Hobsons Choice – International Student Decision Making

A recent publication by Hobsons EMEA “Beyond the Data: Influencing international student decision making” provides a ten point plan which provides an insight into how international students make decisions about overseas study. The report contain useful information on who a typical international student might be, the motivations for selecting a particular institution, information gathering, decision making and application, and ends with questions about “what is teaching quality”.

In addition the report shows that ‘student experience’ and contact time are much less important to applicants than institutional and course-specific league table rankings.

The ten point plan is summarised as:

  1. Course, then country, then institution: that is the order of an international student’s decision-making process. Students select a course to study first, then they evaluate the country and only after doing that will they select the institution
  2. Fees are the second most important consideration for international students and are the number one reason for declining offers
  3. Subject/course rankings are more important in student decision-making than institution rankings or other factors including fees
  4. Perception of student satisfaction does not drive choice of institution
  5. Graduate outcomes are a key factor in international students’ decision-making
  6. Each institution has a role to play in marketing their country as a desirable destination
  7. Country level messaging reinforcing welcome and safety of international students will support institutional marketing
  8. Institutions must be clear on their brand value proposition for each course
  9. Students want to engage with institutions and their content through visual social media sites (YouTube and Instagram) during the research phase of selecting an institution
  10. It is not just about giving out information or an offer: students need to be nurtured from the information gathering phase through to enquiry and then application.

As someoen who works with league tables and portfolio performance, I was interested in teh survey results on how international student perceive teaching quality:

When students are asked to rate the importance of factors related to teaching quality respondents said that academic reputation (76 per cent), subject or course ranking (76 per cent), student satisfaction with the institution (74 per cent), tuition fees (72 per cent) and use of technology in teaching (72 per cent) were their most important determinates for teaching quality. It was interesting to us that graduate employment rates (64 per cent) and teaching hours per week (57 per cent) were less important. The two least important factors were the age of the institution (33 per cent) and high entry requirements (39 per cent).

When studnets were asked to comapre the variosu factors, and trade themm off against each pther, then fees can be seen to be the ost important, with subject ranking just behind. Studnet satisfaciiotn seems to be of little importance!


Overall, a document worth reading, especially for anyone involved in international student recruitment – it may reinforce the things we already know, but, for example,  I didn’t know that student satisfaction was seen of being as such little importance when used in deciding where to study, That doesn’t mean it’s unimportant, as it’s of massive importance once a student is with us.