UK “much more attractive” in 2021 – QS survey


The UK has become “much more attractive” and more “welcoming” as a study destination over the last year for international students, a new report has suggested.

Posted on Dec 9, 2021by Sophie Hogan

The latest QS Quacquarelli Symonds report, collating responses of an ongoing survey running since the start of the pandemic, found that students’ attraction to the UK as a study destination has increased from a fifth of them agreeing with the statement, to just over a third over the last year.

The same was said for how welcoming it was as a place to study for international students.

Some 115,000 prospective international students have been surveyed since February 2020, 34,880 of whom were considering studying in the UK.

Covid-19 vaccines have also become a much more amenable decision for those wanting to study abroad – 86% now want a jab to be able to travel, with a 24% rise compared to the beginning of 2021.

“The UK is being seen as an increasingly attractive destination of study above many of its key competitors”

Support for vaccine passports for international travel has increased by 13%, with nearly two-thirds of those wishing to study abroad – this is an increase from just over half of students at the beginning of the year.

“Support for vaccination and vaccine passports has increased steadily over the past year, suggesting that students are more willing to accept Covid-19 requirements from countries so they can progress with their plans to study abroad,” said Paul Raybould, QS director of marketing.

The report also noted the disparity in the speed of vaccination rollout – which, Raybould noted, could explain the UK positivity.

“The trend data from our research over 2021 shows that the UK’s distribution of the Covid-19 vaccine has significantly enhanced the country’s reputation amongst international students,” Raybould explained.

“As we’ve progressed through the year, the UK is being seen as an increasingly attractive destination of study above many of its key competitors,” he added.

The question of deferral was also featured in the report, asking students whether they would defer their studies internationally in the midst of the pandemic.

In September to October 2021, half of students surveyed still said that they planned to defer their or delay their studies until at least next year.

“Given that the legality of travel is now one of the main barriers for students, the higher education sector has strong evidence to support the reopening of borders to international students,” the report read.

The number of students that would still be interested in starting their studies online then progressing to in-person teaching also increased by 7% over the course of the year, with 52% saying they would consider such a course when asked in September/October.

“What cannot be ignored is that a consistently large proportion of prospective international students saw the closure of campuses and cancellation of in-person teaching as a barrier to them pursuing international study as planned,” the report added.

New Zealand received a glowing review in the report, with nearly a third of students labelling it has having handled of the pandemic the best out of any country – despite a constant closure of borders since March 2020.

Other countries that international students thought performed well were the United States (10%), Germany (8%), China (8%) and the UK (5%).

“The collaborative way in which the UK sector has worked has been particularly instrumental in tackling international student recruitment challenges during Covid-19,” said Vivienne Stern, director of UUKi, on the report.

“It is really promising to see large increases in the percentage of students who view the UK as a more attractive and welcoming place to study.”