What Matters to International Students?

How the findings of QS Solutions’ Global Overview supports HelloUni software as a service:

The QS Solutions paper is based on a 2015 sample of 1800 students across 15 cities and 11 countries.

Foreign students worldwide increased by 50% between 2005 and 2012 reaching over 5 million in 2015. China and India are the largest provider of international students. Other leaders include France, Malaysia and the US. Emerging markets like Indonesia and LATAM are also predicted to rise with young populations and strong government subsidies supporting international study. In the US it is typically cheaper to study abroad than locally. Consequently this data supports our business plan to prioritise the Chinese market in the short term with a view to expanding to India, USA, Malaysia and further afield in the coming years.

Motivations for Studying Abroad:

Data indicates that, worldwide, students are motivated to study abroad to increase their employment opportunities and for personal development. Our app provides funding and scholarship information in a streamlined, user friendly format. We also incorporate local partners such as banks, accommodation and travel providers to give students super localised, real-time  information on what local life is like all in one place.

Chinese and Indian students identified their motivation to improve their international communication skills as a key pull factor. Communication is at the heart of our products helping universities to communicate with prospective applicants and connecting students with the university community.

American students are highly motivated to develop their network outside the US to increase future career opportunities.  Our forums and live Q&A help bring students into the university community and forge meaningful connections before they even make their application, inciting them to go on to select your institution forming an emotional connection.

In developing countries, there is a clear desire to study abroad at prestigious, internationally recognised institutions. For this reason our app displays QS world rankings and has the functionality to sort by varying categories from student satisfaction to research and facilities.  

All students indicated that rankings cannot be used alone to make a decision. They want information from multiple sources confirming the same message. Our products provide opinions from fellow students, alumni and professors, streamline social media and university content in one place. This will ultimately help students to accelerate the decision making process and push them towards the deposit paying stage faster than they would have reached it organically, minimising frustration, missed deadlines and dropped applications.

There is a global demand for access to peer to peer review and the ability to reach out to peers and gain their personal support. In the QS paper, LinkedIn is cited as a tool that students use to try and reach out, often unsuccessfully or with delayed effects, due to people not checking their emails regularly or inputting a misspelt or old email address.

Worldwide there is frustration with university websites which leave negative impressions and can be overwhelming especially for non native speakers. The personal approach and face to face interaction generated the most positive feedback. For us, personalisation is essential for user retention and also to allow universities to capture user data. We are also developing a personal application assistant using AI and machine learning for maximum personalisation. We offer in app virtual interviewing as a feature, virtual open days and direct contact with ambassadors all including elements of face to face interaction.  Virtual tours are in high demand as people often cannot travel to attend open days in advance of their start date.

Data shows that in China and India teaching can be highly theoretical and students study abroad seeking a more practical education to put their knowledge into practice. Chinese PhD students want to access advanced facilities like laboratories. Some students outlined a desire to have more freedom in their research topics and hoped they could achieve this by studying abroad. Many students aim to access specialised courses that are not available in their home country.

A PhD student from China explains that some subjects are considered Western because they came from outside China, like anthropology. It is considered advantageous to study this type of subject in a more mature environment. Students can be wary of new courses running for the first time. Chinese students also stressed a desire to bring back lessons to China from European finance hubs.

Many international students are looking forward to the independent ‘self-study’ style popular in the UK with less contact hours. English speaking countries continue to be favoured and many young applicants cite their inspiration coming from English speaking media. Some students also refer to Snapchat Stories, a looped video accessible to all users anytime, as the reason behind choosing a particular location. This type of authentic and natural communication inspires trust and is seen as reliable. At HelloUni we hold bi-weekly live streaming sessions for our student community exploring topics about international study and university life. Livestreaming and our social media presence makes the HelloUni brand an equally trusted voice and source of information to compare with Snapchat, Youtube etc. .  

International students value a university that supports them in integrating into the local community and helps them access internships and part time jobs. Our app will collaborate with local partners to allow students to communicate with potential employers in real time on their mobile. This invitation to collaborate can also be extended to any other service used by the student community, from banks to accommodation providers, food outlets and travel agents.

So given that students have already indicated they want to see the same message conveyed by multiple sources to create credibility and that rankings will undoubted by one of the reference points they use in their decision making process, how do students use this data? Students prefer to see subject specific global rankings followed by global university ranking but place less importance on national rankings.

With the graduate job market becoming increasingly competitive Chinese students hope that a famed institution will give them the edge over other job candidates. The first question from potential employers is often, “Which university did you attend?” as opposed to querying GPA or subject choice.

Students believe a higher ranking implies more resources, better teachers, high quality education and being surrounded by driven, ambitious students. They believe that being surrounded by likeminded individuals will motivate them to work harder and develop better communication skills. Findings also suggest people will compromise their course choice in favour of a high ranking university.

In addition to corroboration between different sources, students place the utmost value on goodwill and personal feedback. They would like to receive word of mouth recommendations and personal advice from friends, family, tutors and other students, ideally from trusted students and tutors from their home university. Online forums like ChaseDream (China) and Erasmusu (Europe) are popular.

The data confirms our long time belief that there is a global need for an intuitive software that facilitates the study abroad process and gives students confidence in their decision making process, working closely with universities to provide a bespoke solution.

HelloUni is a customisable, mobile partner providing a wide range of bespoke features to enhance the application journey ultimately increasing conversion:

Some examples of our features:

  • Prospectus
  • Funding Search
  • Ambassador Programme
  • Forum
  • Live Q&A
  • Application Journey Checklist
  • Push Notifications
  • Virtual Open Days
  • In App Interviews
  • App Personalisation
  • Gamification

Let us know your thoughts at HelloUni!