New research published today (7 October 2021) by IDP Connect signals the chance for the UK universities to seize a “golden opportunity” and avoid a perfect storm hitting the UK higher education sector. As campus life resumes, and record numbers of students return to study, IDP Connect are urging the sector to be mindful of the resurgence of US higher education demand, alongside a likely rebound of the Australian market in 2022. This risks the potential growth opportunity of future student numbers into the UK.
The latest “New Horizons”; a follow up to the international renowned Crossroads research; survey of more than 3,650 respondents across the world flags possible changes in the international study market, which risk making UK study less attractive to international students. The UK is in a golden position to capitalise on the gains made with international student policies such as the Graduate Route Visa to further make the UK an even more attractive destination for international students. Unsurprisingly, given the focus on return on investment, two-thirds of students said that access to post-study work rights in the country of their institution would make them more likely to consider studying there, while 63 per-cent said the ability to use their qualification as a pathway to migration made the study option more attractive.
Markets such as Canada and Australia have attractive post-study work options for international students, providing opportunities for those inbound but also providing a source of skilled labour to fulfil gaps in the destination’s workforce. Given the attention given to post study work options, the UK could capitalise on this opportunity by increasing flexibility for international graduates by extending the period of time students could work in the economy post-graduation. The survey also showed that more than ever, students see a return on investment from their overseas studies as key to making their decisions.
Career opportunities were the key motivation driver for students, as were financial drivers such as cost of living, part-time work opportunities and affordability of fees. The worldwide “New Horizons” survey shows the UK is currently only the first-choice destination for 17 per cent of international students - level with the US and only a percentage point ahead of Australia. With Australia currently more restrictive in terms of international travel than the US and UK, Australia is extremely well placed to overtake the UK when their market rebounds.
Additionally, Worldwide search demand data from IDP Connect also shows that the UK has slipped from joint first in August 2019 to third in search demand share for international students, behind the US and Canada. A resurgent Australia would likely overtake the UK on this crucial metric as well.
Simon Emmett, Chief Executive Officer for IDP Connect said: “The UK sector cannot afford to let this year’s success mask the looming challenges. With US now back in the game and Australia primed for a rebound in 2022, it's more essential than ever that the sector makes the case for study in the UK, placing the UK sector at the heart of growing economic global revolution and attracting the brightest and best talent in the world.
“The UK needs to become significantly more effective at promoting policies such as the Graduate Route Visa, as our research has shown that awareness of this is still not as widespread as it needs to be. The Government needs to seriously consider a move to a three-year post study work option providing greater flexibility and talent pools for UK employers. Through this, students can then seek out routes to migration allowing them to work in high skilled and high value sectors that UK currently finds difficult to fill vacancies for.
“We know from all available research that alongside the quality of teaching and a culturally rich campus offer, migration pathways are a key incentive for international students considering their options. There has never been a better time for universities across the UK to collectively make the case not just for studying in the UK, but for the many and varied benefits that the UK has to offer students from around the world.”
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The key findings from our New Horizons research are available to download as an infographic report here:VIEW INFOGRAPHIC REPORT