The ‘International student recruitment: Why aren’t we second (part 2)’ paper also suggests that improvements must be made to the promotion of the country as a welcoming, diverse and accessible study destination to ensure the UK recovers its position in countries where the it is no longer a first or second-choice destination.
While the UK needs to maintain its position in Nigeria and Saudi Arabia and regain in India and Pakistan, the paper identifies Brazil, Indonesia, South Korea and Vietnam as markets where the country should develop its position.
“Recent policy changes have made the UK a more attractive destination”
With fewer cultural connections or weaker trade and diplomatic links, but where English-speaking countries are performing “very well”, the UK could increase its position in the four countries through a number of initiatives.
Suggestions include: offering more market specific scholarships and funding opportunities; providing more information about living and working in the UK and promoting the UK’s culture; increasing promotion of the UK higher education sector’s diversity and excellence; and additional targeted media campaign advertising.
In India and Pakistan, where the UK sector needs to regain its position, the study destination could “become more attractive” by continuing to promote the graduate route and offering more scholarships, loans, or additional financial support, such as low-income scholarships, the paper suggested.
Previously, experts have also proposed a “Scholarship Office” for EU students.
The graduate route, which opened in July, must also be a success, the research added. Karan Bilimoria president of CBI has described the visa as a “golden opportunity” for talented people from around the world to fulfil their potential in the UK.
In addition to India and Pakistan, the continued promotion of the route is necessary in countries such as Nigeria, the research contended.
“Recent policy changes have made the UK a more attractive destination, after a long period where we lost ground to other countries,” Vivienne Stern, director of UUKi said.
“But as this research shows, we need to work hard to recover our position in a range of countries where the UK used to be a first or second-choice destination, but isn’t any more.”
The report makes important recommendations on how the UK can broaden its appeal and build its reputation as the world leading destination for international students, Janet Beer, vice-chancellor of the University of Liverpool and Universities UK’s International policy lead, said.
“Universities will continue to work closely with government to remove barriers for international students and identify ways of diversifying recruitment to meet the ambitions set out in the international education strategy.”
Brazil, Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, South Korea and Vietnam are all highlighted as regions where awareness of the UK as a study destination is low, despite Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Vietnam (along with India and Nigeria) all being “priority countries” for the UK’s International Education champion Steve Smith.
The International Education champion and UK government should lead “promotional delegations that have media and student-facing activities at the heart, including promotion of the Graduate route”, the paper added.
Top sending countries, such as Brazil, India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Indonesia and Vietnam, are price-sensitive markets and demand for financial support is high, the report continued.
To simplify the route to identify UK government and provider scholarships, the government should create a national scholarship brand to promote existing scholarships, in addition to increasing the number of co-funded scholarships available.
It should also “pursue innovative government-to-government partner models for co-funding scholarships, expand the UK government scholarship offer into key EU markets and review visa costs to bring them in line with international competitors”.
Better coordination between the efforts of individual institutions and national branding and marketing campaigns such as Study UK, Scotland is Now and Study in Wales will improve campaigns and the geographical coverage (including EU countries).
Together, the UK government, the sector and institutions should develop a strategic institutional approach to supporting the employability of international students and graduates, as well as fund a pilot program to develop and roll out an International Graduate Export Placement Scheme for UK businesses to draw on skills and expertise of recent international graduates.
Students want to know what return they will gain from studying in the UK, added Simon Emmett, CEO of IDP Connect, which also carried out the research with UUKi.
“As a sector we must therefore improve how we track and promote the positive outcomes that a UK education presents to students, helping guide students to make the right choices for their future.”
“We must improve how we track and promote the positive outcomes that a UK education presents to students”
Improved English language ability support in places like Indonesia and Vietnam could also benefit the UK.
“The continuation or development of government-funded English Language Training capacity building projects would have a beneficial effect on student recruitment,” the document read.
The government should work with the British Council to develop a long-term strategic approach to market development through investment in English language education, while also supporting the recovery of the UK-based English language sector, which has been severely affected by the Covid-19 pandemic.
The recommendations will help the UK reach its government target of hosting at least 600,000 by 2030, set out in the International Education Strategy.
The UK almost lost its second place position to Australia in 2018/19 when it hosted just 7,600 more students. Germany also rising rapidly in popularity, researchers noted. The UK currently hosts around 550,000 international students.