QS International Student Survey: What drives an international student today?

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.

 

QS Best Student Cities 2018: Highlights

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.

 

 

 

QS World University Rankings 2019: Highlights & Methodology

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.

 

 

 

 

 

QS World University Rankings: 15th Edition Overview

 

The QS World University Rankings 2019, published this month, is the fifteenth edition so far. When the first emerged in 2004, George W Bush, Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder were heads of government in the US, the UK and Germany. They are all long gone, and this year’s edition is released into a vastly different geopolitical environment.

International higher education, too, was a very different place at this time. Available figures indicate that fewer than three million people were studying outside their home country in 2004. Today, the figure is in excess of five million, after years of steady growth that defied the global financial crisis of 2008.

The QS ranking methodology has only changed incrementally over time: perhaps the most notable change was the addition of the QS Employer Survey in 2005. But the amount of data available to us to compile these rankings has increased massively since 2004. For example, the 2019 rankings include the results of completed surveys from 84,000 academic experts and 43,000 employers. In 2004, we received responses from just 1,300 academics. This exponential increase in our rankings dataset means we can now justify ranking 1,000 universities – a fivefold increase on our first edition.

A look at our 2004 results alongside the new version shows that, despite methodological changes and ambitious strategies from governments across the world, an elite group of universities have consistently retained their ascendancy. Most are private US institutions: Harvard, top in 2004, is now third, while this year’s global leader, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, was in third place then. Also in the top 10 in both years were Stanford and the California Institute of Technology.

However, one definite trend observable throughout the development of these rankings is the steady decline of the US state university system. Even its most prestigious institution, the University of California at Berkeley, is not immune. In second place in 2004, it was sixth by 2005 and is 27th today.

The dominance of big US and UK universities is also a constant of the global rankings era. In 2004, 11 of the top 20 were in the US, as were four – Oxford, Cambridge, the London School of Economics and Imperial College, London – from the UK. Today, the top 20 includes 11 US universities and five from the UK – Oxford, Cambridge, Imperial, University College London and Edinburgh. And in both years, ETH Zurich was the top continental European institution, 10th in 2004 and seventh today.

Much has been written about the apparently inexorable rise of Asian institutions in university rankings, and we see it at work here. In 2004, we listed 26 Asian universities, starting with Tokyo in 12th place. Peking was 17th and Tsinghua 61st. The National University of Singapore was 18th and Nanyang Technological University, 50th. This time round we have 38 Asian institutions in our top 200. Tokyo is now 23rd, but NUS and Nanyang are 11th and 12th respectively. Peking is 30th and has been replaced as China’s top institution by Tsinghua, now 17th in the QS World University Rankings. Also notable is the growth in standing of Korean universities. Seoul National University was 118th in 204 and KAIST was 160th. This year, we place them in 36th and 40th positions respectively.  As a continent, Asia has increased its number of top-50 universities by 50% – from 8 in 2004 to 12 in 2018.

However, there might be reason to wonder if Asia’s top institutions have also reached – whether temporarily or otherwise – a ceiling. In 2004, the continent had three universities among the global top 20 – the same number as it possesses in 2018. Asia has undoubtedly gained ground, but the uppermost echelons of the QS World University Rankings remain, at least for now, predominantly Anglosphere.

Article written by Martin Ince

 

 

 

Higher Education World, June 2018: Foreword

When the first QS World University Rankings (QSWUR) were published in 2004, sceptics were surprised that as many as 29 countries were represented among a total of 200 institutions. The 15th edition, released this month, contains 1,000 universities for the first time, hailing from no fewer than 85 countries.

This edition of Higher Education World focuses mainly on that landmark edition, which is headed once again by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology: a record-breaking seventh consecutive year at number-one. We examine the changes the ranking has seen and the shifts in international higher education it has reflected.

A university’s position in the QSWUR has become an important consideration for prospective international students. But the location of that university also plays a big part in most students’ selection process. We focus, too, on the QS Best Student Cities ranking, which is topped for the first time by London.

By no means everything a student values is ranked, however. Our final topic in this edition is the QS International Student Survey: a report which charts the views of 28,000 young people considering higher education overseas, with the United Kingdom among their options. Up-to-date technology is their top priority, followed closely by the quality of the teaching staff. Most wanted lecturers who were passionate about their subject and a qualification that would boost their career prospects.

Jack Moran
Public Relations Executive
QS Quacquarelli Symonds

brexit

Brexit and Rising Student Fees: Will International Students Still Be Attracted to Britain?

money

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

locked-doors

What can British Universities do to Reassure International Students That They Are Still Welcome in the UK?

locked doors

An uncomfortable truth we uncovered in our latest QS report, ‘Is Brexit Turning International Students Away From the UK?’, was that for some students, the events on the 27th of June 2016 and the press coverage surrounding the EU referendum result all pointed towards a major red flag; Britain is no longer welcoming to immigrants. In turn, this view has fostered a sense amongst some international students that they too are unwelcome in the UK. Students have cited the spike in hate crimes in the UK following the Brexit result to back this up, and some even held the opinion that British people were caught up in a wave of xenophobia.

Read more