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As increasing numbers of international students look to study in the major English language speaking countries, new research demonstrates it is post-study work programs that are helping drive the demand and generate interest from a 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% 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 post-study policies are a key factor for students from a diverse range of countries, including Taiwan, Thailand, India, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

The research showed students were very interested in the opportunity to gain relevant experience. They were less interested in how many years they could stay in the destination country after they finished their courses. 65% of students said the opportunity to gain experience was the most enticing factor of post-study work rights. In comparison, only 48% said it was the length of the stay that was most attractive.

Simon Emmett, IDP Connect Chief Executive Officer, said that the findings show a need for educators and employers to work together to ensure students achieve their goals, and economies benefit 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,” Emmett said.

“If policy makers, educators and employers can link up in meaningful ways, then we will see more students choosing to study in that country, more skilled and educated people entering the workforce, and a better return on their individual investment for the student.

“There is more work needed to further increase awareness of the contribution students make as employees, to help industries 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, destination countries 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 but leads to less reliance for universities on a small number of countries.

“Importantly, when we welcome students from a range of backgrounds into our institutions, our wider community benefits from the diversity of perspectives, ideas, and connections they bring,” Emmett said.

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

Emmett said the research highlights that competition for international students at a destination level is at an all-time high and 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 there is still much to play for, with the US, in particular, boosting its attractiveness. “While post-study work opportunities are proving to be an important lever in attracting international students, it is vital that institutions continue to recognize 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, highlighting 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,” Emmett said.

Emerging Futures 3 Infographic Report

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Jonah Duffin19 April 2023