TEF ratings set to shape international student choice - survey

Survey of would-be undergraduates finds high quality teaching is the most important factor in decision-making

April 27, 2017
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Pedigree: students prize quality

UK universities' ratings in the teaching excellence framework (TEF) are likely to be a key factor in prospective international students' decisions about where to study, while the negative impact of Brexit on recruitment is waning, according to research.

A survey of 27,955 prospective international students, who were considering studying in the UK, found that high-quality teaching is the single most important factor for prospective international students when choosing a university, course or destination country.

The International Student Survey 2017 was conducted by the student recruitment and retention solutions company Hobsons in January and February 2017.

High student satisfaction scores (selected by 36 per cent of respondents) and a gold rating in the TEF (22 per cent) were perceived as the best indicators of the quality of a UK university by respondents.

When asked to name the five most important factors in choosing a course (out of a list of 11), the most selected factor was a course that offers high-quality teaching; this was chosen by almost a third (32 per cent) of respondents, the largest proportion, followed by affordable tuition fee options (25 per cent) and a high ranking (19 per cent).

Teaching quality was also the top factor for respondents when selecting a university (30 per cent) and a country (27 per cent).

More than two-thirds of respondents (69 per cent) strongly agreed that having highly qualified teaching staff was a key indicator that a university provided good quality teaching, while the second strongest indicator was a high graduate employment rate (52 per cent strongly agreed).

The findings also suggest that the potentially damaging impact of Brexit on international student recruitment to the UK is waning and that students might be more put off by Donald Trump’s executive order attempting to ban the issuance of new visas for travel to the US to citizens of six Muslim-majority countries.

While a Hobsons poll in July last year found that 34 per cent of prospective international students would be less likely to study in the UK in future because of the vote to leave the European Union, the new survey found that only 12.7 per cent were less interested in UK study.

Among the top 10 non-EU international student markets for the UK, prospective students in Canada were most concerned, with 23 per cent reporting that Brexit has negatively impacted on their interest in studying in the UK.

Conversely, in China, 33 per cent of respondents said that the vote has made the UK a more attractive study destination.

An additional poll of 1,030 prospective international students, who had expressed an interest in studying in the US but were not from one of the six countries affected by the travel ban, was undertaken in March.

More than a third (36 per cent) of respondents said that the travel ban had affected their plans to study in the US. Of this group, 61 per cent said that they were concerned and were reconsidering their decision to study in America.

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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Print headline: TEF gets high scores abroad

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