Despite being perceived as the most expensive destination country, the U.S. ranks highest for international student satisfaction.
The Emerging Futures 4 survey, conducted by international education specialists IDP Education in August 2023, reveals that that current international students studying in the U.S. are the most satisfied, rating their experience at 7.8 out of 10. The research, which collates the views of more than 10,000 prospective and current international students, shows that international students are pleased with their decision to study in the U.S. despite rating it as the most expensive destination country. Students also ranked the U.S. highest for perceptions of ‘quality of education.’
Across other destination countries, Australia saw increases in perceptions of several factors, including ‘graduate employment opportunities’ and ‘post-study work policies’. In addition, Australia stood out as the only country among the top four study destinations to see an increase in relation to the ‘welfare of international students’ and ‘quality of education’. The percentage of students who selected ‘safety for international students’ as a reason for choosing Australia as a first-choice destination also increased.
Simon Emmett, IDP Connect Chief Executive Officer, said changes in perceptions and factors that students consider in their decision making show the top-four destinations should not rely on previous positive sentiment and high rankings.
“Policy changes, dynamic shifts within institutions and global economic conditions all have the power to affect a destination’s standings. Global competition between destination countries for international students remains high, and the impact of perceptions of post-graduation opportunities, or lack of opportunities, continues to impact student choice,” Emmett said. “IDP will continue to work with policy makers and the higher education sector to ensure students’ voices are heard so we can continue to provide them with quality international education experiences.”
Cost of living and related issues, such as securing affordable student accommodation, continue to be a concern for international students. Over a third (40 percent) of international student respondents in the U.S. said rented accommodation near to campus cost more than they had budgeted, while just under a third (30 percent) said they had rented accommodation far from their campus to make the rent more affordable.
In a new addition to the survey, IDP asked students about their thoughts on artificial intelligence (AI), relating to their own use of the technology in their international education process and decision making, and how it might be used by institutions.
Students were asked if they had used or intended to use AI, including ChatGPT, to help submit college and university applications. Of the global cohort, 39 percent said, ‘Yes’. Notably, students from China were most inclined to use AI for this purpose, with 73 percent responding ‘Yes’. Globally, 45 percent of students indicated they would use AI to help them decide which institution to study at, while 47 percent were open to using it to decide which program to study.
Students also rated ‘submitting the application’ and ‘shortlisting suitable institutions’ as the top two phases at which they would most want human input and advice from a trained counselor, followed closely by ‘confirming my final choice of institution’.
Tennealle O’Shannessy, Chief Executive Officer, IDP said, "With AI becoming more accessible to us in our everyday lives, it is crucial to understand how students are engaging with different types of the technology during their international education journey.
“Our research shows that students want human interaction and trusted advice during the process, especially during the application phase. By putting AI technology in the hands of our expert counselors, IDP is continuing to enhance human connections in a way that meets students’ needs. Combining AI with skilled human interaction allows us to provide students with comprehensive information to assist them in making the best possible choices when they need it most.”
Less than half of students globally (41 percent) expected that institutions they are applying to would use AI to assess all or part of their application. While 35 percent said that the use of AI in determining an applicant’s suitability for a program could make the process fairer for all, 31 percent said it may discriminate against certain students. Overall, the most important factor for students when submitting an application to an institution was that they receive a decision quickly.
“The use of AI and data science to improve processes in higher education is developing very quickly. It is a very exciting time in the sector, and these advancements will enable the industry to enhance the experience for international students,” O’Shannessy added.
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