What Motivates International Students?

applicant survey world students

The release of this year’s annual QS World Grad School Tour Applicant Survey attempts to answer the questions, what motivates international students and what do students want from further study. The QS World Grad School Tour Applicant Survey was designed to establish the motivations, desires, and concerns of prospective postgraduate students worldwide.

The results of the survey indicate that employment prospects are significantly important to those considering enrolling in a postgraduate course. It also highlights the most popular countries to study in and how access to financial aid is still a significant influence on many postgraduate applicants.

The report was produced in conjunction with Cambridge English and can be viewed in full here.

Alternatively, keep reading for a summary of the survey’s main findings.

Employability a primary influence

This year’s QS World Grad School Tour Applicant Survey revealed that nearly 60% of all respondents worldwide would cite employability as one of the main reasons for deciding to take up further study. Add to this the drop to just 7% in the number of postgraduate applicants that would choose a postgraduate course based on proximity to their current country, it seems that – perhaps in response to the recent global economic recession – students are willing to travel to whichever university offers them the best chance to improve their employability prospects.

Where do postgraduate international students want to study?

The US and the UK remain the most popular destinations for postgraduate study from applicants in all regions – most likely due to their well-respected academic reputations. However, destinations such as Germany – and to a lesser degree Sweden, Norway and Denmark – have become increasingly popular postgraduate study destinations. All of these countries have low to non-existent tuition costs, representing a significant return on investment for those international students choosing to study there.

Where do postgraduates want to study?
Rank Country % Interested
1 United States 57%
2 United Kingdom 51%
3 Canada 34%
4 Germany 31%
5 Australia 30%
6 France 21%
7 Switzerland 19%
8 Netherlands 17%
9 Sweden 16%
10 Italy 15%
© QS Quacquarelli Symonds 2004-2015.  www.TopUniversities.com

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Financial concerns

Despite knowing which country and postgraduate course offers the best chances for improved employability and return on investment, it’s all moot if the applicant cannot afford to pursue further study in the first place. Access to financial aid was cited by 57% of applicants as a significant concern when choosing a place to study.

Reasons for choosing a place of study
Reason for Destination Choice % Interested Rank
International recognition of qualifications 63% 1
Scholarship / Financial aid availability 57% 2
Cultural Interest and lifestyle 52% 3
Would like to work there afterwards 47% 4
Improve language skills 38% 5
Target School 33% 6
Create network 26% 7
Family connection 11% 8
Visa situation 10% 9
It is in (or is near to) the country I currently work in 7% 10
Other 5% 11
© QS Quacquarelli Symonds 2004-2015.  www.TopUniversities.com All rights reserved.

Top 5 reasons for students to select a university for postgraduate study

While this survey reveals some important regional differences, especially within Latin America, five primary concerns remain consistently dominant throughout. Students repeatedly cite an institution’s reputation in their chosen subject, an institution’s overall reputation, employability, funding availability, and location as being their main motivations for choosing an institution at which to study.

This isn’t to say that there isn’t some variation as students in the US were just as likely to cite cultural interest and lifestyle as international recognition of qualifications when choosing a specific study destination. So, although there is an overlaying concern regarding future career prospects, there are still other factors that influence institution choice.

You can view the survey in full at TopUniversities.com.

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