subject timetables, advice on what to do after graduating, and employment figures were more readily available.

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