What do prospective international students consider when choosing an institution?

As part of Global Student Centre annual research, we reviewed prospective international students on what factors play a role in their decision-making process.


Nearly a third of prospective students interested in studying in the UK viewed the option of multiple intakes as an important factor when selecting a course.

The majority of students usually enrol at their chosen university in September, however travel restrictions due to ongoing COVID-19 measures in their home countries or lengthy visa processing may force some students to delay their plans for international study. 

It is clear that universities are divided on this issue, with some of the belief that having multiple intakes makes it easier for students to enrol with their institution at the time of year which best suits their needs, while others opting to avoid the logistical challenges and complexities that managing multiple intakes brings. 


62% of prospective students interested in studying in Australia and New Zealand placed ‘affordability’ in their top five most important factors in course selection, making it the single most important factor for them this year.

This may reflect the severe economic challenges caused by the pandemic, with some prospective students no longer having the same level of financial security that they once did, increasing their price sensitivity. 

This insight is evidence of increasing levels of price sensitivity – particularly when choosing a course – which may need to be offset with increased flexibility around tuition fees, the provision of scholarships and a robust range of student support services to help students manage the financial aspects of their student life, such as employment and housing. 

Environmental impact and social responsibilities

77% of candidates interested in studying in the EU said that they expect universities to be doing more to further the sustainability agenda and combat climate change. 

The next generation of students increasingly expect universities to take an active role in supporting their local communities and the societies in which they operate. There is also an expectation that the higher education sector is at the forefront of developing new technologies to help us all live more sustainably.  

Universities need to ensure they are communicating, as well as improving their sustainability activities across a range of areas. This includes the reduction of single-use plastics and introducing energy efficiency measures to help accelerate progress towards becoming carbon neutral. 

The opinions of others

69% of candidates interested in studying at an institution in Australia or New Zealand will speak to their parents about their study options, with 60% claiming their parents have ‘a lot of’ or ‘a fair amount of’ influence on their decision-making. 

Deciding which university to attend can be challenging, but this process is made ever more complex when the decision is made to study abroad. Not only do prospective international students have to decide which university to attend, but also assess the employment, safety and logistics of studying in a particular country – all from a distance. Therefore, it is not uncommon for candidates to discuss their options with multiple people, including family, agents and representatives from the institution they are interested in.  

Institutions might consider how they adapt and prioritise their marketing efforts to target these non-student groups who all have the power to influence student decision-making.  

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