The result of the European Union (EU) referendum vote in June 2016 has undoubtedly had an impact on student recruitment. As the UK higher education sector prepares for succeeding outside of the EU, it is vital that we understand international students’ perceptions and work to maintain the UK’s status as a top global study destination.
At Hobsons, we conduct an annual survey of more than 60,000 prospective international students. Through Hobsons’ International Student Survey (ISS), we have gathered extensive insights on the interests, behaviours and decision-making of international students over the past five years.
This year we conducted our largest ever survey, which provided evidence to suggest that international students are highly motivated by how welcome they feel in a host country. We found that the degree to which a place feels welcoming was one of the most important factors influencing prospective students’ choice of a university town or city, with 31 per cent citing it as the most important consideration. Last year we conducted some additional research following the UK’s decision to leave the EU. The research, which surveyed over 1,000 prospective international students, gave us valuable insights into what international students thought of the UK in the immediate wake of Brexit. Our research found that during this time 30 per cent of prospective international students said that they were less likely to study in the UK, while 6 per cent said they would definitely not study in the UK as a result of the vote. Both the 2016 ISS and the 2017 ISS reports are available for you to download.
We were delighted to see both of these pieces of Hobsons’ research cited in a recently published House of Commons briefing paper, which answers some of the frequently asked questions about international and EU students in the UK for those working in Parliament. It sets out statistics in this area and outlines policy issues including the potential impact of Brexit and the net migration target on international and EU student recruitment.
Our insights are continuing to provide evidence to inform both the higher education sector and the Government. Last year, Hobsons, along with 190 individual groups and education representatives, submitted written evidence to the Education Select Committee’s inquiry into the impact of exiting the EU on higher education. Our submission, where we discussed our research and made a series of recommendations to the Committee, was included in the Committee’s report.
The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, has recently commissioned the Migration Advisory Committee (MAC) to examine the impact of both EU and non-EU students on the labour market and economy of the UK. This is a positive sign that the Government is recognising the importance of overseas students. Now, more so than ever, is the time to listen to international students, review the insights available and establish approaches that fit. By harnessing the power of data and taking a more strategic approach to international student recruitment, we at Hobsons believe that universities can achieve success and maintain the UK’s global leadership in higher education.