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Only 45% of students say offshore “same or better”

International students tend to think that online and offshore degree courses are inferior to those delivered at an institution’s home campus, new research from Hotcourses claims. They also may not be getting enough information to make a fair decision about them, it adds.

Over half of respondents said access to information in their own language was important

Around 6,000 users of the Hotcourses International course portal answered questions about their study abroad preferences. Confirming that degrees delivered at branch campuses still suffer from an image problem, just 58.1% of respondents said that they would consider studying one, while only 45.7% believe they are the “same [as] or better” than a standard campus-based degree.

In addition, 66.5% said online degrees were inferior in terms of quality – something Hotcourses believes could be redressed by better marketing.

“Countries like Singapore and Thailand indicated that a significant number are currently uncertain about making a judgement, which suggests a gap in information which can be filled,” said the company, which runs portals in most major study destinations.

“A significant number are currently uncertain which suggests a gap in information which can be filled”

The survey offered a range of other findings that could help universities in their marketing efforts. A majority of students said that they began their study abroad search online by looking for a course – not an institution or country. Exceptions included Thais, who prioritised country, and those from the Middle East who chose university, while Koreans regarded both as more important than course.

That said, 81% of respondents did have a specific country in mind when they began their search, and 63% a specific region within that country.

“While we endeavour to provide enough information to introduce the idea of studying in a specific country, these results tell us students likely come to us with a rough idea of where they want to go,” said Hotcourses.

Demonstrating the need for foreign language marketing, more than half of respondents said they considered access to information in their own language “important” or “very important”. This was as high as 90% among Koreans and 72% among Latin Americans.

A majority also said they found video content helpful. However, those from India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Latin America wanted to see material about a university’s facilities, while students in Vietnam, Singapore, Brazil, Thailand and China preferred “day in the life”-style videos.

“No countries prefer to see interviews with alumni sharing their experience and the careers they have gone on to”

Hotcourses added: “Interestingly – given the economic climate and anxiety of finding graduate employment – no countries prefer to see interviews with alumni sharing their experience and the careers they have gone on to.”

The influence of friends and family on study-abroad decisions also varied. Parents had much more influence in Vietnam, Singapore and India than in Korea, for example, where students appeared “more likely to be independent”.

In most countries peers’ had a noticeable influence, too. “We received a strong positive response when we asked how highly students would value reviews by current study abroad students from their own country,” said Hotcourses. “This indicates that not only do students see value in consuming other’s experiences, but who those authors are is as important.”

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