Employability Works
At Hobsons, listening to what tomorrow’s international students tell us about what they want from their studies is absolutely vital. We work with universities in the UK and around the world to help them attract the best and the brightest international students.

Crucial to that work is understanding how this highly-competitive and fast-moving market is changing. That’s why, this year, we talked to more than 45,000 prospective international students about what they really value and how they will choose where to study. The lessons we learn are then applied directly to our work with our partners to give them an edge. But there are broad themes and trends that apply to the sector as a whole too – and which it is important everyone looking to attract international students understands.

First of all, international students are increasingly concerned about what employability can give them in terms of quality of education and recognition of qualifications but prospective students worry that a UK degree won’t give them the chance to develop CV enhancing skills and experience. In part, this is a question for Government – the removal of post-study work visas, for example, has undermined interest in studying in the UK – but institutions can overcome this by emphasising links with industry, opportunities for work-experience and programmes to support students in preparing for the workplace.

Second, the results from the study also show that international students are increasingly motivated by a positive student experience as well as by hard outcomes such as earning potential. Nine out of 10 international students rate the face to face interaction with course leaders as important, highly important or very important. Similarly 82% of participants value the importance of making personal connections in the same way.

What does all this mean? International students still look to league table rankings, academic reputation and prestige to decide where to study – of course. But simply scoring well on all those fronts is no longer sufficient. International students are becoming much savvier, much more concerned about soft-skills and employability and much more assertive about what they want out of their experience of university.

Higher education institutions need to respond to these increasingly sophisticated demands – particularly as the UK faces stiff competition for students from countries with more liberal post-study work regimes. As a sector, we need to really sell the broader, more holistic advantages of studying here in the UK, and to increase universities’ understanding of how important it is to highlight their collaborative business ties.

Yes, you can get a great degree here, but you can also establish the skills, experience and networks that will give you a leg up the career ladder and help you to keep climbing as you go through life. That needs to be the message that our universities are transmitting to would-be students the world over.

By Honor Paddock, Hobsons’ Director of Client Success

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To download the full report visit http://www.hobsonssolutions.com/EMEA/ISS2015 or follow us @HobsonsEMEA

by Honor Paddock, Hobsons’ Director of Client Success