Subject Trends & International Student Mobility



Students looking for postgraduate courses are considering a wider range of countries than ever before, according to surveys of those attending QS recruitment events all around the world.

As in 2009, the United States and the United Kingdom were, by some distance, the preferred destinations of students at QS World Grad School Tour events in 2013. But both had declined in popularity, while Continental European countries, led by Germany, were options for many more applicants.

QS surveyed more than 4,000 students in 2012-13, compared with almost 3,500 in 2008-9.  The questions covered graduate-level study plans, preferred study destinations, priorities when deciding where to study, and future salary and career expectations.

The latest responses showed a shift towards STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) subjects, with almost 21 per cent of students seeking courses in these areas, compared with less than 17 per cent previously. But the FAME (finance, accounting, management and economics) group still attracted twice as many of those attending the fairs, despite a decline of 8 percentage points since 2009.

The lure of US universities showed a similar decline – 6.6 percentage points down over the same period – but still almost 60 per cent of students were considering courses there. The drop for UK universities was 8 per cent, but the proportion considering them, at 53.4 per cent, was twice that for Canada, the next most popular destination.

German universities enjoyed the biggest increase in popularity, growth of almost 9 per cent taking the country into fourth place, above Australia. Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden also saw substantial increases, although France remained a more popular destination, with 22.7 per cent of attendees considering studying there.

Study costs, financial aid and post-graduation employment prospects are becoming increasingly important factors, the survey showed. But international recognition remains the single most important criterion for those choosing to study abroad.

Those responding to the 2013 survey had high expectations for career development and salaries.

The majority saw themselves in 10 years’ time either running their own business (24 per cent), director of a large company (17 per cent) or a chief executive (15 per cent). Almost 18 per cent were hoping for a salary of more than US$100,000 by then.

The report is intended to assist universities in targeting their recruitment efforts. Interviews carried out during the survey process suggested that many applicants found it difficult to access the information they needed to make their decisions. Universities’ online resources were often perceived as unclear, confusing, incomplete or unreliable.

The complete report can be downloaded here:



Supporting women in science and technology: universities and the STEM gender gap

The STEM gender gap – the relatively low number of women pursuing science, technology, engineering and maths degrees and careers – has most recently come to the fore with the EU’s short but controversial film, ‘Science: It’s a Girl Thing!’

The video, which was rapidly retracted by the EU, prompted widespread criticism – not of its purpose, but of the way in which it represented the subject. Read more

HE News Brief 30.3.10

by Abby Chau


Cash cows, tuition hikes, and the dramatic increase of research produced by Chinese universities are a few topics we discussed today at our staff meeting. Have a read and tell us what you think.

  • International students are not ‘cash cows,’ says British Council Chief Executive Martin Davidson. Warning against treating international students like an export industry to buffer against the university funding squeeze, Davidson says that doing so may harm UK universities in the long run.
    Full Story: BBC News
    More: Telegraph
  • A different take on students protesting tuition hikes in the University of California systems. The real costs of additional fees viewed as inconsequential.
    Full Story: New York Times
    More: Associated Press, Wall Street Journal
    Read more