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Brexit could open new markets – QS survey

While uncertainty remains among international and EU students regarding the impact of Brexit, there are significant opportunities for the UK higher education sector to grow the number of international students from key markets in Asia and Africa, the latest QS Enrolment Solutions survey has revealed.

69% cited the degree to which a place feels welcoming as one of the most important factors when choosing a country. Photo: Pexels

69% said feeling welcomed is one of the most important factors when choosing a destination

The sixth annual International Student Survey was the largest of its kind and included 67,172 prospective international students across 191 countries – 28,020 of whom were considering studying in the UK.

“Institutions that listen, adapt and differentiate will harness the opportunities available”

According to the findings, 39% of prospective students from within the EU said they were less interested in studying in the UK because of Brexit, with respondents from Italy, Netherlands, Lithuania, Ireland and Spain shown to be significantly more pessimistic about the UK’s exit from the EU.

However, just 10% of those outside the EU were found to have been put off studying in the UK for the same reason.

Students from countries including Pakistan (24%), Sudan (22%), Ethiopia (20%) China (18%) and Hong Kong (19%) were shown to be significantly more interested in studying in the UK as a result of Brexit, largely due to the drop in the value of the pound making a UK education more affordable.

“For prospective students within the EU, the main reason for being less likely to study in the UK is that it makes the UK a less financially viable option,” the report stated.

It added that nearly a third (32%) of EU respondents said they were not aware that students who start their course in 2018/2019 would continue to pay the same fees as domestic students for the duration of their course.

The survey also revealed that giving international students a strong sense that they are welcome when they are choosing university is crucial to maintaining the UK’s status as a top study destination.

Some 69% of respondents cited the degree to which a place feels welcoming as one of the most important factors when choosing a country to study in.

Similarly, the majority (82%) said campaigns like #WeAreInternational and #LondonIsOpen were persuasive in combatting negative perceptions around Brexit.

“For prospective EU students Brexit makes the UK less financially viable”

Such campaigns were revealed to be most effective with prospective international students from China (85%), India (85%) and Nigeria (83%).

Commenting on the report, managing director of QS Enrolment Solutions Andy Nicol said: “As the changing political and socio-economic dynamics influence the views of potential applicants, universities should continue to listen closely to international students.

“Institutions that listen, adapt and differentiate their offer, while developing strategic approaches to international student recruitment, will harness the opportunities available within the global HE market.”

Director of UK & Europe at QS Enrolment Solutions Patrick Whitfield added that now is the time for the UK government to work with universities and sector stakeholders to champion the UK as a study destination for international students.

He highlighted the finding that financial concerns are one of the main reasons for the pessimism surrounding the issue of Brexit from prospective students coming from the EU.

“With the current uncertainty in the sector as the UK prepares to exit the EU, any future proposals which help to make the UK a more attractive place to study from a financial perspective should be more widely publicised,” Whitfield added.

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