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University rankings critical, survey shows

International students are more likely to base their decision about where to study on teaching quality and academic ranking than student satisfaction or contact hours, a Hobsons survey has shown. This factor can outweigh decisions about which country to study in too.

The research was carried out by international education specialists Hobsons and strategic advisors The Parthenon Group

Just 12% of survey respondents said that coming to the UK was the most important factor in choosing an institution

“As we compete with institutions from around the world, understanding the market has never been more important”

The survey of over 14,000 prospective UK-bound international students showed that more than 80% choose their study destination based on the quality of the education on offer over factors such as job opportunities in the destination country.

Matthew Robb, Partner in The Parthenon Group‘s Education Practice, which supported the research, commented: “[The survey]… gives us the opportunity to understand student choices in far greater detail than ever before.

“It highlights the crucial role of subject ranking and specialisation, and leads us to question the importance of ‘student satisfaction’.

Just 12% of survey respondents said that coming to the UK was the most important factor in choosing an institution.

These results  have “major implications” for universities’ marketing strategies, a Hobsons spokesperson said, as they demonstrate universities’ need to compete for students globally, not just within the UK.

Hobsons has warned that if an institution fails to rank in the top 20% of universities either overall or for a particular subject, “large student segments are almost completely unavailable to them”.

It has advised universities to lead their marketing with their top rankings figures, particularly if they are in the top quintile.

The guidance has been released based on the findings of the survey, and is aimed at universities looking to expand their student recruitment.

It also advises that fees are not a large factor in potential international students’ decision making, providing they are below a “critical level”.

“These findings reinforce what we at Hobsons know from our extensive work with partner universities throughout the UK and around the world,” Hobsons’ Director of Client and External Relations, Duncan Findlater, said.

“As we compete with more and more institutions from around the world for the best and brightest students, understanding the market has never been more important,” he said.

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