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International Taught Postgraduate Students: The UK’s Competitive Advantage MARCH 2016


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Contents

Contents

6

27

Executive summary

5. What has changed since 2008?

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34

Recommendations for policymakers and universities

6. How does the UK international PGT experience compare?

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42

1. Introduction

7. Decision-making factors for international PGT students

12 2. International PGT enrolment trends

16 3. Policy analysis: The UK market and its primary competitors

20 4. The international PGT student experience in the UK Contents

45 8. What helps international PGT students to choose?

48 9. How does UK PGT student choice differ from rival markets?

50 10. Analysis and synthesis: Where does the UK’s comparative advantage lie?

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Index of tables and figures Figure 1: International students by academic level – UK and competitors, 2013–14 Figure 2: Distribution of international students by destination country, 2012 Table 2: International PGT total student enrolments 2007-14 (and change in comparative share) Figure 3: ISB survey structure Table 3: ISB survey data on the international PGT arrival experience in the UK, 2014 Table 4: ISB survey data on the international PGT learning experience in the UK, 2014 Table 5: ISB survey data on the international PGT living experience in the UK, 2014 Table 6: ISB survey data on international PGT support services usage in the UK, 2014 Table 7: ISB survey data on international PGT satisfaction with support services in the UK, 2014 Table 8: ISB survey data – derived importance of the international PGT student experience in the UK, 2014 Figure 4: Closing the loop Table 9: ISB survey data – overall measures of the UK international PGT student experience, 2008-14 Table 10: ISB survey data – decision-making factors for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Figure 5: PGT Decision-making: all factors, sorted by importance 2014 (ISB 2008 to 2014) Table 11: ISB survey data – key influences for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 12: ISB survey data – application methods for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 13: ISB survey data – application time/satisfaction for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 14: ISB survey data – other countries considered by international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 15: ISB survey data – funding sources for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 16: ISB survey data – the arrival experience for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 17: ISB survey data – the learning experience for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 18: ISB survey data – the living experience for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 19: ISB survey data – support services for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Table 20: ISB survey data – overall measures of PGT satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 Table 21: ISB survey data – PGT arrival experience satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 Table 22: ISB survey data – PGT learning experience satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 Table 23: ISB survey data – PGT living experience satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 Table 24: ISB survey data – PGT support services satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14

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Figure 6: ISB survey data – PGT cost-of-living satisfaction trends across key competitors, 2008-14 Figure 7: ISB survey data – PGT financial support satisfaction trends across key competitors, 2008-14 Figure 8: ISB survey data – PGT overall learning satisfaction trends across key competitors, 2008-14 Figure 9: ISB survey data – PGT overall satisfaction trends across key competitors, 2008-14 Figure 10: ISB survey data – decision factors for international PGT students in the UK, 2014–15 Table 25: ISB survey data – key decision-making factors for PGT students in the UK by nationality, 2013–14 Table 26: ISB survey data – decision factors for PGT students in the UK by field of study, 2013–14 Table 27: ISB survey data – key influences of international PGT choice: percentage scores by nationality, 2014–15 Table 28: ISB survey data – key influences on PGT choice by nationality (ranked), 2014–15 Table 29: ISB survey data – other countries considered by students choosing the UK, 2014–15 Table 30: ISB survey data – key influences on international PGT students’ decisions: competitor comparisons, 2013–14

Appendix A: UK Non-EU PGT Student Population by field of study, 2013-14 v 2008-09 Appendix B: UK Non-EU PGT Student Population by domicile, 2013-14 v 2008-09 Appendix C: % International PGT students by domicile and field of study Appendix D: PGT International Students: Funding of studies by country of study

Acknowledgements Author: Will Archer The report was supported by funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UKTI, and the Higher Education Funding Council for England. The author and the UK HE International Unit would like to thank members of the Project Steering Group for their expert advice: Professor Judith Lamie, Dr Shaun Curtis, Michael Peak, Vincenzo Raimo, Peter Clack, Dr David Stevens, Gordon Slaven, Dr Janet Ilieva, Cliff Hancock, Brian Johnson, Daniel Hurley, Charlene Allen, Jo Attwooll, Vikki Challen, Daniel Shah.

Contributors: Teresa Angulo, Kevin Brett, Stephen Darwin, Laura Dicken, Greg Gawinowski, Jessica Howlett, Richard Garrett, Rory Govan, Lynne Griffiths, Rachael Merola, Kyla Steenhart.

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Executive summary This report on international postgraduate taught (PGT) students is part of a series commissioned by the UK Higher Education International Unit to systematically examine the UK’s market position with respect to international student recruitment and the international student experience. It complements two companion reports that look at the UK’s competitive advantage concerning international undergraduate students and international postgraduate research students.

International PGT student satisfaction is high at 89%, and the performance of UK universities has improved on the overwhelming majority of indicators (79 of 86 measures) assessed by the ISB since 2008. Previously high levels of student satisfaction are now higher across six all of the primary measures of the PGT student experience. All 24 elements of the learning experience have seen increases in student satisfaction, plus higher ratings for 15 of the 16 support services.

International PGT students comprised approximately 30% of all students studying in PGT UK programmes in 2013–14 and, in some courses, more than 50%. They therefore provide a vital foundation for sustaining the diversity of PGT programmes offered by UK universities, especially for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and Business, where the highest concentrations of international PGT students are enrolled.

At the level of international comparisons, it is clear that the UK delivers a world-class experience for taught postgraduate students. 86% of students would recommend the UK, the highest rate of comparator countries, and up by 4% since 2007/8. However, the UK cannot be complacent, because satisfaction with both the USA and Canada is also high and improving fast.

The report’s findings are based on international PGT student experience data derived from 277,249 responses from postgraduate taught students across host countries to i-graduate’s International Student Barometer (ISB), supported by relevant statistics for the UK and major competitor countries, alongside a high-level analysis of key competitors’ policies that influence recruitment patterns.

National UK-level data shows the average across all participating institutions. Each university has highs and lows between programmes and across its range of provision. Most are responsive and many are seeing improvements from interventions. More universities are sharing good practice, but there is still more that can be done. For example, all countries compared could improve international students’ satisfaction with making friends from their host country.

The good news is that UK universities have grown international PGT student numbers by 28% since 2007-8, from 97,771 to 124,960. Numbers have picked up a little but have not yet recovered the ground lost from the high point in 2010-11. All of the UK’s peers have experienced increases in enrolments since 2007-8, but Australia and Germany have lost market share to the US and – in particular – Canada. The UK’s share has returned to roughly its 2007-8 level of 23%, having fallen from 27% in 2010-11.

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The responses of international PGT students studying in the UK clearly indicate the top decision-making factors are institutional reputation, the specific course of study and the quality of research. The UK’s primary competitive advantage rests on the quality of its universities and what they offer.


With typically comparatively shorter programmes of study, the UK should have an obvious competitive advantage in terms of the cost of postgraduate study, less time away from the labour marker, higher student retention and high completion rates. With most study completed in a single academic year, while the US leads in terms of total PGT enrolments, we estimate that the UK has a higher number of new commencements each year, making it the world’s largest recruiter and graduator of PGT students. A shorter programme brings the challenge of adding value fast and delivering against expectations in a shorter period of time. A change in relative attractiveness will affect the UK more quickly than other countries. While the UK matches up to rivals and is scoring high on most counts, it is not yet leading the way. Rivals in competitor countries are achieving higher levels of student satisfaction in some key areas. The areas of greatest concern, in which satisfaction levels have fallen markedly since 2008, are around employment and visas, earning money and financial support, are beyond the immediate capability of universities to resolve. Meanwhile, the UK’s competitors appear to be more agile and responsive, taking ad-vantage of the UK’s perceived weaknesses. Prospective PGT students are possibly the most demanding of all students who consider international education. All PGT students have prior experience of study, possibly a world of choice before choosing the UK, and the alternatives of either studying often at much lower cost in their home country, or continuing into employment. Where the investment decision for undergraduate study is predominantly parents investing in their children’s education, PGT study is more likely to be a personal choice, at personal investment in money and deferred income in time away from employment.

To address emerging issues and competitive gaps in the international PGT market, this report calls for policy attention to be directed to access to employment during study and other forms of financial sup-port, as well as current visa arrangements and options for streamlined visa processing. There has been some liberalising in the opportunities for graduates to obtain work visas post-study in most competitor nations, in order to make PGT study more attractive. This reflects the legitimate desire of many graduates to gain valuable work experience in their host country before returning (more than two thirds (69%) of international PGT students still seeing post-study work experience as important or very important). Inevitably, this growing differential in post-study opportunities will put UK universities at a competitive disadvantage in attempting to recruit the best of the international student pool. Further investment is also needed to support the collection and collation of empirical evidence relating to international PGT student recruitment pathways, graduate outcomes and career trajectories for key nationalities. It is now essential to demonstrate the PGT premium for international graduates. International PGT students represent a highly significant segment of the UK international student population. They are vital to support the UK’s diverse PGT programmes, and make up a larger proportion of all international students for the UK than for any of our competitors. Looking to the future, these graduates form part of a global network of influential alumni who should be ambassadors for UK HE, proactive and per-suasive in encouraging others to follow in their footsteps. It is hoped that this report will help to focus attention and reinforce the positive flow. In today’s highly contested and transforming international educational environment, the UK must act strategically to maintain its comparative advantages and sustain growth.

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Recommendations for policymakers and universities Recommendation 1

Recommendation 6

Universities, sector bodies and Government should consider a more substantive process for collecting and collating evidence of the decision-making, influences and routes to PGT study in the UK.

Competitor countries are escalating their efforts to attract international PGT students, including using streamlined visa approvals processes and post-study work opportunities. For the UK to remain competitive, it is recommended that policymakers:

Recommendation 2

- Review the outcomes of the 2012 change to visa arrangements to determine its current and potential impact on the recruitment of international PGT students to the UK.

The sharing of good practice in postgraduate provision should be reinforced within and between universities.

Recommendation 3 Further consideration should be given to strategies and policy initiatives that will enhance the ability of PGT students to earn an income while studying.

Recommendation 4 Given the cost sensitivity of the international PGT student market, universities should review current support for these students to access affordable accommodation options while studying.

Recommendation 5 Policymakers and universities should consider introducing more focused funding schemes to encourage PGT students to study in UK institutions and widen access to other forms of financial support.

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- Consider options for streamlining visa application processes for students intending to come to the UK as PGT students (perhaps modelled according to those adopted in countries like Australia).

Recommendation 7 Greater efforts should be made to differentiate the characteristics and strengths of UK PGT qualifications in universities’ and national marketing initiatives.

Recommendation 8 Noting the importance placed on research reputation in PGT student choice (94% of PGT students say it was a factor in their decision), universities should ensure that research activities and achievements are promoted alongside PGT programme offers.

Recommendation 9 Given the intensely competitive nature of the international PGT student market, universities, sector bodies and Government should seek better and more comprehensive measures of outcomes in terms of further study, employment and career progression of UK-educated postgraduates. Return on investment is a necessary measure, preferably capturing the transformative personal impacts from a UK postgraduate education, not just salary data. This recommendation is common to all levels of provision..


1. Introduction In 2013–14, there were around 133,000 international students from non-EU countries enrolled in taught postgraduate (PGT) programmes in the United Kingdom (UK). This represented about 30% of all students studying in these programmes in the UK1. In addition, international PGT students make up 40% of all non-EU students (table 1) and therefore represent a highly significant segment of the UK international student population. Around 65% of these students were from Asian nations (most notably China, 35%), with lesser numbers from Africa (12%), North America (8%) and the Middle East (6%). Significantly, as the graph below illustrates, the UK has a higher proportion of international students studying at PGT level at its universities compared to its key competitors. Figure 1: International students by academic level – UK and competitors, 2013–14 100%

UG

80%

PGT 60%

PGR

40%

20%

0% New Zealand

Australia

Canada

Germany

USA

UK

* For 2013–14 or closest equivalent period. These ratios are reported in a variety of ways across the sample countries.

Therefore, international PGT students represent a critical market for UK higher education and provide an important foundation to sustain the diversity of coursework programmes offered by universities. This is particularly the case for Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) and Business programmes, where the highest concentrations of PGT students are enrolled2. In these fields, international PGT recruitment contributes to strengthened institutional teaching capacity borne of economies of scale and enhances broader graduate capabilities to support the UK’s economic growth potential. PGT students offer rich prospective potential – either domestically or in their home countries – to drive economic innovation and social improvement. Post-graduation, each joins an important global network of influential alumni of UK universities, highly influential in encouraging prospective international students to study within the same university or country.

1 Higher Education Statistics Agency 2 (Appendix C)

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Looking back across seven years, this report examines changes to the enrolment patterns of international PGT students, changes in PGT decision-making and shifts in student satisfaction. Identified enrolment trends include: • a modest net growth in UK PGT numbers, slowly recovering after falling from the 2010/11 peak • a significant increase in market share for Canada; and the US strengthening its position • a relative decline in market share for Australia and Germany, due to a range of pressures that have negatively influenced their international PGT enrolments Other post-2008 developments and prospective trends are considered, including the global surge in online and mobile access, widespread social media adoption by prospective students and universities, the streamlining of visa arrangements and increased use of education agents. As the other reports in this series have recognised, although the UK has long been a world leader in international education, this impressive track record cannot be taken for granted. The turbulence in PGT student numbers has created a climate of uncertainty and an impact on programme viability in some universities. Other countries have been proactive in policy to improve their competitive position. This report is intended to shed light on questions facing policymakers and universities as they seek to maintain and grow the UK’s international PGT student share. Specific characteristics of international PGT students International PGT students are a specific cohort, possessing notable differences to international postgraduate research and undergraduate students. Generally, they tend to be older; seeking to build their professional capability or to initiate a career change. Unlike research students, who are often constrained by supervisory or discipline realities, PGT students are likely to decide for themselves what to study, where to study and which university to choose. In making these decisions, they are typically far more reliant on private or personal funding rather than scholarships or bursaries. PGT students are likely to be focused on their employability, post-study outcomes and return on investment. International PGT students usually commit themselves to a shorter term of study overseas than other international students. Due to their relative maturity and mobility, these students are usually more open to a range of study destinations and programme designs. Finally, because of their strong career motivation and reliance on private funding, this student cohort tends to be more discriminating in their educational choices, seeking expert opinion from academics, alumni, agents and other advisers. The challenge of recruiting international PGT students therefore presents a specific set of contextual complexities. Globally, the competition for international PGT students is increasingly acute. They are recognised as an increasingly important foundation in many higher education systems for sustaining critical capability to deliver postgraduate programmes for domestic students. The growth of online learning capacities and the burgeoning realities of transnational education are simultaneously challenging traditional forms of postgraduate coursework delivery internationally. There are also clear signs that key source nations for PGT students (most notably China and India) are responding to growing pressure to expand their skills base by improving the quality, scope and availability of postgraduate programmes at home. In short, the international PGT marketplace is characterised by students who are able to exercise strong agency and who can select from a growing range of location and programme preferences. Taught postgraduate courses are more immediately related to professions and labour markets.

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So, in this complex environment, how does the UK best position itself to compete for international PGT students? In order to understand these issues more effectively, this report considers the following questions: • W  hat are the international PGT enrolment trends in UK higher education and in key competitor countries? The competitor countries considered in this series are Australia, Canada, Germany, New Zealand and the US. • H  ow do UK policy responses toward the recruitment and maintenance of international PGT students compare with strategies adopted over recent years in competitor countries? • What is the UK’s competitive position and where is there competitive advantage in the PGT student experience and national policy? • W  hat matters most to international PGT students and how does the UK experience compare to the experience of international students in competitor nations? • What are the key influences on PGT student choice and how does this differ from rival markets? • What recommended actions and policy changes should policymakers and universities consider to improve PGT recruitment? The report’s methodology centres on considered analysis of a range of primary and secondary data, including: • S tatistics on international PGT student recruitment in the UK and major competitor countries, institutional positioning and arrangements targeted at this population • National and regional government policy on recruitment, support and post-study employment • Survey data on the international PGT student experience. The student experience data is derived from the International Student Barometer™ (ISB)3, the world’s largest survey of international student satisfaction and a global benchmark for the student experience. The ISB offers a unique and rich source of cross-institutional, cross-country and longitudinal perspectives to inform this analysis.

3 A service of the International Graduate Insight Group (i-graduate), part of Tribal Group PLC.

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2. International PGT enrolment trends There is ample evidence of heightened competition for talented international postgraduate teaching (PGT) students. For UK universities, growing competition comes not only from traditional hosts such as the US, Germany and Australia, but also from a growing number of destination countries with ambitious strategies to recruit international PGT students. In this category, and in this report, we include Canada and New Zealand. Meanwhile, traditional source countries such as China and India are investing in building local institutional capability as economic growth generates higher levels of demand for a postgraduate-trained workforce. Notably, this segment of the student market is particularly sensitive to the transformations in higher education provision offered by expanding transnational education and online learning technologies. Although these phenomena are not new, they have now become ubiquitous features of higher education provision internationally, affording ever greater and more credible options for potential PGT students to study in their home countries in leading international programmes. Disciplines centred on business and technology are vulnerable to competition from transnational and online postgraduate programmes. Notwithstanding these trends, the expanding global demand for professionals with postgraduate qualifications continues to drive growth in the international taught postgraduate market. At the same time, more support is becoming available for potential PGT students to study overseas where local universities possess insufficient capacity or academic capability to offer high-quality postgraduate programmes. This complex environment demands that universities continually hone their international strategies and intensify well-targeted international student recruitment efforts based on their competitive advantages as postgraduate providers. This section provides a clearer picture of this emerging competitive landscape for international PGT students and investigates some of the key prospective trends. A snapshot of international student movement At a broad level, the most recent OECD data from 2012 indicates more than 4.5 million foreign tertiary education students enrolled outside of their country of origin; an increase from 4.3 million in 2011 and 3.8 million in 2009. Since 2000, the global number of foreign students has more than doubled, representing an annual average growth of 7% per year4. Of the UK’s competitors, the US received the most foreign students (16.4%), exceeding the UK’s 12.6% share. This market share was followed by Germany (6.3%), France (6.0%) and Australia (5.5%). Together, these five countries hosted around half of all tertiary education students pursuing their studies abroad in 2012. While all countries overviewed in this report have expanded their overall numbers of foreign students at both undergraduate and postgraduate levels, their relative shares have shifted. The US share of international students declined from 22.8% (475,169) in 2000 to 16.4% (740,475) in 2012. During the same period, Australia’s share increased from 5.1% (105,764) to 5.5% (249,588).

4 http://www.oecd.org/education/skills-beyond-school/EDIF%202013--N%C2%B014%20%28eng%29-Final.pdf

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Figure 2: Distribution of foreign and international students by destination country, 2013 Other OECD countries 10% Turkey** 1% Korea** 1% Spain 1% South Arabia** 2% Netherlands 2%

Other non-OECD countries 20%

Austria 2% Italy** 2% China** 2% Canada* 3% Japan 3% United States 19% Russian Federation** 3%

Germany 5%

France 6% Australia 6%

United Kingdon 10%

* Year of reference 2012 ** Data refer to foreign instead of international students Source: OECD 2015 Education at a Glance report

International postgraduate teaching student enrolments Looking specifically at indicative international PGT student numbers, in 2013–14 the US hosted the most international PGTs (224,000), followed by the UK (124,960), Australia (78,885), Canada (75,600), Germany (32,480) and New Zealand (5,000). The table below illustrates how the numbers of international PGT students travelling to the UK and key competitor nations have changed since 2007. Some caution is required in interpreting this table, as some data included for several countries are based on estimates where direct information is not available (refer to the Explanatory Notes following the table). Although all these countries recorded absolute increases in students over the period from 2007-14, their relative shares of students shifted and some competitors went backwards in real terms, shedding light on which destinations are considered most attractive for this cohort. Within the group, Canada recorded the greatest percentage increase PGT numbers from 2007-8 to 2013-14, up 70.2% from 44,430 to 75,609. New Zealand, starting from a small base, saw growth of 26% to 5,000. The UK’s significant growth of 27.8%, adding 27,189 students, translates into a marginal fall in market share (-1.4%). The US experienced 32.5% growth, adding 55,000 students with a marginal increase in market share (+2.3%). Germany and Australia grew numbers but lost market share (-15.3% and -16.2% respectively). A distinguishing factor in UK PGT education is the typically shorter study time, with most study completed around a single academic year. While the US leads the table in terms of total PGT enrolments, we estimate that the UK has a higher number of new commencements each year, making it the world’s largest recruiter of PGT students.

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Table 2: International PGT total student enrolments 2007 to 2014 (and change in comparative share)

Change International  2007–08  2008–09  2009–10  2010–11  2011–12  2012–13  2013–14 since UG students 2007-08

% Change since 2007-08

Market share 2007-08

Change Market in share market 2013-14 share (% points)

UK (non-EU)

97,771

111,245

128,165

134,660

129,740

121,845

124,960

27,189

27.80%

23.40%

23.10%

-0.30%

-1.40%

Australia

72,660

77,125

81,631

81,271

75,859

73,112

78,885

6,225

8.60%

17.40%

14.60%

-2.80%

-16.20%

New Zealand

3,955

4,202

4,709

5,106

5,077

5,386

5,000

1,045

26.40%

0.90%

0.90%

0.00%

-2.40%

US

169,000

178,000

182,000

181,000

187,000

199,000

224,000

55,000

32.50%

40.50%

41.40%

0.90%

2.30%

Canada

44,430

45,676

50,605

55,898

61,709

68,419

75,609

31,179

70.20%

10.60%

14.00%

3.30%

31.30%

Germany (non-EU)

29,600

28,480

28,800

28,960

29,440

30,880

32,480

2,880

9.70%

7.10%

6.00%

-1.10%

-15.30%

Total

417,416

444,728

475,910

486,895

488,825

498,642

540,934

123,518

29.60%

% change in market share

Explanatory notes for this table 1. UK enrolment data directly from http://www.hefce.ac.uk/analysis/postgraduate/lterm/ (Enrolment Data Set) 2. Australian data directly from http://highereducationstatistics.education.gov.au (Enrolment Data Set) 3. New Zealand data estimated based on postgraduate enrolments by Education Counts NZ https://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/statistics/ international-education/international-students-in-new-zealand 4. Canadian data based on modelled estimates using Immigration and OECD data 5. US data based on modelled estimates, as no specific US data is available to separate postgraduate student numbers into teaching and research. Estimates based on IIE Open Doors data http://www.iie.org/en/Research-and-Publications/Open-Doors/Data/International-Students/AcademicLevel/2012-14 6.  German data derived from DAAD data http://www.wissenschaftweltoffen.de/kompakt/wwo2015_kompakt_en.pdf 7. Change in the share of foreign PGT students within this group of six countries, not including other countries’ share of foreign PGT students.

To provide a greater clarity around this data, it is useful to examine overall and PGT student enrolment trends in these individual competitor countries. In Australia, the number of international PGT students remained broadly stable since 2007, ranging from 87,000 in that year to 94,000 in 2013. However, Australia did suffer a significant drop of international PGT students in 2011 and 2012, following negative publicity concerning the safety of Indian students, changes in visa arrangements and a significant strengthening of the Australian dollar. In 2013, about a third of all PGT students in Australian universities were international students. Of these students, around 65% of international PGT students were enrolled in Management, Commerce or Information Technology programmes, with around 10% enrolled in Engineering, Health and Education programmes5.

5 http://highereducationstatistics.education.gov.au (Enrolment Data Set)

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Since 2006, New Zealand has recorded relatively consistent increases in international PGT student enrolments, despite a rising New Zealand dollar and some volatility in the number of students coming from China, its largest source country for students. The policy decision to charge fees for international students on the same basis as domestic students was a key contributing factor. This substantially lowered the cost of studying there and led to a sustained increase in overall international postgraduate student enrolments (unlike the greater fluctuations experienced in international students in bachelor level programmes). Universities in New Zealand in 2014 enrolled 53,000 international students, up from 48,000 in 2013. While undergraduate programmes account for the bulk of international student growth in the United States, international PGT enrolments have also steadily increased in recent years. The number of international PGT students enrolled in graduate programmes is estimated to have risen 19% from 2010–11 to 2013–14 (181,000 to 224,000). This significant growth can be attributed to increasing efforts by US universities to expand their sources of revenue following the recessionary decline in endowment returns and broader domestic student revenues. As the least internationalised system among key competitors, the US is now emerging as a strengthening competitor in the international PGT student market. The importance of international graduate students to US universities is particularly apparent in specific disciplines. It is estimated that full-time international graduate students (including both Masters and PhD level) make up between 50% and 70% of enrolments in programmes such as engineering, computer science and economics6. The top three countries of origin for international students are China, India, and South Korea, who together account for an estimated 50% of all international enrolments in the US. Saudi Arabia, the fourth-ranked source, accounts for 6% of enrolments. Apart from these top four countries, the remaining top 25 sending countries contribute 5,000 students or more, though none of them account for more than 5% of international enrolments in the US. In Canada, international students comprise 16% of students at graduate level. Canada has launched an ambitious campaign to increase its share of international higher education students. These efforts have yielded demonstrable results for international PGT students, up from an estimated 44,000 in 2007–08 to around 76,000 in the last reporting period. While international students enrolled in Canada in 2013 came from 194 countries, the top five source countries – China, India, South Korea, Saudi Arabia, and France – accounted for more than half of all foreign student enrolments, and the top 10 sending countries accounted for 71% of total foreign student enrolments. More than one-third of foreign students in Canada in 2013 came from China7. Although there are more than 280,000 international students in Germany, the numbers of international PGT students have remained relatively static over the last decade. Hence Germany’s share has declined overall. Indeed, if it weren’t for a slightly larger increase in student numbers in the last year, Germany’s declining international student share would have matched that of Australia. Potential barriers for international students in Germany, most notably around language and qualification structures, need to be taken into account. Reflecting this, the top five countries of origin for international students studying in Germany in 2012–13 were Turkey, China, Russia, Austria and Italy.

6 The Importance of International Students to America. http://www.nfap.com/ 7 http://monitor.icef.com/2014/11/record-high-international-enrolment-canada-2013-many-students-plan-stay/

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3. Policy analysis: The UK market and primary competitors Among key competitor nations, the market for PGT international students has grown by almost 30% (29.6%) since 2007-8. This is a significant leap, although less than for UG numbers (up 42%). The number of PGT students opting to study in the UK since 2007-8 has almost kept pace (up 27.8%) after falling from a high point of 134,660 in 2011 and recovering partially since, to 124,960. Other competitors performed less strongly, with Australia and Germany growing by less than 10% over the same period. Growth in the US and New Zealand was comparable, at 32.5% and 26.4% respectively. From OBHE estimates Canada has been the relative winner, increasing their estimated PGT numbers by 70.2% to 75,609. As this data suggests, the international PGT student market is volatile. It responds more immediately to local factors, such as higher costs (typically volatility of currencies), security concerns or provider problems, and policy. This reflects the capacity of PGT students to exercise greater levels of choice around possible programmes, when compared to their undergraduate and research colleagues. As is the case with international student recruitment more generally, the UK’s traditional competitors for international students have refreshed their policy strategies over the last five years in order to sustain and build their international students numbers. Initiatives have included liberalising visa application and approval processes, improving work opportunities during and post-study, improving institutional support, and expanding PGT programme options. These policy shifts have been driven by growing appreciation of the immediate and longer-term benefits that international students contribute to domestic educational, economic, social outcomes and ‘soft power’. Meanwhile, other competitive pressures continue to mount. The US – the ‘sleeping giant’ of the international student market and the least internationalised system among the major players – is now seeking to lift its international numbers in response to cumulative recessionary impact on enrolments and endowments. The traditional ability of the US to draw the most talented postgraduate students from across the world and to rank first choice for these students, may further test the attractiveness of options for PGT study in rival markets. Moreover, other less familiar competitors are beginning to attract more PGT students. At the same time, expanded levels of scholarship support in some source countries is allowing international students to be more discriminating in their decisions as to where to study. Finally, as considered later in this report, the tandem growth of transnational educational institutions and strengthening of universities in traditional source countries is driving further challenges and complexity within the international student marketplace. Key competitor countries Given this competitive environment, it is useful to consider specific policy responses developed by the UK’s main competitor countries to sustain and grow their international student numbers. This analysis outlines recent policy moves in Australia, New Zealand, the US, Canada and Germany, with a focus on PGT student recruitment.

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Australia International education is a highly significant contributor to the Australian economy, being its largest services export, with an estimated contribution of A$16.3b to the economy in 2013–148. As is the case with PGR students, international students make up around a third of the total of PGT students in Australian universities (94,360 students in total). International PGT students therefore make a critical contribution to both the broader Australian economy and to the ability of Australia’s universities to maintain postgraduate coursework (PGT) programmes, in particular in STEM, Health and Education disciplines. However, from 2010, Australia experienced a significant fall in PGT student numbers, reflecting factors outlined earlier this report (currency appreciation, student security concerns and private provider issues). This prompted a series of policy responses to address this decline. Firstly, the Australian Government commissioned an independent (Knight9) review of international student arrangements in 2011. Most significantly, this review led to streamlining the visa application process for many countries and student categories. The review also provided a set of policy recommendations that were largely adopted in order to enhance the competitiveness of Australia’s international education sector. These recommendations included: • Reduction  of financial requirements for higher risk AL3 and AL4 student visa applicants, allowing students to have A$36,000 less in the bank when applying for a visa10. • Introduction  of the Genuine Temporary Entrant (GTE) requirement to help reduce immigration risk and maintain the integrity of the student visa programme. • Introduction  of the Fraud Public Interest Criteria, allowing refusal of a visa application if an applicant provides false or misleading documents or information as part of their application for a student visa (introduced in 2011). • Implementation  of streamlined visa processing arrangements for certain prospective students of participating universities in Australia at Bachelor, Masters or Doctoral degree level, allowing them to be assessed as though they are a lower immigration risk, regardless of their country of origin (introduced in 2012). • Introduction  of post-study work arrangements for international students to allow graduates who have completed a PGT degree to apply for a Temporary Graduate visa for up to four years (introduced in 2013). • Abolition  of automatic and mandatory cancellation provisions for student visas to provide fairer outcomes for students and more discretion by allowing the Australian Government to take into account the individual circumstances of a student when considering a breach of visa conditions11. In April 2015, the Australian Government issued a Draft National Strategy for International Education for stakeholder consultation. This strategy was designed to further enhance the ‘quality of the educational and living experiences for international students and embrace new ways to meet rising demand internationally for high-quality education services’12. In this draft, the Australian Government committed to maintaining the earlier changes to visa applications that simplified the application process for postgraduate research students, to improving institutional quality assurance mechanisms for international students, to broadening industry-based experience, and to encouraging the expansion of English language support by universities.

8 Australian Government, Export Income to Australia from international education activity in 2013-14, 2014 9 https://internationaleducation.gov.au/International-network/Australia/policyupdates/Pages/Article-StudentVisaProgramReviewandGovernmentResponseAnnounced.aspx 10 http://www.immi.gov.au/students/_pdf/review-student-visa-assessment-level-framework-2013.pdf 11 http://www.immi.gov.au/students/_pdf/review-student-visa-assessment-level-framework-2013.pdf 12 https://internationaleducation.gov.au/International-network/Australia/InternationalStrategy/Documents/Draft%20National%20Strategy%20for%20International%20Education.pdf

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New Zealand International students, in particular postgraduate students, have become an important source of skilled migrants for New Zealand, and the country has endeavoured to increase foreign student numbers by creating work and residency opportunities after graduation. The New Zealand Leadership Statement on International Education issued in 2011 set the ambitious goal of doubling the number of international postgraduate students (with a particular focus on PhD students) from 10,000 to 20,000 by 2026. Furthermore, it sought to encourage these international postgraduate students to seek residence in New Zealand to strengthen the nation’s economic and social potential. The policy statement also called on universities to innovate to ensure the creation of more ‘vocationally-orientated’ postgraduate options for international students13. Largely as a result of these strategies, over the last decade 22% of international students gained permanent residence in New Zealand within five years of being issued their first student visa, and as of 2012–13, 42% of skilled migrants were previously foreign students who had successfully applied to stay permanently in the country14. To support the internationalisation of postgraduate education, New Zealand had implemented an earlier policy change in 2006, which granted postgraduate research students domestic fee status, regardless of their country of origin. This led to a decrease in annual fees from around NZ$28,000 to NZ$5,000, and was a major factor in generating rapid growth in foreign research student numbers, rising from 692 in 2005 to 3,654 in 201415. Other related policy changes have allowed international students to work up to 20 hours per week during term-time, and full-time during breaks. New Zealand also offered international graduates two-to-three year work visa opportunities and encouraged skilled migration by giving international students points towards immigration, based on attainment of particular qualifications. However, New Zealand’s competitive standing has been adversely impacted by some negative publicity in recent years. Notably, in 2008 the failing of a number of private post-secondary providers heavily dependent on international students (particularly from China) impacted on the attractiveness of New Zealand as a study destination. The Christchurch earthquakes of 2011 had an understandably negative impact on relative attractiveness. Interestingly, international students reported a greater sense of belonging and integration from this time. United States Declines in domestic enrolment in the US, weak demographics in parts of the country, and mounting pressure on state appropriations have jointly persuaded a large number of universities and colleges to more aggressively recruit international students. With its established standing as the pre-eminent national brand for postgraduate study, and now offering an increased supply of places, the US has become a more realistic and competitive option for international students. No major US government policy change has spurred these trends, although the Obama administration’s efforts to increase ‘Green Card’ numbers and an announcement of major study abroad targets for US students may have helped. While the overwhelming majority of international students in the US are self-funded or funded by their families, growing sources of funding include international organisations, foreign governments/universities, and employers. US universities are also making greater use of education agents, following the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) decision to formally permit such recruitment practices. Fewer than 5% of students in US higher education are international, compared to 11% in the UK (non-EU students) and close to 20% in Australia. This serves as a reminder that the recent surge in international student numbers in the US, and increased interest from agents, is as much a response to the opening up of supply as a reflection of increased demand. Significantly, international students in the US are usually not permitted to work, other than on campus. Campus work is limited to 20 hours a week during term-time and full-time during breaks. There are two routes to off-campus work. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) permits a student to engage in off-campus work as an integral part of their studies for up to 20 hours a week. Optional Practical Training (OPT) permits off-campus work, both during and post-studies, in a position relevant to the student’s subject area. Students do not have to be sponsored by an employer. OPT may extend up to 29 months, and may be the foundation for permanent residence. Students who engage in CPT for more than 12 months are not eligible for OPT. 13 http://enz.govt.nz/sites/public_files/Leadership%20Statement%20for%20International%20Education.pdf 14 http://www.dol.govt.nz/publications/research/migration-trends-1213/index.asp 15 http://www.educationcounts.govt.nz/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/115030/NZ-Universities-Trends-in-International-Enrolments.pdf

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Canada As education is a provincial and territorial jurisdiction in Canada, there is no national education ministry. However, international education is an increasingly important priority for all provinces and has become a strategic public policy objective to help achieve Canada’s diplomatic, trade and immigration objectives. In January 2014, the federal government unveiled Canada’s first International Education Strategy (IES)16, outlining a pan-Canadian strategy to spur consensus across governments, organisations and universities. The IES sets out to double Canada’s international student population (from the 2011 level of 239,000 to 450,000 by 2022), primarily by focusing on priority education markets – Brazil, China, India, Mexico, North Africa and the Middle East and Vietnam – and reinforcing established markets. In addition, the strategy seeks to more effectively brand Canadian education to maximise success, to strengthen institutional research partnerships and educational exchanges, and leverage people-to-people ties.17 In 2006, the government created the Off-Campus Work Permit, which allowed international students to apply for a permit to work offcampus for up to 20 hours per week. Since 2006, the number of students holding a work permit has tripled, reaching 70,200 in 2012. In 2012, 7,797 international students from across Canada transitioned to permanent residency. While most international students still transition to PR through the Federal Skilled Worker Programme, other options such as the Provincial Nominee Programme and the Canadian Experience Class (launched in 2008) are increasingly used. Regulatory changes introduced in 2014 placed limitations on study permits for students attending universities designated by provinces and territories; the goal being to assure accountability within the international student programmes in Canada. Foreign nationals at non-designated universities can still study on a visitor permit for up to six months, but are not eligible for Work Permit programmes designed for international students (e.g. Co-op/Internship Work Permit Programme, Off-Campus Work Permit Programme, Post-Graduation Work Permit Programme)18. At the same time the Off-Campus Work Permit was integrated with the Study Permit in 2014, eliminating the need to apply for both separately. This allows graduates from designated universities to gain the Canadian work experience needed to transition to permanent residence19. Nationally, tuition fees in Canada have been rising: university fees for international students are now approximately twice those of Canadian students. The only province not to experience an increase was Newfoundland and Labrador, where a tuition fees freeze included international students. In the other provinces, fee increases for international undergraduate students ranged from 2.1% in Prince Edward Island to 6.9% in Ontario. For international graduate students, increases ranged from 1.0% in Alberta to 7.7% in Saskatchewan. Germany In recent years, the German Federal Government has sought to improve the performance and competitiveness of research and instruction through a variety of initiatives designed to attract more international students to its universities. A series of programmes was introduced to significantly lower the cost of study, including postgraduate study. A funded consortium was also established to strengthen international marketing of graduate level studies. Since 2010, the consortium has designed strategies to increase the international visibility of opportunities in Germany.20. In addition, a range of regionally focused activities was instituted to raise awareness of innovation in Germany in target markets, for example, South Korea (2006–07), India (2008–10) and Russia (2012–14)21. In 2011, the government introduced the Germany Scholarship for high-achieving students. Recipients receive €300 per month; half supplied by private sponsors and half by the Federal Government. In its first year of operation, around 10,000 students received this joint funding. The objective is to provide funding to up to 8% of all students at German universities (about 160,000)22 in the medium term.

16 http://www.cbie-bcei.ca/news/one-year-later-progress-on-canadas-international-education-strategy/ 17 http://monitor.icef.com/2014/11/record-high-international-enrolment-canada-2013-many-students-plan-stay/ 18 http://www.amssa.org/files/AMSSA%20Info%20Sheet%20Issue%2012%20-%20International%20Students%20-%20Statistics%20and%20Trends.pdf 19 http://www.amssa.org/files/AMSSA%20Info%20Sheet%20Issue%2012%20-%20International%20Students%20-%20Statistics%20and%20Trends.pdf 20 http://www.bmbf.de/en/12159.php 21 http://www.bmbf.de/en/12159.php 22 http://www.bmbf.de/en/14332.php

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4. The international postgraduate taught student experience in the UK To understand the experiences of UK-based international PGT students, this report uses the International Student Barometer™ (ISB) survey and draws on these findings to identify issues and propose strategies to attract prospective international students. The ISB survey has been implemented by over 100 UK universities and more than 800 universities worldwide. Comparisons at the national level are limited to participating universities in any specific year. However, as the world’s largest student survey, with more than 2.3 million responses globally (including more than 520,000 PGT students), the scale of the exercise provides substantive indicators for almost all aspects of the student experience. The ISB instrument tracks five dimensions of the PGT student experience with a total of 152 checkpoints, plus an indication of overall satisfaction and a measure of recommendation – the extent to which a student would recommend their study experience to others (a derivation of the widely-used Net Promoter Score). Figure 3: ISB survey structure Section 1: Application and Decision-Making

43 Checkpoints

Section 2: Arrival experience

18 Checkpoints

Overall Satisfaction +

Section 3: Learning

36 Checkpoints

152 Checkpoints +

Section 4: Living

24 Checkpoints

Section 5: Support Services

31 Checkpoints

Recommendation (NPS)

This section compares the principal components of the student experience; drawing from the arrival experience, the learning experience, the living experience and support services. By using a measure of derived importance, it is possible to establish which components matter most. Section 5 then looks at what has changed over time. Section 6 considers how the PGT experience in the UK stacks up against major rivals. Principal elements compared Most student surveys focus on the learning experience. This is hardly surprising; after all, students are there to learn. However, for international PGT students, the wider contextual experience is vital to consider. The international PGT student will typically confront a more complex series of challenges than domestic students, who are inevitably familiar with local educational and social environments. The not insignificant challenges of social integration, access to accommodation and the quality of teaching and learning facilities assume greater importance. In addition, the personal and family commitments of international PGT students are frequently more multifaceted than those confronted by domestic students. This is aside from perennial uncertainties around future funding and employability post-study (given the normal objective is to gain employment through PGT study). PGT students also bring with them the important comparator of their own undergraduate study experience in their home nation. Given these factors, the ISB data provides a rich foundation to help demystify the current international PGT experience, as well as to provide pointers to specific actions that might improve the UK’s capacity to attract these students into the future. 20


The arrival experience First impressions are vitally important – whether the student feels welcome or not, integrated or isolated, oriented or disorientated – and are particularly critical for international students. For this reason, the ISB asks all newly arrived PGT students (within three months of commencing their studies) 17 common questions about their arrival experience. The data outlined below is taken from the most recent available ISB outcomes from the 2014–15 UK academic cycle, comprising feedback from 21,536 international PGT students. Of these, 16,966 PGT students answered questions in the arrival section. The table below indicates that forming social connections is one area where international PGT students are less satisfied (with only 68% reporting a positive experience). Interestingly – given the inherently social nature of PGT study – this satisfaction level is 14 percentage points below new UG international students. Moreover, there appears to be a gender dimension to this issue, with female international PGT students 66% satisfied, while male international PGT students reported 70% satisfaction levels. The relative size of the university also appears to have a bearing on these outcomes, with PGT students in smaller universities (less than 5,000) reporting lower levels of satisfaction than those at medium-sized universities (5-15,000). In small universities, the rate of satisfaction with social connection was rated at 58%, while in larger universities, this was at 71%. This data suggests that universities receiving international PGT students – and, in particular smaller campuses – need to focus more effort on facilitating the development of social relationships for international PGT students. This observation is even more relevant for female students in this cohort. Conversely, the areas where satisfaction is highest for international PGT students broadly follows the pattern of PGR students: ability to meet relevant academic staff (92%), processes of academic registration (91%), and dealing with the university finance office (91%). The number of PGT students who felt satisfied with the welcome they received to the university (78%), is marginally ahead of PGR students (76%), but well below UG students (82%). The truncated term ‘welcome’ refers specifically to the ‘meet and greet’ at the airport or rail station. This system appears to be working best for the UG international student population, whose arrival in more predictable patterns appears more straightforward to manage and resource. Table 3: ISB survey data on the international UG arrival experience in the UK, 2014 PGT Arrival Experience % satisfied or very satisfied

UK 2014

Accommodation Office

86%

Accommodation Condition

83%

Bank account

78%

Internet access

83%

Finance Office

91%

First night

84%

Formal welcome

89%

Home friends

89%

Host friends

68%

Local Orientation

86%

Meeting staff

92%

Other friends

86%

Registration

91%

Social activities

85%

Study sense

86%

University Orientation

89%

Welcome

78%

21


The learning experience The learning experience section of the ISB uses 24 standard measures for PGT students, dealing with their experiences with teaching and learning, facilities and other components of their studies. PGT students at all stages of their studies are invited to give feedback on their learning experience, resulting in a base of 18,282 respondents for this section in the UK 2014–15 ISB. Later, we will look at trend data and how the UK compares to other countries. It is significant that PGT international students in the UK rate the subject expertise of their lecturers most highly (with satisfaction at 94%). Student responses to the key elements of the postgraduate coursework experience are similarly positive, most notably the quality of lectures (at 90%), the quality of assessment (at 91%) and learning support (at 90%) – ‘learning support’ specifically meaning ‘getting time from academic staff when I need it/personal support with learning’. PGT students in the UK also highly rate library facilities (both online and physical), the teaching labs and virtual learning environments. Socially, they also give a high rating to studying with students from other countries (90%); this last measure providing a positive counterpoint to early concerns around friendships among newly arriving students. Importantly, international PGT students demonstrate generally less satisfaction with the quality and availability of opportunities for work experience, levels of careers advice (from academic staff) and in their sense of employability as a result of the completion of their qualification. Table 4: ISB survey data on the international PGT learning experience in the UK, 2014 PGT Arrival Experience % satisfied or very satisfied

UK 2014

Academics' English

91%

Marking criteria

87%

Assessment

91%

Careers advice

75%

Course content

90%

Class size

84%

Expert lecturers

94%

Employability

80%

Good teachers

90%

Topic selection

88%

Online library

92%

Physical library

91%

Learning support

90%

Learning spaces

87%

Laboratories

92%

Language support

88%

Multicultural

90%

Course organisation

86%

Performance feedback

86%

Quality lectures

90%

Research

89%

Technology

91%

Virtual learning

93%

Work experience

68%

22


The living experience This section of the ISB questionnaire comprises 23 standard measures, covering accommodation and living, as well as day-to-day and broader social life experiences. A broad sample of 17,830 international PGT students in the UK provided feedback for this survey in the 2014–15 academic cycle. Generally, UK international PGT student satisfaction with their living experience is very positive, with safety, campus environment and the surroundings outside the university (labelled as ‘good place to be’), all being highly regarded. Friendships with other students from their home country and with students of diverse nationalities also appear to be flourishing, with high levels of satisfaction. Again, the survey data suggests that PGT students appear to struggle more than their fellow cohorts in terms of making friends from the UK, perhaps due in part to the high proportion of international students enrolled in PGT courses. However, part-time PGT students report much higher levels of satisfaction than full-time PGT students on this issue (85% and 68% respectively). Interestingly, when it comes to making friends with local students, there is some variation among different nationality groups, with high satisfaction, for example, among PGT students from Singapore, Argentina and the Philippines. Significantly, the primary areas of comparative concern are clearly grouped around financial factors: the cost of living (66% satisfied), the cost of accommodation (58%), opportunities to earn money (51%), and financial support from the university (52%). As satisfaction with financial support among PGT students is considerably lower than that expressed by international UG and PGR students, this issue warrants further scrutiny in order to frame possible institutional and government responses. Table 5: ISB survey data on the international PGT living experience in the UK, 2014 PGT Living Experience % satisfied or very satisfied

UK 2014

Accommodation quality

85%

Accommodation cost

58%

Eco-friendly attitude

91%

Earning money

51%

Financial support

52%

Good contacts

80%

Good place to be

93%

Host culture

83%

Host friends

68%

Internet access

84%

Living cost

66%

Other friends

87%

Campus buildings

90%

Campus environment

93%

Social activities

85%

Safety

94%

Home friends

88%

Social facilities

85%

Sport facilities

81%

External transport links

88%

University transport links

85%

Visa advice

88%

Worship facilities

90%

23


Support services All responding PGT students are asked first which university support services they have used (refer table 6) and then, for those services, how satisfied they are with that service (table 7). So while base numbers represented in table 7 will be smaller, these responses will be best informed. For this question, 17,036 PGT students studying in UK provided feedback in the 2014–15 academic cycle. The most used service is catering. A large proportion of PGT students also make some use of IT support (52%), four in ten (40%) will join a university club or society, and 28% report using the careers service. Compared to research postgraduates, international PGT students are more likely to join student unions (44% v 38%) and more likely to use the university careers service (28% v 21%). Table 6: ISB survey data on international PGT support services usage in the UK, 2014 PGT Support Services Usage PGT Base

17,036

UK 2014

Catering

11,687

69% 

IT support

8,894

52%

Students’ Union

7,518

44%

Clubs/societies

6,860

40%

Finance Department

6,378

37%

Accommodation Office

6,279

37%

Personal Tutors

6,199

36%

Student Advisory

5,941

35%

International Office

5,917

35%

Careers Service

4,846

28%

Health Centre

4,362

26%

Graduate School

2,981

17%

Residential Assistants

2,297

13%

Counselling

1,721

10%

Faith Provision

1,505

9%

905

5%

Disability Support

As indicated in table 7, the highest level of satisfaction with support services was recorded for graduate schools (97%) and personal tutors (95%) where these are available, alongside student advisory services, the student union and clubs/societies (all 95%). Also notable is the 92% satisfaction rate for students who use university counselling services. Relatively lower levels of satisfaction are reported around the catering and accommodation office. For catering, culturally-related traditions and norms play an undoubted role, with some nationality groups reporting higher levels of satisfaction with the food than others. Students more critical of the catering include those from Turkey and Greece (64% and 77% satisfied), whereas those with higher satisfaction ratings include students from Australia and Russia (93% and 89%).

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Table 7: ISB survey data on international PGT satisfaction with support services in the UK, 2014 PGT Support Services Satisfaction % satisfied or very satisfied

 UK 2014

Accommodation Office

85%

Catering

82%

Counselling

92%

Careers Service

89%

Disability Support

94%

Finance Department

91%

Faith Provision

94%

Graduate School

97%

Health Centre

91%

Residential Assistants

92%

International Office

94%

IT support

94%

Personal Tutors

95%

Student Advisory

95%

Students' Union

95%

Clubs/societies

95%

The PGT international student experience – what matters most? For the ISB, i-graduate uses a derived measure of importance rather than an explicit one. The earliest iterations of the survey asked students to express importance explicitly. This made the survey overly long and established that almost every aspect of the student experience is important to nearly all students. The derived measure is not a complex algorithm; it is a measure of correlation between each component of the student experience and the student’s propensity to recommend. So if students would not recommend their experience to others, they are more likely to be dissatisfied with (for example) accommodation and the derived importance score would be higher. This would likewise apply in that students who are more satisfied with accommodation are more likely to recommend their experience. As shown in table 8, the analysis suggests that, for international PGT students studying in the UK, the learning experience dominates the picture, more than any other level of study. Recommendation is driven primarily by the quality of lectures, the organisation of the course, course content and teaching. Employability, specifically ‘learning that will help me get a good job’, is placed number 5, reflecting the career ambitions of students on PGT courses. It is important to note the significance of course organisation, ranked second only – and only marginally second - to the quality of lectures, just above course content and good teaching. In a note to course administrators and course directors alike, for PGT students the ‘academic administrative’ dimension is as important as what happens at the front of the classroom. While the derived importance indicator might put one marginally in front of the other, it is evident that no PGT programme will excel without both working in harmony. Also of importance, the ability to swiftly make sense of the course of study is high in the list – the only dimension of the arrival experience in the top ten. This indicates that for international PGT students, being able to get off to a good start with a clear understanding of the course and how it will unfold over is vitally important, no doubt especially as time for programme completion is generally shorter than for undergraduates or research students. It can be inferred that lack of clear communication about PGT courses and how they will be delivered and assessed may impact on whether students would recommend it: a further pointer to the crucial importance of academic and professional staff working in harmony.

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For the living and social experience, the most important aspect for international PGT students is making good contacts for the future. To some extent, as an area that commands higher expectation, this explains why good contacts also records lower comparative levels of satisfaction. Similarly, networking and making contacts are clearly part of the PGT value proposition for international students. Table 8: ISB survey data – derived importance of the international PGT student experience in the UK, 2014 Derived Importance

Rank

Area

Component of PGT experience

1

Learning

Quality lectures

36.00%

2

Learning

Course organisation

35.00%

3

Learning

Course content

34.70%

4

Learning

Good teachers

33.60%

5

Learning

Employability

33.40%

6

Learning

Expert lecturers

31.10%

7

Arrival

Study sense

30.40%

8

Learning

Research activity

30.30%

9

Learning

Topic selection

29.50%

10

Learning

Careers advice

29.10%

11

Living

Good contacts

28.70%

12

Arrival

Meeting staff

28.60%

13

Learning

Assessment

28.40%

14

Support

Counselling

28.20%

15

Learning

Performance feedback

28.10%

16

Arrival

University Orientation

27.90%

17

Learning

Learning support

27.90%

18

Support

Graduate School

27.90%

19

Learning

Marking criteria

27.60%

20

Living

Campus buildings

27.60%

26


5. What has changed since 2008? While any student survey is useful as a snapshot in time of the student experience, it is just that: a moment in time. Years ago universities would reassure themselves that a picture, taken once every two or three years, would be sufficient to reassure them that all is well with the student and his or her experience. With PGT study in the UK typically single-year, this would mean universities missing whole cohorts of students when measuring and tracking the experience. The ISB runs each year, giving all PGT students the opportunity to participate. So, looking at the international taught postgraduate student experience, what has changed since 2008? This question is important for two reasons. Firstly, the once near-timeless experience of higher-level study is now readily impacted by changes outside the organisation, such as the growing array of competing universities and competitive factors. Secondly, this question underscores the value of a sequence of surveys – regular feedback – to understand what has changed. This applies not only to contextual changes for students (alternative options, their motivations for study, the expectations they bring with them), but also to the impact of changes made following positive interventions when compared to no intervention at all. Figure 4: Closing the loop (Archer, 2008)

Internal Review

Invite Student Feedback

Collect Student Feedback

Aggregate and Compare

Implementation of Changes

Closing the Loop Resource Allocation

Report -back

Institution-level Disaggregation

Prioritisation

Interpretation

Dissemination

Firstly, as noted earlier in the report, the number of international PGT students in the UK has increased by almost a third since 2007-8. This is impressive, given that competition for these students has stepped up globally as more countries have come to appreciate the role of international PGT students in sustaining and building domestic postgraduate teaching programmes (particularly in Business and STEM).

27


When considering the UK’s PGT gains, it is also worth noting that these students are more capable of exercising deliberate choice, given they have a broader range of options available compared to their postgraduate research colleagues. Hence, for some competitors (most notably Australia and Germany), perceived problems related to cost, quality or security have been quickly reflected in declines in student numbers. Conversely, as has been the case for Canada and New Zealand, innovation can be rewarded in increased PGT student numbers. Overall student satisfaction Overall measures of the UK international PGT student experience demonstrate significant improvements in satisfaction since 2008, the comparator point for this report. Indeed, international PGT student satisfaction has improved in all categories assessed from a high base, suggesting incremental and steady improvement. Significantly, international PGT students’ propensity to recommend the value of their postgraduate studies in the UK has increased by four percentage points over this period. In 2014, 86% of UK international PGT students would recommend their university to others thinking of applying. It is notable that the largest increase in satisfaction over time has related to the arrival experience and support services, where perhaps efforts are easier to implement and recognise. Improvement is also seen in learning and living. Table 9: ISB survey data – overall measures of the UK international PGT student experience, 2008-14 Overall Measures 2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Change

Recommendation

82%

83%

84%

84%

84%

86%

86%

4%

Overall Satisfaction

88%

89%

89%

89%

87%

89%

89%

1%

Arrival Overall

84%

86%

86%

85%

88%

89%

89%

5%

Learning Overall

86%

86%

86%

86%

87%

88%

87%

1%

Living Overall

86%

87%

88%

88%

88%

90%

88%

2%

Support Overall

88%

88%

90%

90%

91%

92%

91%

3%

The arrival experience International PGT students in the UK have reported improved satisfaction since 2008 across most measures. The greatest improvements have been in the practical issues of establishing a bank account, dealing with university Finance Offices, and arranging accommodation. ‘Home friends’ (+8%) refers to students making friends from their home countries and in this sense it is a counterindicator, to be tracked alongside ‘Host friends’ (-1%) which refers to making friends from the UK. Together with ‘Other friends (no change) these measures give an indication of integration. This continues to be a challenge for UK universities, particularly where there are strong concentrations of students of the same nationality. Appendix C shows that the proportion of students from China as a percentage of all international PGT students has increased from 19% to 35% since 2007-8. It is encouraging to report significant improvements in satisfaction levels with student registration processes (6%) and the welcome/ airport pickup (+7%). All students have higher expectations of internet access at their accommodation on arrival. While connectivity and service levels have no doubt improved since 2008, higher PGT student expectations have evidently impacted on satisfaction in this area.

28


Table 16: ISB survey data – the arrival experience for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 PGT Arrival Experience % satisfied or very satisfied 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Change

Accommodation Office

74%

76%

80%

81%

84%

84%

86%

11%

Accommodation Condition

N/A

N/A

78%

80%

82%

83%

83%

5%

Bank account

64%

65%

69%

73%

77%

79%

78%

14%

Internet access

86%

88%

80%

81%

82%

82%

83%

-3%

Finance Office

79%

81%

87%

88%

89%

90%

91%

12%

First night

79%

81%

81%

83%

84%

85%

84%

5%

Formal welcome

86%

87%

87%

87%

88%

89%

89%

3%

Home friends

81%

82%

89%

89%

89%

89%

89%

8%

Host friends

69%

73%

68%

69%

68%

68%

68%

-1%

Local Orientation

83%

85%

85%

85%

86%

87%

86%

3%

Meeting staff

89%

88%

91%

91%

90%

92%

92%

3%

Other friends

86%

88%

88%

87%

86%

87%

86%

0%

Registration

84%

84%

86%

87%

88%

91%

91%

6%

Social activities

83%

84%

83%

84%

84%

86%

85%

2%

Study sense

84%

84%

84%

85%

85%

87%

86%

2%

University Orientation

86%

86%

87%

87%

89%

89%

89%

3%

Welcome

71%

74%

74%

76%

77%

80%

78%

7%

The learning experience A notable positive finding: despite significant growth in PGT numbers since 2008 UK universities in aggregate have achieved increases in PGT student satisfaction across all 23 measures of the learning experience. The obvious pressure point in the learning experience, as numbers grow, is access to academic staff and support from them. It is therefore encouraging to note an increase in PGT student satisfaction against this measure. The percentage of students satisfied with learning support23 is up five percentage points from 2008, from 85% to 90% satisfied or very satisfied. Significant improvement is also evident in increased student satisfaction with language support, the multicultural environment of learning and careers advice (the last improving from a notably low base: up from 70% to 75%). Careers advice still requires further attention. In addition, one specific area – work experience – has been traditionally rated considerably lower than all other factors. Even though this has improved slightly since 2008, it remains by far one of the areas where PGT students are least satisfied. This suggests that student expectations around exposure to UK work environments as part of their study is not being fulfilled. Finally, it is worth noting that PGT student satisfaction with performance feedback has changed very marginally since 2008. This is an area of concern to undergraduates too, but they have several years to understand and master the complexities of evaluation. For postgraduate students where time is money and the investment in PG education has a very explicit opportunity cost, perceived obscure procedural formalities around marking and feedback can be a source of significant frustration. 23 The specific statement students respond to is “Getting time from academic staff when I need it/personal support with learning”

29


Table 17: ISB survey data – the learning experience for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 PGT Learning Experience

30

% satisfied or very satisfied 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Change

Academics' English

90%

91%

91%

90%

91%

91%

91%

1%

Marking criteria

N/A

N/A

85%

85%

84%

87%

87%

2%

Assessment

89%

90%

90%

89%

89%

91%

91%

2%

Careers advice

70%

72%

73%

75%

75%

76%

75%

5%

Course content

87%

88%

88%

88%

88%

90%

90%

3%

Class size

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

83%

83%

84%

1%

Expert lecturers

94%

94%

94%

93%

94%

95%

94%

0.80%

Employability

78%

80%

78%

79%

78%

81%

80%

2%

Good teachers

87%

88%

88%

89%

89%

90%

90%

3%

Topic selection

N/A

N/A

86%

87%

86%

88%

88%

2%

Online library

N/A

N/A

90%

90%

92%

92%

92%

2%

Physical library

N/A

N/A

88%

89%

89%

91%

91%

3%

Learning support

85%

86%

89%

88%

88%

91%

90%

5%

Learning spaces

84%

83%

85%

87%

87%

87%

87%

3%

Laboratories

N/A

N/A

91%

92%

92%

92%

92%

1%

Language support

84%

86%

87%

88%

87%

89%

88%

4%

Multicultural

86%

89%

90%

89%

89%

90%

90%

4%

Course organisation

N/A

N/A

84%

85%

85%

86%

86%

2%

Performance feedback

86%

86%

85%

85%

84%

87%

86%

0.40%

Quality lectures

N/A

N/A

89%

89%

89%

91%

90%

1%

Research

87%

89%

88%

88%

87%

90%

89%

2%

Technology

88%

86%

89%

89%

90%

90%

91%

3%

Virtual learning

N/A

N/A

90%

91%

91%

93%

93%

2%

Work experience

64%

65%

65%

66%

65%

69%

68%

4%


The living experience The trajectory since 2008 of international PGT student satisfaction with their living experience in the UK has been generally upward. However, some issues remain problematic from a student perspective. Most notably, international PGT students are increasingly dissatisfied with their levels of financial support and ability to earn money. This is likely to be related to their greater reliance on private income compared to international UG and PGR students. To sustain the UK’s position as an attractive study destination for postgraduate students, it is important to consider strategies that allow greater access to financial support, either through institutional support or expanded opportunities for work. On the positive side, international PGT students reported demonstrable improvements in satisfaction since 2008 concerning the contacts they have been able to make, and the social and cultural life encountered. In the contentious context of visa policy, one very positive indicator is the improvement in PGT student satisfaction with immigration and visa advice from their university, up 3 percentage points from 85% to 88%. This does not reflect positive changes in visa policy. It shows how international PGT students in the UK recognise the efforts made by university staff to guide and advise them. A resilient challenge surrounds the question of PGT student integration, with ‘Host friends’ marginally down at 68%.

Table 18: ISB survey data – the living experience for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 PGT Living Experience % satisfied or very satisfied 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Change

Accommodation quality

83%

84%

85%

86%

86%

85%

85%

2%

Accommodation cost

60%

63%

55%

58%

54%

56%

58%

-2%

Eco-friendly attitude

N/A

90%

90%

91%

91%

92%

91%

1%

Earning money

61%

61%

49%

53%

56%

49%

51%

-10%

Financial support

64%

65%

58%

63%

62%

50%

52%

-12%

Good contacts

73%

76%

80%

81%

82%

82%

80%

7%

Good place to be

88%

90%

91%

91%

91%

93%

93%

5%

Host culture

76%

80%

81%

82%

81%

84%

83%

7%

Host friends

69%

73%

68%

69%

69%

69%

68%

-1%

Internet access

86%

87%

81%

82%

82%

82%

84%

-2%

Living cost

64%

67%

64%

67%

62%

66%

66%

2%

Other friends

86%

87%

88%

87%

87%

87%

87%

1%

Campus buildings

N/A

N/A

N/A

90%

89%

91%

90%

0%

Campus environment

N/A

N/A

N/A

93%

93%

94%

93%

0%

Social activities

78%

81%

83%

83%

83%

86%

85%

7%

Safety

90%

91%

89%

89%

91%

93%

94%

4%

Home friends

88%

89%

89%

89%

89%

89%

88%

0%

Social facilities

81%

83%

84%

85%

83%

85%

85%

4%

Sport facilities

78%

78%

79%

81%

79%

82%

81%

3%

External transport links

85%

87%

86%

88%

88%

88%

88%

3%

University transport links

83%

84%

82%

85%

85%

86%

85%

2%

Visa advice

85%

85%

83%

83%

84%

89%

88%

3%

Worship facilities

86%

87%

85%

87%

87%

90%

90%

4%

31


Support services UK university support services have more than coped with the increase in international PGT student numbers since 2008; they have achieved higher satisfaction levels across the board. The two areas with lowest ratings, accommodation and catering, have achieved the greatest improvements. And despite PGT student concerns about finance and funding, finance offices have achieved significant increases in satisfaction, now over 90%. It is worth noting that 13 of 15 benchmarked services have lifted or held PGT student satisfaction above 90%. Table 19: ISB survey data – support services for international PGT students in the UK, 2008-14 Support Services

32

% satisfied or very satisfied 

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Change

Accommodation Office

76%

78%

80%

82%

83%

84%

85%

9%

Catering

76%

78%

79%

82%

78%

82%

82%

6%

Counselling

89%

91%

92%

91%

91%

91%

92%

3%

Careers Service

88%

87%

88%

88%

88%

90%

89%

2%

Disability Support

93%

95%

94%

94%

94%

93%

94%

1%

Finance Department

85%

85%

88%

89%

88%

90%

91%

6%

Faith Provision

93%

92%

94%

95%

94%

93%

94%

1%

Graduate School

96%

95%

96%

96%

96%

96%

97%

1%

Health Centre

91%

90%

91%

92%

91%

90%

91%

0%

Residential Assistants

87%

90%

89%

92%

92%

91%

92%

5%

International Office

93%

90%

92%

92%

93%

93%

94%

1%

IT support

91%

91%

92%

93%

93%

93%

94%

3%

Personal Tutors

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

N/A

94%

95%

1%

Student Advisory

91%

93%

92%

92%

93%

94%

95%

4%

Students' Union

94%

93%

94%

95%

95%

95%

95%

2%

Clubs/societies

92%

93%

94%

95%

94%

94%

95%

3%


Conclusion The ISB data clearly indicates improvements in satisfaction levels of UK international PGT students since 2008. This is significant given the relatively high base of satisfaction in the initial 2008 surveys. Sustained levels of satisfaction over the last seven years have centred on important drivers of prospective student decision-making: the quality of learning experience, the quality of learning support, and levels of broad sociocultural engagement afforded for international students. However, there is little room for complacency in a market as volatile as postgraduate study. Patterns of decision-making are changing, making the level of institutional visibility on the web and via agents ever more important. The greater reliance of international PGT students on private resources compared to international students at other levels of study means there there is a real need to demonstrate to prospective students the value of a postgraduate qualification. At the same time, the complexities or otherwise of obtaining study visas are attracting greater attention while the UK’s major competitors are shaping persuasive policy responses on these decision-making factors.

33


6. How does the UK international PGT experience compare? While percentages of satisfied students provide a helpful general picture, they can mask significant differences. The difference between a student being (merely) satisfied and very satisfied is worthy of note. Even more notable is the difference between passive and active recommendation. In institutional terms, the difference between a student recommending his or her experience if asked, or recommending it actively is of huge importance in a competitive environment where personal recommendation plays such a significant part. Comparing the UK’s international PGT student experience against rival markets, this report now turns to the more sensitive indicator of the mean score of satisfaction, based on the 4-point scale where a ‘very satisfied’ scores 4 and very dissatisfied scores 1. From the earliest days of the ISB, the decision was taken not to have a mid-point option for satisfaction, as some students would incline towards the non-committal ‘3’: neither satisfied nor dissatisfied. However, for recommendation, the statement ‘I would neither encourage nor discourage others’ is not an opt-out response. It is a significant thing to say. For this reason, a 5-point scale for recommendation is used. Overall measures Using the most recent data available for each country, it is apparent that the UK international PGT student experience is indeed competitive, reporting the highest ratings against key rivals for recommendation. The US and Canada are the UK’s closest rivals and maintain a competitive edge notably in the learning experience. However, the generally tight margins in levels of student satisfaction across most elements of the international PGT student experience are noteworthy. Table 20: ISB survey data – overall measures of PGT satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 Overall Measures

UK

Australia

Canada

NZ

USA

2014

2014

2014

2013

2014

Recommendation

1

5

2

4

3

Overall Satisfaction

3

4

2

5

1

Arrival

2

3

5

4

1

Learning Overall

2

4

=1

3

=1

Living Overall

=2

=3

=3

1

=2

Support Overall

=2

3

1

4

=2

PGT

Notes: 2013 is the most recent ISB data available for NZ. Mean scores for recommendation are on a scale 1-5. Mean scores for other elements are on a scale 1-4.

34


The arrival experience It is apparent that both the UK and its key competitors generally do well on welcoming and orientating students. Understandably, new students will generally regard their welcome as positive, though how welcome students feel will depend on a range of subjective factors such as cultural familiarity, preparedness and academic or other connections. Given the importance of some components of the arrival experience identified earlier, continuing efforts to improve the welcoming experience for international PGT students are important. The lower levels of student satisfaction (albeit a marginal level) in the UK are around basic matters – like the welcome international students receive and the relative challenge of establishing a bank account. Conversely, PGT students rate some actions in their arrival experience more highly than the UK’s competitors (such as meeting staff, registration process and accommodation quality). The shortened term ‘host friends’ refers to integration with local students. It is worth noting that this is a challenge for the UK and all its rivals, being the area of lowest satisfaction for international PGT students. Characteristically, PGT students have a shorter time to study, typically in smaller groups and typically isolated from the central buzz of student activity. But having travelled across borders and time zones, it is unlikely international students will choose a location in the hope of not meeting students from that country. It is a continuing challenge for all host countries to facilitate and encourage integration. The work of Spencer-Oatey and Dauber in this area is highly commended24. Table 21: ISB survey data – PGT arrival experience satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 PGT Arrival Experience

UK

Australia

Canada

NZ

USA

2014

2014

2014

2013

2014

Accommodation Office

3.08

3.05

3.09

3.13

3.11

Accommodation Condition

3.04

2.98

3

3.02

3.02

Bank account

2.97

3.22

3.15

3.19

3.24

Internet access

3.07

2.92

3.09

2.95

3.05

Finance Office

3.17

3.07

3.2

3.07

3.24

First night

3.07

3.08

3.03

3.12

3.04

Formal welcome

3.16

3.13

3.14

3.12

3.2

Home friends

3.13

3.11

3.09

3.08

3.2

Host friends

2.79

2.71

2.81

2.85

2.77

Local Orientation

3.08

2.92

3.05

3.11

3.09

Meeting staff

3.22

3.1

3.2

3.16

3.19

Other friends

3.14

3.03

3.04

3.09

2.93

Registration

3.21

3.1

3.2

3.03

3.1

Social activities

3.04

2.97

2.98

2.98

3.08

Study sense

3.11

2.98

3.1

2.96

3.13

University Orientation

3.13

3.16

3.18

3.15

3.21

Welcome

3.02

3.12

3.02

3.08

3.05

The learning experience There are similarities between competitor nations in terms of satisfaction with components of the learning experience. International PGT students are generally most satisfied with the academic infrastructure (libraries, learning technology, laboratories), reasonably satisfied with the capabilities of academic staff (subject expertise, teaching ability, quality of lectures), less satisfied with the academic administrative components (performance feedback, course organisation, marking criteria) and least satisfied with the career-related dimensions of study (employability, careers advice, work experience). 24 Helen Spencer-Oatey and Daniel Dauber, www.warwick.ac.uk

35


In contrast to the UK’s competitive advantage in undergraduate education (where the UK excels in the majority of learning indicators), there is only one element of the international PGT learning experience where the UK rates highest against its English-speaking rivals; the multicultural learning environment. Between them the US and Canada achieve the highest ratings for the 23 other common measures of the learning experience. When we reference back to Table 8 we are reminded of the top five most important components of the PGT learning experience: quality lectures, course organisation, course content, good teachers and employability. Table 22 below reveals a common mismatch across rival countries: typically lower satisfaction rates for course organisation and most markedly, employability. On the positive side, the UK ranks second for employability and much work has been done in this area. But the UK lags behind rivals in course organisation and other academic administrative indicators of the PGT student experience. This suggests attention should focus on the administrative dimensions of academic duties, plus administrative staff ratios, resourcing and processes. Further improvements will be necessary, if expectations around future growth in international PGT numbers are to be met. On class sizes for PGT studies, satisfaction rates below indicate that the UK struggles. Closer analysis suggests not that smaller class sizes are better, but that larger class sizes require commensurate resourcing. Table 22: ISB survey data – PGT learning experience satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 PGT Learning Experience

UK

Australia

Canada

NZ

USA

2014

2014

2014

2013

2014

Academics' English

3.31

3.21

3.38

3.3

3.34

Marking criteria

3.11

3.06

3.18

3.05

3.2

Assessment

3.17

3.1

3.23

3.12

3.26

Careers advice

2.9

2.7

2.9

2.72

2.99

Course content

3.21

3.13

3.25

3.11

3.22

Class size

3.11

3.07

3.31

3.18

3.17

Expert lecturers

3.34

3.23

3.36

3.3

3.31

Employability

2.99

2.85

2.95

2.82

3.06

Good teachers

3.21

3.1

3.2

3.17

3.23

Topic selection

3.12

3.05

3.25

3.14

3.18

Online library

3.35

3.31

3.44

3.36

3.33

Physical library

3.32

3.24

3.34

3.33

3.35

Learning support

3.23

3.15

3.28

3.19

3.28

Learning spaces

3.19

3.2

3.28

3.19

3.29

Laboratories

3.27

3.2

3.27

3.22

3.28

Language support

3.18

3.09

3.21

3.12

3.17

Multicultural

3.26

3.15

3.25

3.15

3.17

Course organisation

3.11

3.06

3.16

3.06

3.21

Performance feedback

3.1

3.05

3.21

3.08

3.21

Quality lectures

3.18

3.08

3.2

3.12

3.2

Research

3.16

3.05

3.22

3.13

3.12

Technology

3.28

3.25

3.32

3.25

3.35

Virtual learning

3.3

3.24

3.28

3.2

3.33

Work experience

2.81

2.63

2.84

2.63

2.94

36


The living experience The UK generally performs well in providing a quality living experience for international PGT students compared to key competitors. Table 23 shows the UK PGT living experience rated most highly for six measures and first or second for 15 of 23 common indicators. The UK is most highly rated by international PGT students on the quality of accommodation, productive contacts, positive host culture, friendships and transport. Again, on this dimension there are commonalities across competitor nations, with generally lower levels of satisfaction around financial indicators (accommodation costs, earning money, financial support and living costs). One other notable outcome is the relatively higher satisfaction with safety expressed by PGT students in the UK compared to PGT students in the USA and Australia. On the theme of commonalities, it is worth noting from Table 8 that the most important component of the living experience for international PGT students is the ability to build personal networks: specifically, “making good contacts for the future”. From the mean scores it is evident that the UK has the highest rating for this measure, but note also that there is a very small variance between countries. More significantly, for each of the host countries compared, satisfaction with this component is lower than for other less important factors: for all countries it ranks 17th or 18th in average satisfaction, against 23 measures of the living experience. This therefore is an area where more work should be done. Table 23: ISB survey data – PGT living experience satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 PGT Living Experience

UK

Australia

Canada

NZ

USA

2014

2014

2014

2013

2014

Accommodation quality

3.06

3.02

3.05

2.95

3.05

Accommodation cost

2.59

2.43

2.57

2.47

2.73

Eco-friendly attitude

3.17

3.18

3.28

3.12

3.2

Earning money

2.49

2.46

2.55

2.5

2.52

Financial support

2.49

2.44

2.6

2.67

2.52

Good contacts

2.96

2.84

2.88

2.89

2.95

Good place to be

3.26

3.21

3.32

3.15

3.1

Host culture

3.04

2.99

3.01

2.98

3.02

Host friends

2.8

2.71

2.83

2.83

2.81

Internet access

3.07

2.91

3.11

2.9

3.05

Living cost

2.7

2.44

2.68

2.55

2.88

Other friends

3.15

3.04

3.03

3.08

2.95

Campus buildings

3.2

3.18

3.14

3.14

3.24

Campus environment

3.23

3.22

3.24

3.2

3.26

Social activities

3.04

2.96

2.99

2.92

3.07

Safety

3.32

3.21

3.46

3.26

3.06

Home friends

3.13

3.11

3.12

3.09

3.19

Social facilities

3.02

2.97

3.03

2.97

3.08

Sport facilities

2.99

2.92

3.15

2.96

3.28

External transport links

3.12

3

3.01

2.78

2.98

University transport links

3.09

3.08

3.14

2.95

3.16

Visa advice

3.1

2.92

3.03

2.94

3.13

Worship facilities

3.12

3.09

3.12

3.01

3.04

37


Support services When comparing levels of international PGT student satisfaction with the support services they receive, a similar pattern emerges. Across most indicators, there is a broad alignment, though with some notable variances. The UK is highest-rated in tutor support and student advice services. However, it rates lowest on areas of student health support (counselling and health facilities). Table 24: ISB survey data – PGT support services satisfaction across key competitors, 2013–14 PGT Support Services

UK

Australia

Canada

NZ

USA

2014

2014

2014

2013

2014

Accommodation Office

3.08

3.04

3.1

3.07

3.11

Catering

3.02

3.01

2.95

2.9

3.1

Counselling

3.21

3.21

3.29

3.24

3.24

Careers Service

3.2

2.99

3.25

2.94

3.21

Disability Support

3.28

3.24

3.37

3.42

3.25

Finance Department

3.16

3.06

3.22

3.03

3.22

Faith Provision

3.32

3.28

3.47

3.25

3.28

Graduate School

3.29

3.19

3.32

3.2

3.31

Health Centre

3.21

3.25

3.32

3.25

3.3

Residential Assistants

3.22

3.12

3.29

3.23

3.22

International Office

3.27

3.18

3.31

3.19

3.3

IT support

3.28

3.22

3.2

3.19

3.3

Personal Tutors

3.34

3.23

3.29

Student Advisory

3.29

3.22

Students' Union

3.29

3.22

3.26

3.2

3.36

Clubs/societies

3.27

3.15

3.29

3.19

3.29

3.26 3.21

Other factors International comparisons of the ISB data produce other important longitudinal outcomes that merit consideration. These are outlined below. Cost of living The change over the last seven years in satisfaction with the cost of living provides useful insights about the relative position of the UK. As the graph below demonstrates, for international PGT students in the UK, satisfaction has remained broadly consistent throughout this period. This reinforces the earlier data, which suggested that financial costs – such as the cost of living – are a significant decision-making issue for PGT students, given they tend to be privately funded. For UK policymakers and universities, it is therefore worth noting that during this period, international students in Germany and the US have indicated higher levels of satisfaction with cost of living (a trend that has escalated post the global financial crisis). Conversely, cost of living satisfaction is notably lower for students in Australia and New Zealand, although for Australia this could change with the current weakening of the Australian dollar. Finally, Canada’s cost of living satisfaction level has risen strongly coinciding with its growing international PGT student numbers.

38


Figure 6: ISB survey data – PGT cost-of-living satisfaction trends across key competitors, 2008-14 3.5

UK 3.0

Germany Australia Canada

2.5

NZ USA

2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014 2.0

Financial support As has already been noted, the availability of financial support is a key pressure point in the international PGT market. As the graph below demonstrates, this has been a consistent issue since 2008, with satisfaction dipping in the wake of the global financial crisis (though recovering somewhat in the latest surveys). The margins of difference in satisfaction demonstrated here are much less significant than for research students, where satisfaction varied significantly, presumably as a result of different levels of government support for research and living costs.

Figure 7: ISB survey data – PGT financial support satisfaction trends across key competitors, 2008-14 3.0

UK Germany Australia

2.5

Canada NZ USA

2.5 2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

39


Learning overall The gradual rise in student satisfaction in the UK (up until 2013) and the real challenges presented by competitor nations is well represented in the graph below. The plateauing of the UK satisfaction levels in 2014 stands in contrast to the rising satisfaction levels expressed by international PGT students in the US, Canada and Australia. Figure 8: ISB survey data – PGT overall learning satisfaction trends across key competitors, 2008-14 3.5

UK Germany Australia

3.0

Canada NZ USA

2.5 2008

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014

Overall satisfaction Finally, the critical dimension of overall international PGT student satisfaction since 2008 is represented in Figure 8. Here the data tells an impressive story for the UK. Overall student satisfaction for UK-based PGT students has continued to remain highest or close to the highest among key competitors. However, just as the UK has demonstrated an improving trend in this indicator, particularly since 2011, so have most competitors. Moreover, both the levels and the trajectory of overall UK PGT student satisfaction are significantly lower than those reported for the UK’s PRG students. Figure 9: ISB survey data – PGT overall satisfaction trends across key competitors, 2008-14 3.5

UK Germany Australia

3.0

Canada NZ USA

2.5 2008

40

2009

2010

2011

2012

2013

2014


7. Decision-making factors for international PGT students With any sector-level report there is an inevitable risk that outcomes may be overly broad or too generic. This can lead to sweeping propositions or, more likely, no action at all. So while this report outlines broader issues in international PGT student decision-making, a deeper exploration of differences by country of origin and field of study should yield valuable insights. In the 2014–15 academic cycle, all new international PGT arrivals to the UK (students in their first year of their studies) were asked questions in the ISB survey around their decision-making. Responses were received from 16,966 students. The decision-factors questions have a 4-point scale, from very unimportant (1) to very important (4). In the scale on the chart below, the range is from unimportant (2) to very important (4). Key decision-making factors Unsurprisingly, the primary drivers for study decisions made by UK international PGT students in 2014–15 were the reputation of their selected institution, the specific course of study and the quality of the research produced by their chosen institution, followed by personal safety. Reputation of the institution can be somewhat abstract and will mean different things to different people. It could reflect the research reputation, the student experience, employment outcomes, history or culture (or most likely a combination of these factors), reinforced by (or distorted by) international rankings. The availability of scholarships and bursaries were considered less important for PGT students compared to research students. PGT students rated the opportunity for permanent residence as one of the lowest motivations to undertake postgraduate study in the UK. The message here is likely that the UK is recruiting from a smaller pool of potential students than say Canada – those students for whom path to settlement is less important. The biggest change in decision-making factors for PGT students when considering the UK is the visa process, up 21.2 percentage points, from 43.9% to 65.1% since 2008-9. Figure 10: ISB survey data – decision factors for international PGT students in the UK, 2014-15 Institution reputation

3.56

Specific course of study

3.51

Research quality

3.45

Personal safety

3.35

Earning potential

3.32

Cost of study

3.21

Cost of living

3.18

Location

3.07

Teacher reputation

3.04

Opps for further study

2.99

Work opportunities

2.96

Social life

2.93

University Scholarship/Bursary

2.92

Visa process

2.79

Opps to work while studying

2.76

Permanent residence

2.50

Proximity to my home country

2.21 0.0

0.5

1.0

1.5

2.0

2.5

3.0

3.5

4.0

41


Key decision-making factors by nationality PGT students across all nationalities generally rate institutional reputation as their most significant decision-making factor. This is closely followed by the specific course of study, the research quality of the institution and personal safety – albeit with some slightly different emphases. For example, PGT students from China put proportionally less weight on the specific course of study than the research quality of the university and personal safety. Costs, opportunities to work and visa process are all more of a factor for students from India. Students from India, Malaysia, Pakistan and Thailand generally place a greater emphasis on institutional and research quality than most other nationalities. There are clear differences in the concerns of EU and US students compared to others, with less concern about personal safety and (unsurprisingly) visa processes. Issues such as proximity to home country, prospects of permanent residence and opportunities to work are generally less significant factors in decision-making for virtually all PGT students than university-level factors. Indeed, the rank order shows that for most of the top ten responding nationalities, proximity is the lowest consideration. Table 25: ISB survey data – key decision-making factors for PGT students in the UK by nationality, 2013–14 PGT Decision Making Factors

UK 2014 China

India

Nigeria

USA

Malaysia Thailand Taiwan Indonesia Pakistan Canada Vietnam

Saudi Arabia

Japan

16,966

4,945

1,219

1,083

843

374

355

325

293

279

261

206

176

157

Location

3.07

3.06

3.17

3.01

3.18

3.14

3.31

3.18

3.23

3.05

3.19

3.12

3.28

3.09

Institution reputation

3.56

3.45

3.70

3.62

3.60

3.62

3.48

3.66

3.74

3.73

3.58

3.30

3.54

3.37

Social life

2.93

2.97

3.12

2.80

2.81

2.92

3.15

3.04

3.12

3.14

2.88

3.16

3.09

2.90

Personal safety

3.35

3.52

3.51

3.59

3.07

3.58

3.54

3.43

3.57

3.43

3.19

3.40

3.64

3.18

Cost of living

3.18

3.09

3.39

3.35

3.07

3.50

3.25

3.29

3.43

3.41

3.07

3.47

3.24

3.17

Earning potential

3.32

3.27

3.55

3.55

2.98

3.56

3.40

3.43

3.56

3.59

3.05

3.27

3.36

3.00

Opps for further study

2.99

3.01

3.16

3.27

2.76

3.30

2.94

2.97

3.37

3.29

2.77

2.94

3.22

2.56

Cost of study

3.21

3.14

3.42

3.36

3.23

3.41

3.20

3.27

3.22

3.48

3.09

3.50

2.49

3.22

Opps to work while studying

2.76

2.89

3.19

3.05

2.55

2.92

2.65

2.82

2.91

3.08

2.50

2.96

1.97

2.06

Work opportunities

2.96

2.87

3.30

3.04

2.88

3.20

2.83

3.13

3.11

3.19

2.94

2.92

1.93

2.44

Research quality

3.45

3.44

3.52

3.56

3.49

3.48

3.31

3.48

3.57

3.53

3.33

3.34

3.43

3.40

Proximity to my home country

2.21

2.28

2.41

2.34

1.71

2.20

2.38

2.08

2.24

2.40

1.82

2.38

2.87

1.71

Permanent residence

2.50

2.48

2.66

2.65

2.52

2.65

2.29

2.55

2.61

2.60

2.48

2.49

1.99

1.97

University Scholarship/ Bursary

2.92

2.81

3.25

3.02

2.91

3.30

2.89

3.02

3.30

3.27

2.80

3.30

2.70

2.76

Specific course of study

3.51

3.31

3.66

3.65

3.51

3.65

3.56

3.48

3.72

3.69

3.46

3.47

3.61

3.44

Visa process

2.79

2.88

3.10

3.11

2.63

3.20

2.84

2.73

3.29

3.15

2.60

2.93

3.27

2.45

Teacher reputation

3.04

3.15

3.21

3.07

2.90

3.26

3.07

3.27

3.45

3.14

2.81

2.95

3.21

3.03

Consider the field of study In considering the decision-making factors identified by students from different disciplines, a broadly consistent pattern emerges. Across virtually all fields of study, three decision-making triggers – institutional reputation, research quality and the specific nature of courses – are most prominent. Proximity, permanent residence and opportunities to work were rated and ranked lower, as was the case with data analysed by nationality. Looking beyond theses broad trends, it is also useful to focus on those disciplines that attract most PGT students to the UK.

42


Vet Sci, Agr & related

Other Languages & Lits

Tourism & Hospitality

Technologies

Joint hons

Lang, Lit & related

Medicine & Dentistry

Linguistics, Classics

Physical Sciences

Historical and Phil

Mass Comms & Docs

Allied Medicine

Creative Arts & Design

Biological Sciences

Education

Architecture & Building

Law

Maths and Comp Sci

Engineering

Social studies

Business

UK 2014

Table 26: ISB survey data – decision factors for PGT students in the UK by field of study, 2013–14

Institution reputation

3.56 3.54 3.63 3.53 3.56 3.66 3.56 3.48 3.58 3.45 3.53 3.55 3.64 3.58 3.55 3.68 3.58 3.63 3.48 3.45 3.48 3.39

Specific course of study

3.51 3.43 3.47 3.55 3.51 3.52 3.51 3.47 3.64 3.56 3.61 3.51 3.47 3.60 3.50 3.69 3.45 3.54 3.52 3.51 3.44 3.55

Research quality

3.45 3.34 3.46 3.45 3.45 3.52 3.51 3.40 3.62 3.44 3.52 3.48 3.67 3.62 3.42 3.61 3.51 3.36 3.44 3.40 3.42 3.64

Personal safety

3.35 3.41 3.21 3.43 3.31 3.31 3.27 3.35 3.32 3.34 3.46 3.42 3.03 3.27 3.38 3.44 3.18 3.30 3.38 3.55 3.07 3.43

Earning potential 3.32 3.37 3.23 3.40 3.34 3.37 3.36 3.32 3.32 3.21 3.36 3.32 2.90 3.19 3.19 3.46 2.97 3.31 3.46 3.38 3.12 3.22 Cost of study

3.21 3.22 3.15 3.23 3.14 3.26 3.19 3.17 3.26 3.32 3.29 3.22 3.12 3.15 3.19 3.21 3.15 3.16 3.24 3.35 3.06 3.15

Cost of living

3.18 3.18 3.11 3.22 3.16 3.20 3.14 3.15 3.17 3.23 3.29 3.20 3.06 3.13 3.17 3.25 3.07 3.09 3.29 3.29 3.01 3.03

Location

3.07 3.13 3.05 2.97 2.97 3.13 3.18 3.01 3.00 3.19 3.05 3.20 3.04 2.99 3.13 3.16 2.98 2.86 2.94 3.14 3.06 2.84

Teacher reputation

3.04 3.03 3.02 3.04 3.00 3.03 3.08 3.02 3.04 3.09 3.12 3.10 3.07 3.05 3.00 3.22 2.97 2.85 3.12 3.13 2.91 2.90

Opps for further study

2.99 2.90 2.92 3.07 3.13 2.93 2.98 3.03 3.24 3.05 3.24 2.92 2.99 3.03 3.01 3.21 2.96 2.91 3.06 2.89 2.93 3.15

Work opportunities

2.96 2.99 2.86 3.05 3.07 2.84 2.98 2.84 3.08 3.09 3.01 3.02 2.77 2.92 2.73 2.90 2.74 3.09 3.04 3.02 2.93 3.17

Social life

2.93 3.03 2.91 2.91 2.84 2.88 2.90 2.84 2.82 2.93 2.89 3.00 2.78 2.69 2.85 2.97 2.91 2.93 2.94 3.07 2.87 2.81

University Scholarship/ Bursary

2.92 2.87 2.87 2.99 2.87 2.89 2.91 2.94 2.95 3.03 3.13 2.82 2.94 3.08 2.86 3.03 2.98 2.82 3.13 3.00 2.78 2.92

Visa process

2.79 2.87 2.63 2.90 2.80 2.67 2.77 2.74 2.71 2.81 3.05 2.79 2.53 2.60 2.65 3.00 2.54 2.55 2.77 2.89 2.42 2.72

Opps to work while studying

2.76 2.84 2.60 2.77 2.77 2.63 2.76 2.75 2.77 2.96 2.81 2.96 2.45 2.60 2.62 2.67 2.45 2.66 2.85 3.10 2.61 2.71

Permanent residence

2.50 2.55 2.36 2.58 2.61 2.34 2.53 2.37 2.54 2.60 2.58 2.56 2.36 2.37 2.39 2.49 2.35 2.55 2.61 2.59 2.48 2.54

Proximity to my home country

2.21 2.33 2.07 2.28 2.29 2.10 2.08 2.22 2.09 2.12 2.36 2.14 1.86 2.01 2.07 2.41 1.96 1.99 2.24 2.38 2.14 2.09

Predictably, for business students, opportunities to work and their future earning potential are rated higher, while the research quality of the university and the opportunities for future study are rated lower. For students in the physical sciences, institutional reputation and research quality are paramount, while future earning potential and work opportunities are comparatively less important. This provides some insights into how specific marketing approaches to prospective international PGT students may be most productively framed.

43


8. What helps international PGT students to choose? Looking at the international PGT student decision-making process, it is important to identify the specific factors that ultimately proved persuasive. Obviously, these factors are of critical interest in informing international PGT student recruitment strategies. To this end, the ISB survey asks PGT students in their first year of study to reflect on what helped them to choose to study where they did. Here, key influences – individuals, internet-based resources and the media – are essential reference points. Students respond by ticking down a list, enabling outcomes to be reported based on the percentage of students who select specific items of influence. This section reports feedback from 3,655 international PGT students in UK universities in the 2014–15 academic year. Similar to motivations for study, while generic indicators can be identified, the value and the power of the analysis is found in the differences between groups of students. The averages mask the diversity of influences. To inform university marketing and student recruitment, the country-by-country analysis presents the more actionable insights. This helps target student recruitment strategies more effectively, either in terms of current approaches that universities might strengthen, or in areas where they need to develop new initiatives. Overall choice Ultimately, this data demonstrates that international PGT student choice is primarily driven by a combination of a university’s web presence, education agents (in the case of South East Asia and India), friends/families and league tables/rankings. Interestingly, this pattern of choice varies somewhat from that reported by international PGR students, where university staff and former teachers were identified as more influential. It is also notable that several other factors driving PGT student choice, such as current students of the university and the traditional prospectus, are also more significant for PGT students than for research students.

44


Table 27: ISB survey data – key influences on international PGT choice: percentage scores by nationality, 2014–15 Saudi Arabia

Japan

Japan

206

176

157

27%

47%

27%

31%

43%

15%

35%

9%

57%

24%

44%

11%

24%

28%

37%

31%

39%

18%

10%

34%

44%

23%

22%

30%

17%

24%

0%

27%

23%

11%

31%

34%

16%

18%

13%

7%

20%

23%

21%

28%

21%

25%

23%

14%

21%

29%

24%

25%

13%

16%

31%

18%

24%

12%

5%

9%

29%

3%

19%

13%

10%

14%

8%

9%

17%

10%

11%

14%

1%

11%

10%

13%

14%

12%

11%

9%

10%

12%

17%

15%

4%

1%

6%

8%

4%

26%

9%

5%

7%

9%

9%

16%

8%

10%

15%

6%

10%

11%

13%

5%

7%

9%

12%

15%

11%

11%

9%

16%

9%

5%

0%

A visit to the institution

8%

4%

4%

4%

19%

5%

4%

6%

4%

6%

13%

4%

15%

9%

11%

Independent website

8%

7%

8%

7%

8%

10%

7%

7%

17%

7%

4%

4%

12%

4%

25%

Careers advisor where you studied previously

6%

8%

5%

2%

6%

6%

5%

6%

3%

6%

3%

7%

8%

5%

36%

Other media or press

5%

8%

3%

1%

4%

2%

4%

3%

3%

3%

2%

4%

1%

2%

26%

Your employer

4%

3%

3%

2%

3%

5%

7%

2%

8%

6%

4%

5%

13%

6%

3%

Education exhibition/ fair

4%

3%

6%

4%

1%

8%

13%

9%

17%

4%

4%

8%

4%

7%

26%

Home government advisory service

3%

4%

1%

3%

1%

9%

2%

1%

4%

1%

0%

9%

10%

2%

8%

Host government advisory service

3%

2%

4%

2%

2%

3%

4%

4%

5%

2%

0%

6%

2%

4%

21%

An advert for this institution (TV, radio, poster)

2%

4%

1%

2%

1%

2%

2%

0%

2%

1%

1%

4%

1%

0%

UK 2014 China

India

Nigeria

USA

16,966

4,945

1,219

1,083

843

374

355

325

293

279

261

The institution website

40%

24%

41%

41%

55%

41%

32%

25%

51%

43%

Education Agent

33%

57%

48%

30%

6%

29%

53%

60%

32%

Friends

31%

35%

29%

22%

36%

28%

36%

27%

League tables or rankings

26%

22%

27%

23%

19%

33%

42%

Family

23%

24%

25%

23%

28%

25%

Alumni of this institution

19%

17%

22%

20%

20%

Prospectus from this institution

17%

10%

20%

17%

Teacher/tutor where you studied previously

13%

15%

6%

Current students at this institution

12%

14%

Staff of this institution

10%

Social networking site

Key Influencers

Malaysia Thailand Taiwan Indonesia Pakistan Canada Vietnam

In terms of triggers for choice, it is worth considering what variations emerge among international PGT student nationalities. For instance, it is apparent that education agents play a more critical role in recruiting students from South East Asia and India, compared to elsewhere. It is also evident that league tables, websites, social media and former teachers vary in their significance for decisionmaking in differing regions. There are other interesting findings. Despite perennial and significant spends of time and money on education fairs, these are not important except in Thailand and Indonesia (7th most significant influence). Thailand and Indonesia are more rankings-sensitive (42%, 44%) and China less so (22%). Universities’ websites are significantly more important to prospective PGT students in India (41%) than China (24%). And the university prospectus is twice as important to prospective students in India (20%) than it is to prospective students in China (10%). Social networking websites play a part but, for the data in this report, only for one in ten students. These sites are three times more important for prospective students in Taiwan than for those in Nigeria, but still only 1 in 6 from Taiwan and Vietnam say social media helped them to choose.

45


Table 28: ISB survey data – key influences on PGT choice: nationality by perceived significance (ranked), 2014–15 Saudi Arabia

Japan

206

176

157

1

4

2

2

2

12

1

3

1

6

4

2

2

1

5

2

2

5

6

3

5

3

5

5

10

3

3

7

4

8

7

6

6

5

6

4

5

8

4

5

5

7

7

4

7

5

9

16

9

14

7

9

11

9

14

10

7

10

11

7

9

8

10

8

9

10

12

9

10

6

6

15

14

10

11

4

11

14

13

11

11

8

13

12

6

11

9

8

10

12

12

10

8

9

8

11

7

14

13

A visit to the institution

12

15

15

12

9

16

16

14

17

14

9

18

6

9

Independent website

13

13

11

9

11

10

12

12

8

12

13

18

10

17

Careers advisor where you studied previously

14

12

14

18

14

15

14

14

18

15

16

14

15

13

Other media or press

15

11

18

20

15

19

18

17

18

17

17

17

19

18

Your employer

16

18

17

16

16

17

12

18

13

13

14

16

9

12

Education exhibition/ fair

17

19

12

13

20

14

7

11

7

16

14

12

17

11

Home government advisory service

18

17

20

15

18

12

19

19

16

20

19

11

13

18

Host government advisory service

19

20

16

16

17

18

17

16

15

18

20

15

18

15

An advert for this institution (TV, radio, poster)

20

16

19

19

19

20

19

20

20

19

18

18

19

20

UK 2014 China

India

Nigeria

USA

16,966

4,945

1,219

1,083

843

374

355

325

293

279

261

The institution website

1

4

2

1

1

1

4

4

1

1

Education Agent

2

1

1

2

13

3

1

1

3

Friends

3

2

3

5

2

4

3

3

League tables or rankings

4

5

4

3

8

2

2

Family

5

3

5

4

3

5

Alumni of this institution

6

6

6

6

6

Prospectus from this institution

7

10

7

7

Teacher/tutor where you studied previously

8

7

13

Current students at this institution

9

8

Staff of this institution

10

Social networking site

Key Influencers

Malaysia Thailand Taiwan Indonesia Pakistan Canada Vietnam

Specific insights on choice In terms of actual choices made by international PGT students, the influential nature of education agents on students from South East Asia and India, and the prevailing importance on university websites, are obvious. However, at a more subtle level, the data also reveals some other important insights about how PGT students exercise choice. Although league tables have a strong influence, this is not consistent. Both university alumni and friends remain consistent and powerful influences of choice across all source countries. Conversely, there is an inconsistent effect on choice from teachers in previous study experiences. Aside from several notable exceptions, educational fairs, government advisory services and university advertising seem to have virtually no influence on the choices made by international PGT students. These types of insights – both at the broad level and more specifically related to individual nationalities – can potentially help target efforts to improve PGT student recruitment.

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9. How does UK international PGT student choice differ from rival markets? To more effectively understand the nature of international PGT student choice, it is useful to look at the other countries that students considered. In this respect, comparative decision-making data collected by the ISB on potential alternatives to the UK offers rich insights into competitive advantages. Major competitors for student choice So firstly, who are the UK’s major rivals for international PGT students who ended up studying in the UK? A question in the ISB specifically asks PGT students whether they considered any other countries before choosing to study in the UK. Interestingly, only 15% of UK-based international PGT students indicated that the UK was the only choice they considered. For students from China this was only 7%, and for Malaysia, Taiwan and Thailand only 8%. The primary alternative country considered for study by the UK’s international PGT students was the US. In fact, virtually all non-EU nationalities that responded – aside from students originating from Malaysia and Pakistan who selected Australia – identified the US as the primary alternative option they had considered. The most common second alternative choice for non-EU students was Australia. The relatively broad range of options for study locations considered by PGT students before reaching their decision to study in the UK is also notable. This underlines the critical importance of maintaining a strong profile for the UK in markets that are highly competitive (as these outcomes graphically demonstrate). Table 29: ISB survey data – other countries considered by students choosing the UK, 2014–15 UK 2014 China

India

Nigeria

USA 33%

No other countries

15%

7%

16%

15%

USA

55%

69%

57%

53%

Canada

20%

18%

24%

49%

Australia

25%

28%

27%

Germany

15%

12%

New Zealand

6%

5%

Malaysia Thailand Taiwan Indonesia Pakistan Canada Vietnam

Saudi Arabia

Japan

8%

8%

8%

6%

12%

23%

8%

16%

22%

53%

72%

75%

51%

45%

41%

55%

65%

60%

11%

16%

7%

12%

8%

37%

17%

17%

18%

14%

12%

59%

28%

19%

33%

50%

20%

52%

16%

23%

19%

5%

9%

12%

12%

22%

19%

27%

9%

16%

3%

12%

10%

2%

5%

18%

7%

3%

9%

6%

5%

13%

6%

4%

Key influences cited in major competitors Using international ISB data to compare the key influences on PGT student choice can provide further insights into how such choices are driven. Across key competitor nations, the data shows a broadly similar pattern around the comparative importance of agents (particularly for universities in Australia and New Zealand), as well as the significance of the university’s web presence in framing PGT student decisions globally. Reassuringly, on most of these key indicators, the UK maintains a strong competitive presence.

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Table 30: ISB survey data – key influences on international PGT student’s decisions: competitor comparisons, 2013–14 Destination Country

UK

Australia

Canada

NZ

USA

Germany

2014

2014

2014

2013

2014

2014

Education Agent

33%

54%

24%

48%

21%

12%

Alumni of this institution

19%

14%

19%

10%

28%

15%

Careers advisor where you studied previously

6%

6%

7%

5%

7%

5%

Current students at this institution

12%

13%

20%

9%

24%

18%

Your employer

4%

3%

6%

2%

5%

4%

Education exhibition/fair

4%

6%

2%

8%

1%

3%

Family

23%

19%

25%

20%

23%

18%

Friends

31%

27%

36%

26%

41%

39%

Home government advisory service

3%

4%

3%

4%

2%

5%

Host government advisory service

3%

0%

1%

20%

2%

21%

Independent website

8%

8%

5%

9%

9%

16%

An advert for this institution (TV, radio, poster)

2%

1%

3%

1%

1%

2%

Staff of this institution

10%

10%

13%

5%

11%

6%

A visit to the institution

8%

7%

9%

4%

6%

8%

The institution website

40%

35%

47%

38%

40%

44%

League tables or rankings

26%

19%

15%

10%

35%

5%

Other media or press

5%

0%

4%

2%

4%

8%

Prospectus from this institution

17%

4%

5%

3%

8%

9%

Social networking site

10%

9%

10%

8%

15%

15%

Teacher/tutor where you studied previously

13%

4%

17%

6%

11%

19%

For the both UK and the US, the value of university rankings has a stronger influence on PGT student choice, pointing to a valuable competitive advantage. There are several areas where competitor nations are clearly doing better than the UK, potentially affecting the UK’s ability to recruit PGT students. One such area is the use of current students, who are seemingly deployed more influentially by universities in the US, Canada and Germany to attract prospective PGT students. Universities in the US and Germany seem to have gained some comparative advantage in their effective use of emerging social media. The prospectus was only identified as being influential (for 17% of students) in PGT student decision-making when choosing the UK.

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10. Analysis and synthesis: Where does the UK’s comparative advantage lie? The UK has been successful in growing its international PGT student numbers by 27.8% since 2008, despite experiencing falls in 2011-12 and 2012-13. This record is comparable with the growth rates achieved by New Zealand and experienced by the US. Canada is the clear winner, with 70.2% growth in numbers. It is notable that satisfaction has grown too – neither obvious nor inevitable in the face of growing numbers. In comparative terms (comparative percentages of market share), Germany and Australia have seen reductions in their market share (down 15.3% and 16.2%) while the US has gained ground marginally (up 2.3%) and Canada significantly (up 31.3%). Important to note these percentages are percentage change in market share, not absolute market share; and that Canada now has 3.3% of the market among rivals. The latest data also suggests that improvements in international PGT recruitments are in evidence across the board. Although this in itself is impressive (given the broadening competition in this market), it also presents some real dangers for the UK. Declining incomes are encouraging universities in the US to more aggressively recruit international students. Given the scale of the US market, its powerful attraction to students as a preferred destination, and the fact it represents the least-internationalised system across major competitor nations, this represents a real threat in coming years. Policy responses to improve international PGT recruitment in Australia are undoubtedly having an effect. Canada and New Zealand have demonstrated they are willing to launch ambitious strategies to drive their international PGT student numbers. A real risk is the growing use of agents by US universities - given the dominance of agent-sensitive Chinese and south-east Asian students in the UK and many of the UK’s competitors, and the fact that for many of them the US is the primary competitor country they consider alongside the UK. However, as the student data reported here illustrates, the UK today remains in a strong comparative position to attract international PGT students. On the overwhelming majority of indicators assessed by the ISB since 2008, the UK has improved. In the latest available survey outcomes, in terms of overall satisfaction PGT students in the UK are more satisfied than students in Australia and Canada, and virtually as satisfied as those in the US and Canada. Moreover, international UK PGT students are most likely to recommend their experience to others. Significantly, the UK has improved on these broad satisfaction factors since 2008. Yet there still remains some shortfall in overall learning satisfaction and overall support compared to universities in the US and Canada. The responses of international PGT students studying in the UK clearly indicate the three top decision-making factors in their choice: institutional reputation, the specific course of study and the quality of research generated by universities. The UK’s primary competitive advantage rests on the quality of its universities and what they are able to offer. Students continue to consider the UK to be a comparatively safe, welcoming and well-resourced destination to study. The campus environments – be they the learning facilities, student advice services, technological support or recreation – are similarly wellregarded. In addition, the data suggest that the broad conditions for study in the UK – such as reasonable cost of living, the quality of social infrastructure and diverse communities – continue to make it a highly competitive option for international PGT student choice. Finally, this data reveals subtle but nonetheless important differences between undergraduate and PGT student decision-making and choice, as well as between the decision frameworks of prospective students from different countries of origin (see companion reports, UG and PGR). These differentials suggest that more nuanced and targeted strategies – both within the postgraduate market and for differing regions – may constitute a valuable means of sustaining and building international postgraduate student numbers in the UK into the future.

49


What policy changes might impact most positively on PGT recruitment? As noted in the introduction to this report, the specific characteristics of international PGT students mean they tend to exercise greater agency in their decision-making than other segments of the international student market. As they are more mobile, they are generally willing to entertain a broader range of study and location options. Equally, their primarily professional motivations for study and reliance on private sources of income also tend to make them more discriminating, particularly in regard to programme quality, cost of living and potential employment outcomes. Policy attention needs to be directed to the support and access that international PGT students are receiving to gain employment during their study. Although this is clearly a contentious matter in a tight labour market, it is something that is evidently eroding the competitive advantage of the UK in PGT provision. Similarly, given the often limited private sources of income available to international PGT students, further efforts to reduce the cost of accommodation should be considered. Although visa processing is not a first order issue for students in terms of choice, it certainly can influence decisions if these experiences are complex or protracted. As noted earlier in this report, several countries (most notably Australia) have moved to introduce streamlined forms of visa processing, including new low-risk categories. These developments will generate further pressure on the UK if not responded to in some form. Similarly, there has been some liberalising in the opportunities for graduates to obtain work visas post-study in most competitor nations, in order to make PGT study more attractive. This reflects the legitimate desire of many graduates to either gain valuable work experience in their host country or to contribute more determinedly over time to its economic potential. However, in the UK in 2012 a portion of the Tier 1 visa route, which allowed international students to work in the UK without employer sponsorship for up to two years, was restricted. According to a 2015 report from the All-Parliamentary Party Group on Migration, the closure of the Tier 1 route saw an 88% decrease in the number of students successfully switching into a post-study work visa. This despite more than twothirds (69%) of international PGT students still seeing post-study work experience as important or very important. Inevitably, this growing differential in post-study opportunities will put UK universities at a competitive disadvantage in attempting to recruit the best of the international student pool, including those undertaking PGT programmes who seek to extend their professional scope through work in their host country location. The implications of this change to visa arrangements should be reviewed to determine its current and prospective impact on the recruitment of international students to the UK. This report demonstrates the increasingly fluid nature of the international student market for postgraduate study. With the requirement for international graduates to return to their home country, it is more important than ever for the UK and its universities to be able to demonstrate return on investment and value added in the roles and careers those graduates return to. Therefore, consideration needs to be given to initiating a formal process for the collection and collation of empirical evidence of graduate outcomes and career trajectories for key nationalities. This will provide more substantial grounding for anticipating and making informed decisions about strategic priorities in an ever more dynamic environment.

50


What types of promotional initiatives would increase applications? At a broad level, the ISB data graphically demonstrates the rapid rise in the importance of online sources as a mediator of international student choice. Prospective students increasingly expect to be able to access clear and engaging insights about the potential learning experience that a university can offer. In addition, the decision-making data presented in this report demonstrate that prospective international PGT students are basing their choices to study in the UK on factors of university quality, course offerings and research activity. These critical institutional advantages can be further highlighted by intuitively designed, outwardly-focused university and discipline-centred web sites. Similarly, there appears to be further potential for making greater use of current PGT students and alumni to offer prospective students more tangible insights and encouragement to choose specific programmes. Here again, online media are ideally suited to this form of international dissemination. The influence of educational agents is clearly growing in significance for PGT students opting to study in the UK. Yet the Agent Barometer, an annual survey of over 1,000 education agents around the world (conducted by ICEF, the professional network of agents, and i-graduate), indicates that although the UK remains very highly regarded compared to other destinations, its standing has slipped in recent years. This suggests renewed efforts are needed to build respect for the quality and reputation of UK higher education with agents working in these key source country markets. This is of particular concern due to the fact that the increased engagement of US universities with education agents will undoubtedly shift agent attention away from the UK. Finally, universities should increasingly hard-wire the connections between recruitment, student experience and graduate outcomes. Historically, departments of admissions, student services and alumni have operated independently. Having persuaded a postgraduate student to choose the UK from a world of alternatives, faced with a very significant opportunity cost, universities must then deliver the promise, or understand where they have fallen short. Graduates, their careers and their life stories complete the picture.

ENDS December 2015

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Appendix A: UK Non-EU PGT student population by field of study, 2013-14 v 2008-09 PGT non EU by field of study

2007/08

2013/14

Change

% change

(D) Business & administrative studies

38,966

54,802

15,836

41%

(9) Engineering & technology

10,377

12,193

1,816

17%

(B) Social studies

7,889

10,875

2,986

38%

(H) Creative arts & design

3,416

6,173

2,757

81%

(C) Law

5,001

5,548

548

11%

(8) Computer science

7,753

5,526

-2,227

-29%

(I) Education

3,850

4,517

667

17%

(2) Subjects allied to medicine

4,496

4,167

-329

-7%

(E) Mass communications & documentation

2,181

3,701

1,520

70%

(A) Architecture, building & planning

2,276

3,421

1,145

50%

(F) Languages

2,612

2,980

367

14%

(3) Biological sciences

2,230

2,571

341

15%

(1) Medicine & dentistry

1,964

2,355

391

20%

(6) Physical sciences

1,794

2,313

519

29%

(G) Historical & philosophical studies

1,406

1,764

358

25%

(7) Mathematical sciences

890

1,300

410

46%

(5) Agriculture & related subjects

596

633

37

6%

(J) Combined

46

85

39

85%

(4) Veterinary science

27

38

11

41%

97,771

124,962

27,191

28%

Total

Source: HESA

52


Appendix B: UK Non-EU PGT Student Population by domicile, 2013/14 v 2008/09 Rank

PGT by Domicile

2007/08

2013/14

Change

% change

1

China

18,990

43,435

24,445

129%

2

India

18,635

11,320

-7,315

-39%

3

Nigeria

6,547

9,073

2,526

39%

4

United States

5,413

6,644

1,231

23%

5

Thailand

2,396

3,928

1,532

64%

6

Pakistan

5,002

2,825

-2,177

-44%

7

Saudi Arabia

1,109

2,795

1,686

152%

8

Malaysia

2,027

2,763

736

36%

9

Taiwan

3,741

2,566

-1,175

-31%

10

Canada

2,235

2,377

142

6%

11

Bangladesh

1,238

2,019

781

63%

12

Vietnam

604

1,802

1,198

198%

13

Turkey

1,205

1,583

378

31%

14

Korea (South)

1,300

1,425

125

10%

15

Japan

1,573

1,391

-182

-12%

16

Hong Kong SAR

1,583

1,383

-200

-13%

17

Russia

972

1,366

394

41%

18

United Arab Emirates

744

1,064

320

43%

19

Ghana

1,303

1,062

-241

-18%

20

Norway

593

1,009

416

70%

Other

20,561

23,132

2,571

13%

Total

97,771

124,962

27,191

28%

Source: HESA

53


Appendix C: % International PGT students by domicile and field of study

China India Nigeria United States Thailand Pakistan Saudi Arabia Malaysia Taiwan Canada Other

Source: HESA

54


Appendix D: PGT International Students: Funding of studies by country of study PGT Funding of Studies 80

70 60

UK

50

Germany

40

Australia Canada

30

NZ

20

USA 10 0 Your employer

Family

Government/ State funding

Loan

Savings

Scholarship/ bursary

Employment while studying

Source: ISB Data

Funding of Studies: Employment while studying 20

UK

15

Germany Australia

10

Canada NZ 5 USA

0 Employment while studying

Source: ISB Data

55


The UK HE International Unit Woburn House 20 Tavistock Square London WC1H 9HQ +44(0)20 7419 5421 info@international.ac.uk www.international.ac.uk @internationalUt December 2015 Š Unauthorised copying of this document is not permitted. If you wish to copy this document please contact the UK HE International Unit for approval. While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy and completeness of the material in this Annual Report, the authors and the UK Higher Education International Unit give no warranty in that regard and accept no liability for any loss of damage incurred through the use of, or reliance upon, this report or the information contained herein. ISBN number: 978-1-84036-358-6


International Taught Postgraduate Students: The UK's Competitive Advantage Report