Reputation of UK higher education main factor attracting international STEM students

But UK overseas STEM postgraduates less likely to say the country is the best destination for career opportunities

November 2, 2015
International students
Source: iStock

The perceived quality of UK higher education is the main reason international students come to study science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) courses in the country, a new survey has found.

The majority of overseas undergraduate students on STEM courses said that they chose a UK institution because of its reputation for high-quality education (51 per cent), with another 29 per cent saying that a qualification from the country offers excellent career prospects in their discipline. Just over a fifth (21 per cent) attributed their choice to the presence of friends or relatives, according to research from the British Council published today.

The same overarching trends emerged for overseas postgraduate STEM students, but the focus on the UK’s quality of education was even more pronounced; 40 per cent chose the UK for this reason, over career opportunities (28 per cent) or the fact that the UK is at the forefront of innovation in their subject (23 per cent).

The report, “International STEM students: Focusing on skills for the future”, includes the results of a survey that asked 1,348 STEM international students in the UK, US, Canada and Australia for the factors affecting their choice of course and destination country.

The main factor for international undergraduate STEM students choosing the US was career prospects (22 per cent), while those who picked Canada did so because of the country’s reputation for safety (24 per cent) and its multicultural society (23 per cent). Students in Australia, meanwhile, were most likely to cite having friends and family in the area (24 per cent).

Only a small percentage of students in Australia, Canada and the US (between 15 and 22 per cent) said that they picked the country because of its reputation for high quality education.

Undergraduate STEM students' reasons for choosing destination country

Undergraduate students' reasons for choosing destination country
British Council

International  STEM postgraduates in the UK were the least likely of all respondents to say the country they had chosen is the best destination for career opportunities, with 42 per cent agreeing with that statement. Australia came out top on this measure, with 72 per cent of those studying in the country stating that it offered the best career opportunities, followed by the US (71 per cent) and Canada (61 per cent).

Postgraduate STEM students' perceptions of destination countries

Postgraduate students' perceptions of destinations
British Council

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Reader's comments (2)

Do you know in what region the total number of international STEM students studying in the UK is? Just wondering how representative this sample is?
I don't know. It would be best to contact the British Council.

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