Asians sign up for British quality

November 9, 2006

Education excellence is the key reason for going overseas, according to students who attend foreign universities. Geoff Maslen reports.

Asian students who go overseas to study believe that universities in the US and the UK offer the best quality education, although Australia is now ranked a close third, an international survey reveals.

Three quarters of Asian students surveyed at British universities said that the most important factor in their decision to study in the UK was their view that British institutions offered a better standard of education. More than a quarter said they also wanted to broaden their experiences by living in a different country and culture.

Almost 80 per cent of the students listed the UK as their first choice, ahead of the US and Australia. But a third had considered going to Australia, which is higher than the 20 per cent who weighed up the option in the 2000 survey.

The 2006 survey involved face-to-face or telephone interviews with more than 500 students from the ten major Asian source countries studying in Britain and Australia. It was undertaken by researchers at the marketing and communications agency J. Walter Thompson.

The latest poll follows similar studies carried out in 2000 and 1997, which examined the attitudes and perceptions of Asian undergraduates in their first and second years at traditional, new, metropolitan and regional universities.

The cost of undertaking study overseas was not rated as important for four out of five students who had chosen to study in Britain, but was a significant factor for 54 per cent of those enrolled at Australian universities.

The findings were presented by Allison Doorbar, a global partner with JWT, at a joint IDP Education-International Education Association conference in Perth. Almost 1,000 delegates from around the world attended the event last month.

Ms Doorbar told The Times Higher that for most students the choice of country remained the main factor in their decision about where to study.

But it was not as important as it had been for students in the past.

She added that increasing numbers of students were making their selection by institution rather than by country.

The great majority of those surveyed in Britain and in Australia said that the universities they had enrolled at had met their expectations or were better than they had expected.

British universities were increasingly using agents to recruit students, but a quarter of students had also obtained information through the British Council.

"I think that universities have realised that they cannot afford to put all their eggs in one basket, and they are now using a variety of means to inform students of their courses," Ms Doorbar said.

The survey also found that:

  • Almost half the students at British universities had previously visited the country, compared with a third who had been to Australia before going to study there
  • Only 4 per cent of those enrolled at Australian institutions had studied overseas before, a figure Ms Doorbar attributed to an emerging middle class who wanted their offspring to study abroad.

A summary of The Asian International Student, 2005-06 , is available at:

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