May 14, 2014

A major report, released today, shows that the UK is falling behind in the global race in higher education because international students are being put off by government policy and the perception that the UK won’t welcome them.

The Hobsons report entitled ‘Beyond the data’ surveys and finds that the overwhelming majority of potential international students are not motivated by a desire to live in the UK after graduation: Shattering the myth that international students use British universities as an immigration loophole. 

However, international applicants are concerned about visa changes which affect their ability to come and study in the UK and the perception of how ‘welcoming’ a country is has a huge impact on their choice of destination. 

Hobsons’ Director of Client and External Relations, Duncan Findlater, said:
“The UK needs to understand that when a student is thinking of coming here to study in most cases this means they don’t want to live in the UK after they finish their course.”

Mr Findlater said the report highlights the damage to the UK’s position as a global higher education leader just as the government proposes further policies aimed at placing further restrictions on international students.

“The students surveyed valued the high standard of education that they will receive from one of our universities.  The quality of education in the UK is high and so is the demand to study here.  We must be open and welcoming to international students.”

BIS research has placed the value of international students to the UK economy at £14 billion.  With 73% of potential international students telling Hobsons that the ease of getting a visa to study would affect their choice of destination country, the potential impact is clear.

Key findings from the research include:

  • Prospective international students place ability to stay and work in their country of choice after completing their degree as one of the least important factors in determining their choice of destination (46%). Distance from home country is the only factor that scores lower (21%)
  • For prospective international students the top three most important reasons for choosing to study overseas are quality of education compared to their home country (85%), international recognition of qualifications (84%), and the country’s attitude towards international students (79%). This means that aside from education quality, which naturally comes top, the perception of how ‘welcoming’ a country is the most important factor in choosing a place to study for international students


Hobsons - which works to facilitate student recruitment around the world – raised the alarm over falling international student numbers, warning that the decline over the last two years will be felt long into the future if policy isn’t changed now.  Speaking about the findings of this major research, Mr Findlater added:

“International students contribute £14 billion pounds to the UK economy and play a key role in the vitality of the sector. Our research shows that perceptions do matter. In an increasingly competitive and globalised market we need to work together to send a clear message to the world – when it comes to international study, Britain is open for business.”

To download the full report visit or follow us @HobsonsEMEA 


Note to Editors:

Hobsons partnered with 16 universities from across the UK and Australia to survey their prospective, current and past student databases. The survey received 18,393 responses across 195 countries, 198 nationalities, and a total of 583 lines of enquiry.

The size of the data set along with the number and quality of responses has enabled very robust student segmentation, insight into the international student decision making process, how they assess teaching quality, what matters most when comparing countries and institutions and how all of this varies across six different international student profiles.
Respondents were asked how important or unimportant various factors were in deciding where to study and asked to rate these factors on a scale of 1-7 where 1= Not at all important and 7= Very important

The study used conjoint analysis rather than straightforward polling. Here attributes are then given scores (‘attributed importance’). So, for example, the attributed importance of ‘subject ranking’ is 22.8 compared to just 7.6 for ‘Student Satisfaction’.  This shows us that subject ranking is three times as important a factor as student satisfaction in determining choice.


For further information, please contact

Harry Padfield

Martha Dalton


Visit the Resource Center