Student sentiment shifting to New Zealand, Germany and the US

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A survey of 8,312 respondents hailing from 124 countries around the world (not including China), carried out by aecc, found that prospective international student sentiment is shifting, with 15.53% noting their intended study destination preference had changed in the past 12 months.

The research confirmed that quality of education and job opportunities are key motivators for prospective international students, with 38.2% and 25.3%, respectively, saying so.

While a further 11.2% said post study/graduate work rights were a key motivator, some eight in 10 said the rights were “extremely important” to them.

The survey also found that over 75% of prospective international students are extremely or somewhat concerned about recently policy changes in the UK, which could be the reason for the potential change in study destination preference.

Canada announced a cap on undergraduate students in January and Australia’s migration strategy has seen universities and students grappling with visa issuances in countries that authorities consider risky.

Students said the dependant visa changes in the UK, changes to the minimum required income for post study employment sponsorship and potential future changes to Graduate Visa Work Rights in the UK were the top three concerns.

If the UK Graduate Visa duration was reduced from the current two years, almost half of the prospective international students questioned said they would be likely to change their choice of preferred study destination.

“If one in two international students changed their minds about studying in the UK it could cause a complete sector wipe out”

“I hope UK policy makers see this data, because it is incredibly clear how important post-graduate work rights are for international students,” said aecc chief commercial officer, Jake Foster.

“If one in two international students changed their minds about studying in the UK it could cause a complete sector wipe out.

“If the government makes changes to international student graduate visa work rights, it could be a very dark day for higher education in the UK.”

A total of 7,413 prospective international students were asked about studying online, with the majority saying they’d not prefer to do so entirely.

However, there is a growing proportion of students interested in studying their first year online, compared to previous survey, aecc. Similarly, a “growing and substantial” proportion (47.8%) is positive about completing their first year in their own country on campus before studying overseas.

While a large portion of prospective international students plan to return to their home countries after completing their studies, Foster noted that graduate visa work rights remain critical for international students.

“We know 75% of prospective international students are seriously concerned about recent UK government policy changes,” he said.

“Students changing their preferred study destination are re-evaluating their plans to study in the UK, which is a trend that we should closely watch.

“We are already seeing institutions under great pressure, graduate visa changes could destabilise a number of UK universities completely.

“There is a serious risk here for the entire UK higher education sector if negative changes are made to graduate visas.”

The PIE launched a petition to protect the Graduate visa, which is available for British citizens or UK residents to supporthere.

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