Up-to-date technology is the top priority of international students choosing universities – even superseding the quality of the teaching staff – according to a new survey published by QS.
The 2018 International Student Survey, carried out by QS Enrolment Solutions (formerly Hobsons), is based on the responses of 67,000 students in 63 universities around the world. The published report focuses on the 28,000 who were considering a move to the UK.
Some 65 percent of respondents placed technology among their top five priorities, with 64 percent nominating the quality of teaching staff as their primary concern. The results contrast with those deriving from UK students in a similar survey, who focused more on the results that students achieve upon graduation and future employment rates.
Students were also asked which factors indicated to them that a member of staff would deliver good-quality teaching. By far the most popular answer was they that were passionate about the subject they taught. Real-world experience and positive reviews from students were the next most valuable indicators of teaching competence.
Most respondents made their choice of subject before choosing a country or university, before progressing to choose course, and, finally, a destination of study. Three-quarters were considering five universities or less, with three the most popular total.
A course leading to a particular career was among the top priorities for 74 per cent of respondents, with high-quality teaching again second in the list and affordable fee options third.
Friends or family who had studied abroad were an important influence, the survey found. More than half of all respondents had friends with overseas study experience and the same was true of family members for 21 per cent of the sample.
The cost of living and availability of scholarships were the most common concerns of prospective international students, followed by safety and finding accommodation. Asked what would make them less uneasy, the largest group of respondents chose the ability to ask questions of international students at an institution. This was followed closely by a desire to have friends or family in the country in which they intended to study.
More than 80 per cent of respondents were using social media were using social media as one of their search tools, but the platform varied widely by country. Facebook was by far the most popular, with 56 per cent using it overall, but only 43 per cent used it in the United States and 46 per cent in China, where Weibo was used by 56 per cent of respondents.
Asked how they thought universities would change in the next 10 years, students said they expected most lectures to be online, and that students would be able to get a qualification from any university, regardless of which country it was based in.
London has been named as the top location in the world for students, after replacing Montreal at the top of the QS Best Student Cities ranking.
This edition of the ranking placed London top for the first time. It has more ranked institutions than any of the 100 cities in the exercise and performed well in QS’s survey of over 50,000 students.
Perhaps the most dramatic move in the 2018 ranking is Tokyo’s rise from sixth to second place, beating its previous high of 3rd place. It was the city that led our Employer Activity indicator, and, were it in possession of a more diverse student population, may have led the table.
There are six elements to the ranking: the performance of a city’s universities in QS rankings; the proportion of students and their international diversity; quality of life; employer activity; affordability; and the student view of the quality of their experience and willingness to remain in the city after graduating.
Melbourne has moved up to third place, from fifth in 2017, while Zurich has entered the top 10 in eighth place. No US city appears in the top 10, following declines in their scores for affordability, employer activity and student mix: the best American entrant is Boston (13th, down five places). Australia and Germany retain their status as particularly desirable nations, with two top-ten cities each.
Although dropping to fourth place – losing the global ascendancy it enjoyed last year – Montreal remains the students’ favourite, while Toronto is deemed the most desirable city from quality of life surveys and figures for crime and pollution. Budapest is ranked top for affordability, just ahead of Kuala Lumpur.
Other recent surveys have suggested that students’ perception of a university’s location is playing an increasingly important part in the process of choosing where to study. A favourable rating is also important to the cities concerned – a recent study from the Higher Education Policy Institute estimated that international students are worth £4.64 billion a year to London.
London has two universities in the top 10 of the QS World University Rankings and 18 in all. Ben Sowter, who heads the QS Intelligence Unit, which produces the ranking, said: “London benefits from outstanding employment prospects, more world-class universities than any other city, and enviable lifestyle opportunities. These factors mean that it remains a great place to study despite eye-watering costs, as our student survey made clear.”
To qualify for the ranking, cities must have a population of at least 250,000 and contain a minimum of two ranked universities. New entrants to the ranking this year include Stuttgart, Dubai, Cape Town, Graz, Nagoya, Brighton and Miami.
The 15th edition of the QS World University Rankings appeared on June 6. It looks more deeply than any previous version at the global distribution of top higher education institutions, and now ranks 1,000 universities. They are in 85 countries, and 60 of them appear in this ranking for the first time.
These rankings have been compiled using the same methodology as last year, and the upper echelons look much the same as they did in the previous edition. The top four – Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Stanford, Harvard and the California Institute of Technology – are unchanged. Just below them, Oxford and Cambridge have changed places, putting Oxford fifth and Cambridge sixth, and giving Oxford the honour of being the UK’s leading university for the first time since 2004. The top ten is completed by ETH Zurich, up three places to seven; Imperial College and the University of Chicago, unchanged at eight and nine; and University College London, down three places to 10.
As in 2018, the top Asian entrants are both in Singapore. They are the National University of Singapore (11th) and Nanyang Technological University (12th). The top Chinese institution is Tsinghua University, up eight places to 17th. It is now 13 places ahead of its Beijing rival, Peking University. Almost 300 of the 1,000 universities ranked here are in Asia, including 44 in Japan, 40 in mainland China and 30 in Korea.
These rankings are compiled on the basis of six indicators. It is now justifiable to rank 1,000 universities because the QS surveys of academic and employer opinion that account for half of each institution’s possible score now encompass the views of 130,000 people.
To do well, the top universities we see here need to perform well across multiple indicators. Thus, Harvard is top in both our academic survey and our survey of employers. But Harvard is less well-placed on the least heavily-weighted of our measures, international faculty and students, which count for only five per cent each. It is 151th in the world for international faculty and 164th for international students.
Of our other two measures, Caltech is the leading institution from our 1,000 ranked universities when it comes to faculty/student ratio, our indicator of teaching commitment, followed by Yale, Vanderbilt University in Tennessee, and Oxford. And our key indicator of research impact, citations per faculty member, sees MIT and Harvard in seventh and eighth place, although the Indian Institute of Science Bangalore is top among our 1,000 ranked institutions. Ten of the top 20 on this measure are specialist science and technology institutions, a group that never fails to perform well in these rankings overall.
The dataset that constitutes these rankings also demonstrates the significant increase in global research output. The average institution in this year’s rankings was responsible for just under 5,000 papers across our 2012-2016 window: a year-on-year increase of 12.1%. This increase is yet dwarfed by the rise in the citations footprint of those papers: up 22.2% year-on-year. These observations are conducive to the reiteration of a crucial point about this exercise: as standards continue to rise, institutions across the world are required to improve performance simply to keep pace. This trend seems unlikely to change, and the continued ascendancy of the world’s leading universities is a testament to their unyielding drive for excellence – across all metrics.
Our latest QS report,‘Is Brexit Turning International Students Away From the UK?’, derived from the analysis of interviews which took place in cities across Europe, saw the emergence of several key themes among perceptions of post-Brexit UK as a study destination. One theme that stood out as particularly contentious was the role of money in higher education. Concerns about finances wound their way through many of our participant’s views, and in many different contexts.
For students, one defining benefit of the UK being part of the EU has been the reciprocal fee agreements between EU member states, which enable EU citizens to study in countries throughout Europe for the same price as domestic students. In the likely event that the UK no longer benefits from these agreements post-Brexit, then students from the EU studying in the UK will start being charged the same amount as international (i.e. non-EU) students, which are normally considerably higher fees. Read more
On 1st July 2017, Carrie Lam, the first female Chief Executive of Hong Kong quoted 2 QS rankings in her inauguration speech in front of China President Xi Jinping and 2,000 VIP guests to highlight 20 years education achievements of HK since its handover to China.
In her inaugural speech, Lam vowed to repay the trust and support of the people and the central government’s support with “with diligence and achievements”.
She said, “On this important day marking the 20th anniversary of Hong Kong’s return to the Motherland, and as witnessed by all here present, I have been sworn in by the President of the People’s Republic of China as the fifth-term Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region. It is with a humble heart that I accept this greatest honour of my life and prepare to take on the greatest challenge in my public service career. Over the next five years I will respond to the trust and support placed in me by the people of Hong Kong and the Central People’s Government with diligence and achievements of the governing team under my leadership”.
When reflecting on the achievements HK has achieved in the past 20 years returning to China, she said:
“Hope propels a society forward, and confidence is the foundation of hope. We have no reason to lose confidence if we look closely and rationally at what we have achieved over the past two decades since our return to the Motherland”. She started to list all the achievements HK has got on its economy, finance, an the rule of law and safety. She concluded this section by quoting 2 QS universities rankings to highlight the education achievements of HK since returning to China in 1997:
“Five of our universities rank among the world’s top 100, and the Faculty of Dentistry of the University of Hong Kong is the best dental school in the world”.
Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, said, “It is a tremendous honour to hear that 2 QS university rankings was quoted by the new Chief Executive of HK in her inauguration speech, as the only benchmark, to prove 20 years education achievement of HK since handover to China. HK is one of the best place in the world for higher education. I look forward to the opportunity to working more closely with each of the HK university and the government in further strengthening their international competitiveness across all key subjects areas!”
On 8th June 2017, Dr. Christina Yan Zhang, China Director, QS Intelligence Unit, said in an interview with Ta Kung Pao, the oldest active Chinese language newspaper in China, that “Three out of five Hong Kong Universities which are ranked within the global top 100 were established less than 50 years ago. That is mainly due to HK’s unique advantage of geographic location and prosperity of its economy. HK have been able to cultivated some of the world’s best universities in a short time with its big research impact, strong innovation, truly international environment, and the ability to attract some of the top talents from around the world. Its influence is increasingly felt globally. The Dentistry of Hong Kong University has twice been ranked as the world’s No.1 has again demonstrated the unrivalled world-class excellence of Hong Kong higher education system. Hong Kong Universities are going to continue its leading position in more cutting-edge subjects soon“.
The full inauguration speech can be found here.