Market intelligence for international student recruitment from ICEF

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Survey reinforces the impact of Brexit on UK attractiveness

Short on time? Here are the highlights:
    • An April 2019 flash survey finds that Brexit still weighs on the decision making of prospective students
    • A significant percentage of survey respondents affirm that the UK would be a more attractive study destination if it were to remain within the EU
    • The survey findings also underscore the importance of the UK’s new international education strategy and the expanded marketing collaborations that it anticipates between the international education sector and government

Let’s talk about Brexit. At this writing, the UK is poised to crash out of the European Union on 12 April without an exit deal in place. British parliamentarians are engaged in intense negotiations to find a way out of the political impasse that has stalled the country’s departure from the EU and set up an uncertain timetable going forward.

In order to avoid a “no deal” exit, Prime Minister Theresa May has proposed to delay Brexit until 30 June, but EU leaders are expected to demand a longer extension which will in turn set up yet another showdown in parliament this week for the embattled prime minister.

With all of that as a backdrop, QS has just released findings from a “pulse survey” of 3,300 prospective international students. The survey was conducted earlier this month and reached prospects in markets around the world. QS is releasing the pulse findings in advance of its full International Student Survey results for 2019.

The advance survey asked prospective students (from both EU and non-EU markets) how Brexit would affect their interest in studying in the UK. Its key findings include:

  • One in five respondents said that the UK’s decision to leave the European Union had made them less interested in studying in the UK.
  • More than a third (36%) said that they would be more interested in studies in the UK if the country remained within the EU.

It seems clear that the prospect of a Brexit (or, conversely, a decision by the UK to ultimately remain within the EU) is still sending strong market signals for many of the survey respondents. Employment goals and perceptions of how open the country remains for visiting students were both important factors for those who said the UK would be a more attractive destination if it remains within the European Union.

  • Nearly half (44%) felt their employment prospects would be better under this scenario.
  • Four in ten said that remaining within the EU would prove that the UK is still welcoming to international students.

The survey findings also highlight the importance of continued proactive messaging and marketing on the part of the British government and UK educators.

“The UK’s higher education sector has a strong track record of delivering high quality education to students from around the world,” said QS Director of B2B Marketing & Market Intelligence Paul Raybould. “Our research shows that irrespective of the Brexit outcome the UK Government must work with the sector to continue promoting the UK as a leading study destination for international and EU students. With the current Brexit uncertainty looking set to continue, any future proposals which help to make the UK a more attractive place to study should be more widely publicised.”

The groundwork for that effort appears to have been laid last month with the announcement of the UK’s new international education strategy.

The strategy sets out ambitious goals to both nearly double the value of education exports and significantly increase the number of international students in British higher education – both by 2030. Perhaps just as importantly, the strategy also anticipates closer cooperation between the UK’s international education sector and government in terms of policy development, marketing, student supports, and research.

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