Some students ‘would pay higher fees for sustainable university’

THE survey finds that applicants are using sustainability over other factors to decide where to ultimately enrol

April 29, 2022
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Sustainability is becoming such an important issue for prospective international students that some say they would be willing to pay higher tuition fees to study at a university with a strong reputation in the topic, according to Times Higher Education research.

A survey of more than 3,000 prospective international students, conducted this month by THE’s consultancy team, found that for the vast majority it was important for them to live in a way that was consistent with being a sustainable citizen (82 per cent).

Just over a quarter of respondents (27 per cent) not only agreed with that statement, but also demonstrated using sustainability indicators to inform their study decisions and said that they would choose a university with higher tuition fees than other institutions if it had a better reputation for sustainability.

However, only 5 per cent of respondents both said it was “very important” for them to live in a way that was consistent with the goals of sustainability and strongly agreed that they would pay higher tuition fees to study at a sustainable university.

Forty-five per cent of respondents to the survey, which coincides with the launch of the fourth edition of the THE Impact Rankings, said that if they were accepted at all institutions they had applied to, they would use sustainability instead of other factors to decide where to ultimately enrol.

The overwhelming majority of respondents said that universities had an important role to play in achieving the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) (87 per cent), while almost three-quarters said it was important for their future career prospects to be able to demonstrate to employers that during their time at university they had developed into a sustainable citizen (72 per cent).

However, universities’ sustainability efforts remain secondary to more traditional markers of prestige; only 16 per cent said they would choose a university that had a worse reputation for teaching and research if it had a better reputation for sustainability.

When assessing the sustainable reputation of a university, respondents said that they used a diverse range of factors. Universities’ policies and practices were cited as the most important consideration overall (48 per cent), followed by the quality and impact of sustainability-related research (36 per cent) and opportunities to take part in university or student-led activities that promote sustainability (32 per cent).

The availability of degree programmes in specific sustainability-related disciplines (24 per cent) and the extent to which sustainability is taught across academic programmes (23 per cent) were considered less important.

More than half of respondents had assessed institutions’ commitment to diversity and inclusion (56 per cent) when researching which universities to apply to.

The THE Impact Rankings assess universities against the UN’s SDGs. The 2022 tables include 1,524 institutions from 110 countries and territories.

The full findings from the survey were presented by the THE consultancy team at the THE Innovation & Impact Summit on 28 April. Access a free copy of the report here.

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