International students choosing where to study are most likely to be swayed by a university’s league table position or its ranking in a particular subject, a new survey suggests.
According to the survey of more than 14,000 international students in the UK and Australia, 77 per cent of respondents listed both university rankings and subject rankings as ‘very important’ when deciding where to study. “Student satisfaction” was mentioned by 74 per cent of students as very important, while use of technology and tuition fees were cited by 71 per cent as very important.
Sixty-five per cent mentioned a university’s links with employers and its quality of facilities, while 57 per cent are concerned with the number of teaching hours per week and 53 per cent by staff/student ratios.
When students were asked to consider which factors were most important to them, institutional and subject rankings were deemed the most crucial.
Price was also important, but generally only made a difference to a student’s decision if annual fees were above £14,000 a year, the report says.
The survey was commissioned by Hobsons, which helps universities to recruit and retain students, and the consultancy firm, The Parthenon Group. The two firms advised that universities should change their marketing strategies when seeking to recruit overseas students.
Institutions should lead their marketing campaigns with information on the rankings where they perform well, whether at the subject or institutional level, especially if they are in the top quintile of universities.
Marketing should emphasise ranking and cost, rather than student satisfaction that does not drive choice, they add.
Those institution which are not in the top quintile of universities either overall or for a subject should concentrate on Africa, South Asia and Brazil when recruiting and forget other parts of the world more concerned by status, the firms conclude.
Matthew Robb, partner in Parthenon’s Education Practice, said the survey “highlights the crucial role of subject ranking and specialization, and leads us to question the importance of ‘student satisfaction’.”