The Ambitions Influencing Postgraduate Applications & Student Recruitment


With the release of part 2 of the World Grad School Tour: Applicant Survey, we can start to get a clearer idea of the ambitions driving postgraduate applicants. Among the findings of this international survey, the most popular target sectors are shown to be engineering, consulting and education.

Interested to see these and other results in further detail?

Top industries of interest among master’s applicants

Among the master’s applicants surveyed in this report, there is quite a significant divide between the top six subjects and the remaining four in the top 10 (listed below). The most commonly selected target industries were engineering, consulting, education, technology, finance and government/public sector – all selected as fields of interest by at least one in five of the applicants surveyed.

The runner-up industries – manufacturing/production, energy/environment/utilities, R&D/science, and media/advertising – were selected by just 11-12% of prospective applicants, proving significantly less popular than the top six.

Top 10 industires of interest among MA applicants

Study subject has little influence on preferred industry

One of the most interesting findings from the report is the fact that these top six industries appeal to prospective postgraduates across all subjects of study. While we cannot conclude from these findings that most students will actually pursue a career in these fields, it does go a long way to suggesting that advancement in these fields is highly regarded.

It is also worth noting that many of the surveyed students placed a strong focus on employment prospects, as can be seen in Part 1 of the Applicant Survey report. Therefore their motivations for pursuing a postgraduate degree are already highly influenced by their ambition to advance into these fields.

Top industries of interest among PhD applicants

In contrast, it is fairly unsurprising that the education industry is far and away the most popular field of interest for PhD applicants, with the second most popular field – R&D/Science – claiming interest from 24% of applicants, compared to 43% for education.

Given the established relationship of a PhD to careers in both academia and scientific research, these findings are readily understandable, yet still represent an opportunity to improve postgraduate student recruitment.

Top 10 industries of interest among PHD applicants

How will this impact student recruitment?

With such a strong focus on fields such as engineering, education and consulting, it makes sense to highlight your university’s strengths in these areas – as well as the level of support you provide to graduating students – in order to add weight to your postgraduate student recruitment efforts.

For universities with a strong reputation in these fields – as well as those looking to establish a strong reputation – creating a separate channel of your university marketing focused on this topic could help to elevate your online presence. A dedicated university blog and specific social media channels for engineering, education, consulting, or technology, are simple ways to raise your university profile as a leader in that field.

These dedicated industry-specific channels can also provide an ideal platform on which to encourage alumni engagement. Blog posts such as interviews and opinion pieces – as well as links and comments shared over social media – add a huge amount of value to those following your channels and will encourage interaction and subscriptions from both current and prospective students.

Download your free copy of the World Grad School Tour: Applicant Survey (Part 2) now to gain further insights.

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