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Enabling Success for International Students in the UK

  • 15 November 2022
  • By Meti Basiri

This blog was contributed by Meti Basiri, Co-Founder, ApplyBoard.

As the global economy edges closer to recession, competition for international talent will be more critical than ever before. The theme of the ApplyBoard trends report, released on 14 November 2022, is obvious from its title, A New Era of Student Choice Begins. The report uses the latest industry data to identify future student trends and build transparency about student needs.

Whether it is breaking down work barriers for international students or investing in visa-processing improvements, popular study abroad destinations such as the United Kingdom, Canada, the United States and Australia are making important moves to distinguish themselves from their competition. If study destination countries like the UK hope to maintain a competitive advantage, it will be critical that they continue to build and offer innovative, student-friendly policies over the next couple of years.

International students showed increased interest in a UK-based study abroad experience during the first half of 2022. According to the UK Home Office, 140,000 sponsored UK study visa applications were submitted in the first half of 2022. This is 80 per cent more applications than in the same period last year.

There is clearly demand for studying in the UK, but is the UK meeting the needs of international students?

What do students look for?

The trends report shares results from the ApplyBoard Pulse Survey, shedding light on the factors and concerns that matter most to current international students. Affordability issues topped the survey results. Counsellors said that the cost of studying (85 per cent) was the top concern among their students when choosing where to study abroad, followed by post-graduation work opportunities (80 per cent) and cost of living (73 per cent). When counsellors

were asked about affordability in the survey, 65 per cent of respondents agreed that studying and living in the UK is affordable for international students.

With concern for the cost of living and inflation in the UK, it is not surprising that affordability is a major factor. Affordability concerns are evident within the ApplyBoard Platform user search data as well.

Two out of every three students on the platform searched for tuition fees below 50,000 GBP per year. This is less than what students searched for on the ApplyBoard platform before the onset of the pandemic.

While this is only search data, it helps forecast future trends and indicates where student interest lies. 

As highlighted, post-graduation work opportunities were the most important consideration of international students after tuition fees. Recent industry student surveys have found nearly half of all students plan to stay in their study destination to work after graduation. So, where does the UK stand when it comes to offering post-graduation work opportunities?

Recruitment partners ranked Canada, Australia and the United Kingdom as the countries which provide the strongest post-graduation work opportunities for students. The UK Graduate Route is a welcome opportunity for students, given it offers two years to work following graduation. According to recent student surveys, nearly 60 per cent of future students are more likely to consider studying in the UK if international students have the opportunity to stay in the country for three instead of two years.

Canada and Australia both offer generous post-study work opportunities which give those countries a competitive edge. Canada’s Post-Graduation Work Permit Program (PGWPP) has a very high approval rate. And Australia’s recent revisions to its post-study work stream might make it the most generous. In September 2022, the Australian Government announced that graduates in certain sectors will be eligible to stay and work for an extra two years in the country, on top of the two to four years it already offered.

The number of recent postgraduate work announcements shows destinations are paying increased attention to improving access to work opportunities.

International students and graduates contribute so much to society, whether they stay in the country they studied in or return home after graduating.

For many high-skill positions, student recruitment remains a vital component to filling gaps in the job market. One in eight (12 per cent) of UK searches on the ApplyBoard Platform in 2022 have been for Nursing or health fields of study, with Nursing being more popular among UK searches than non-UK searches. This is an interesting insight, given the need for workers in the health and social work sector grew 21 per cent in September 2022 compared to 2021.

Future of International Education in the UK: A Blank Slate?

There has been a lot of discussion recently on the benefits of international students in the UK. As a former international student, I know the tremendous impact these students bring to learning environments, the global workforce, and the community. With the UK going through a transitional period, it is important for the UK to prioritise its economic and innovative growth and goals for the future.

In the ApplyBoard September 2022 report, How Can Diversifying the UK’s International Student Community Future Proof Learning for All, we looked at how emerging student populations and student needs will shape the future of the industry. Some of the top recommendations listed in the report include streamlining the application process for students and UK institutions, planning for long-term growth in student recruitment, and improving the student journey. These are some of the ways the UK can continue to be an innovative leader in the education industry.

The UK is in a strong position, but it is imperative the UK, and all study abroad destinations understand that students have a tremendous number of options in front of them, meaning continued competitiveness will require an ongoing innovation to student-friendly policies.

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1 comment

  1. The SOARing to Success meta-model engages all students inclusively in a range of skills-development activities that value diversity. As such, it has proven its capacity to give international students a genuine voice and value, working with others and with home students in accredited and assessed components of study, regardless of their subject area. ICTs open up new possibilities for collaborative research across national boundaries, to achieve global goals. (Ref: Kumar, A. 2022, Personal, Social, Academic and Career Development — SOARing to Success pub. Routledge Taylor &Francis.)

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