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Post-study work opportunities key to creating diversity at UK universities

As increasing numbers of international students look to study in the UK new research demonstrates that it is post-study work programmes that will drive further demand and generate interest from a wider range of countries.

The Emerging Futures study, conducted by global education specialists IDP Education in March 2023, reveals competition is fierce with over a third of students considering study in three or more of the top destination countries and 63 per cent of students globally stating that post-study work is the main or influencing factor in where they study.

The survey, which collates the views of more than 20,000 prospective and current international students, shows that outside of the main markets of India and China the availability of the Graduate Route visa was an influencing factor for 59% of respondents from Nigeria, 73% of respondents from Taiwan and 69% of respondents from Viet Nam.

The research also showed that students were less interested in how many years they could stay in the UK after they finished their course. Rather, they were more interested in the opportunity to gain relevant experience and the ease of entry into the UK job market.

Rachel MacSween, Director of Client Partnerships for UK and Europe from IDP Connect said that the findings show a need for educators and employers to work together to ensure students achieve their goals and the UK economy benefits from their skills and knowledge.

“Students are weighing up a number of factors when choosing where to study but the ability to gain work experience post-graduation remains number one. If policymakers, educators and employers can link up in meaningful ways, then we will see more students choosing to study in the UK, more skilled and educated people entering the workforce and a better return on their investment for the student. There is more work needed to further increase awareness of the contribution students make as employees, to help industry better understand post-study work rights, and to improve access to work opportunities for international students.

“What the findings demonstrate is that by creating a clearer pathway from education to employment, the UK will see demand increase from a greater number and more diverse set of countries. Creating diverse cohorts of students not only adds to the richness and vibrancy of the student experience for all but leads to less reliance for universities on a small number of countries.”

The research also highlights the fierce competition between the major English language speaking destinations, with 34% of students considering at least three of the four major destination countries of the US, UK, Canada and Australia. Since the previous research, carried out in August 2022, both the UK and Australia have seen the number of students selecting them as their first choice drop by two percentage points, but in good news for the US, it is up three percentage points. Canada remains the world’s most attractive study destination among survey respondents.

Simon Emmett, IDP Connect Chief Executive Officer, said the research highlights that competition for international students at a destination level is at an all-time high and whilst policy and sector wide action is needed to build better links to employment, students are clear about what they want and need from their institutions.

“With most countries experiencing a strong post-pandemic recovery of international students, our research findings on global choice show it is still all to play for, with the US in particular boosting its attractiveness.

“Whilst post-study work opportunities are proving to be an important lever in attracting international students, it is vital that institutions continue to recognise the changing needs of international students. As the cost-of-living increases, the research highlights that students need more support and guidance. They are looking to institutions to support them in finding part-time jobs and to provide clear and transparent guidance about the total cost of their education.

“Half of all respondents told us that they have never travelled abroad before, this highlights the responsibility and duty of care we all have. IDP will continue to work with the sector to understand the findings and to ensure students have the information and support they need to achieve their ambitions.”

Media contact: Jonah Duffin – IDP Connect jonah.duffin@idp.com+44 7961 576 024

About IDP Education’s Emerging Futures research

IDP’s Emerging Futures research on the perceptions of more than 20,000 prospective and current international students builds on the findings of the Crossroads and New Horizons research series, and aims to equip the international education sector, institutions and policy makers with informed insights to offer exceptional global education experiences aligned to student priorities.

About IDP Education

IDP is a leader in global education services. As an Australian-listed company, IDP operates in more than 50 countries and its websites attract 100 million visits a year.

IDP specialises in combining human expertise with a leading digital platform to help people get accepted into their ideal course, take an English language test or learn English in their schools.

IDP’s teams work side by side with their customers every day, at every step from course search through to starting their dream course or career.

IDP’s data insights are relied upon by organisations around the world to help ensure policies are informed by the diverse needs, challenges and motivations of students.


View key findings from our Emerging Futures 3 research as an Infographic Report here:

Jonah Duffin
Jonah Duffin19 April 2023