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Why do students want to study abroad?

Studying abroad is a wonderful, professionally and personally enriching experience. It’s no wonder it’s becoming increasingly popular, with numbers going up from 2 to 4 million students in just the last decade. But what is it students are looking for overseas?

Just in March we interacted with over 500 students from Italy, France, Moscow and UK, with the intention to find out what they value in a university. We were particularly intrigued to see if there’ll be any variation by country.

This is what we found:

From a survey with 519 student responses.

From a survey with 519 student responses.

1. Employment Prospects is the key driving force inspiring students to apply to globally recognised institutions. As one would expect, these institutions are much harder to get into and so require exceptional levels of hard work, ability and motivation. The latter being the most important.

Through our research, we found that nothing motivates a prospective student like the knowledge that their hard work will pay off in the ability to build a respectable career anywhere in the world.

Whilst this was the most popular factor overall, Russian students seemed to value Quality of Education above all else. Although this can be easily attributed to a national focus on quality of education, it’s actually more complex than that. Students in Moscow told us they were, in fact, looking for a different style of teaching. They were yearning for diversity and more practice-based learning, which they were lacking in the Russian education system.

Students in UK and Italy felt their future employability will depend strongly on the prestige of the institution they graduate from. Andrea, from Rome, shared:

‘’With some subjects, whether or not graduates are employed matters more than how good academically the institution is’’.

What was noticeable with Italian students is the somewhat pessimistic attitude towards employment prospects in Italy. Hence the emphasis on employability and the desire to ‘try their chances’ elsewhere. Additionally, they believed their chances of doing well in Italy itself increased with the number of years spent studying abroad.

2. Connections Worldwide was the second most popular choice overall and for each represented country. This is likely due to the perception that connections are useful for many things, especially getting a job. Students were convinced that their ability to create new connections and network will be greatly increased by studying abroad. This ability would further improve if they were to attend a highly-ranked institution, as then the calibre of their connections would be greater too.

Diversity was mentioned yet again, as almost universally students felt that having professional connections internationally was more valuable than being well-connected in their own country. Perhaps the idea that all too often it’s about ‘who you know and not what you now’ is to blame here…

3. Prestige matters. There were two groups of students: those that believed prestige of an institution was indicative of its quality and those that didn’t think such a correlation existed. However, both groups said they would consult university rankings nonetheless as they believed the prestige of an institution was influencing employers’ decisions. Given that employability is such a dominant theme, most students will therefore pay an amount of attention to the prestige of universities they’re considering.

As Silija from Paris shared:

‘’If I was to study abroad, then the university would need to be better ranked than the options available to me at home’’.

All in all, whilst there was a small variation in the order of priorities, the broader desires and needs of students were more than similar. This demonstrates that there is a clear goal prospective students of the 21st century are pursuing, which provides universities with a clear student recruitment strategy.

Read the full report here.