A university's reputation for scholarship is less important to overseas students than the cost of tuition and its range of courses, says research published last week, writes Phil Baty.
Education publisher Hobsons conducted a survey of overseas student study, claimed to be the most comprehensive of its kind, and found that students decide on a subject area and a qualification type before choosing an institution, or even a country, to study in.
The global survey found that perceived general education standards and the international recognition of qualifications overwhelmingly top the agenda for students who study abroad. Almost all respondents from South Asia said that education standards were at least "very important" in deciding to study abroad.
But in choosing an individual institution, the top priority for 72 per cent of respondents was "courses on offer" and for 64 per cent it was the level of tuition fees.
Benchmarks such as an institution's reputation for research and scholarship were lower priorities despite growing attention to rankings. An institution's "teaching rating" was students' fourth priority. Factors such as entry requirements and the availability of scholarship were lower down the list.
Students who chose to study in the United Kingdom were mostly concerned to improve their English-language skills. The United States is the UK's nearest rival in this market. More than 60 per cent of those who had chosen the UK had considered the US and 21 per cent had considered Australia.
Britain continues to do well in the market not just because of its reputation. More than a third of respondents chose Britain because it was easier to travel home. Just under half opted for the UK because of "lifestyle" factors, while 35 per cent cited the exchange rate.
Hobsons interviewed 661 international students, including those who had already chosen Britain, and those still considering their destination.