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Uni rankings wane as value of student peers grows, report finds

Teaching quality and testimonials from peers are top of mind for prospective international students, while rankings seem to be losing importance in their decision making, an industry report carried out by website educations.com shows.

student peer reviewsChoice of program is the top priority for students, with destination in second place. Photo: Pixabay

The survey was conducted on over 32,000 students

Compared with current students, prospective student respondents were more likely to cite student reviews as a motivating factor in choosing a university.

Application decisions made on the basis of videos or virtual open days were also found to be “skyrocketing,” the report stated, while study abroad fairs were losing ground.

“We expect to see the value of student reviews and testimonials continue to grow. Unfortunately, most universities aren’t keeping up fast enough with the expectation for peer-to-peer communication,” educations.com site manager Josh Hopton-Stewart told The PIE News.

“We expect to see the value of student reviews and testimonials continue to grow”

“Whatever universities are planning in this area, scale it up. Utilise your current students as well as your alumni.”

There have in fact been a few new companies in the last couple of years, such as Unibuddy and The Access Platform, offering peer referral services, and claiming that millennials can be targeted via their own peer group on social media.

This survey by comparison site Educations.com was conducted on over 32,000 students – including both students who had found their course through educations.com and prospective students engaging with the website to find their future studies.

The most surprising factor, Hopton-Stewart said The PIE, was the decrease in importance in rankings in the decision making of the prospective students in this sample.

 “Students are more and more empowered digitally to assess quality independent of ranking bodies and take a more tailored focus to what education will be best for them,” explained Hopton-Stewart.

“Our advice would be to not rest on your laurels and find other trust touch-points – such as student reviews and student ambassadors – to make sure that you’re establishing trust on the basis that students are actually assessing that trust.”

The report delved into current and prospective students’ decision-making factors, comparing undergraduates and postgraduates and pinpointing region-specific trends.

“Our advice would be to not rest on your laurels and find other trust touch-points”

While undergraduates and postgraduates had roughly the same dream destinations– the top five, US, UK, Canada, Australia and Germany were the same for both demographics – slight differences emerged when zooming into a region.

France was the dream destination for North American respondents, while Northern and Western Europeans said they wished to study in the US, and students from Southeast Asia named the UK as their number one choice.

But it’s in the factors that inspired and motivated prospective students that the report found differences between regions, which Hopton-Stewart said institutions should keep in mind to create region-specific campaigns.

Tuition fees and cost was increasingly reported as an important factor by respondents from North and South America.

Prospective student respondents from the Middle East indicated that work placement opportunities and flexible study modes are increasingly important features they are looking for.

Cost of living, teaching quality and safety were increasing in importance across the board, and so were career opportunities. This last factor was particularly important for prospective students from South Asia and Latin America.

Another general trend was a decreasing focus on the language spoken in the destination country. Hopton-Stewart said this may be down to increased availability of English-taught degrees.

“The rise of English-taught courses programs is providing more and more opportunities to not only study abroad but develop invaluable language skills as well,” he said.

“University is very rarely the first thing that students choose”

Prospective students from most regions also reported prioritising program over country, following a decision flow from program, to country, to university – apart from Northern Europeans, who cited a “gut feeling about the country” as one of their priorities.

 

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