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UK losing global postgraduate market share despite stellar reputation

The UK is losing its share of the global student market to increasingly competitive universities in the United States and Canada, despite enjoying the highest satisfaction levels in the world among its international students.

Two new reports from the UK HE international unit looking at the UK’s global competitive advantage in postgraduate taught and research programmes show that high satisfaction rates among overseas students make Britain the most recommended English-speaking study destination in the world.

But with funding constraints at home forcing universities in the US and Canada to recruit more aggressively abroad, the UK is losing its share of the market. Despite an increase in international postgraduate taught numbers between 2007-14, the UK’s growth of 27.8 per cent amounted to a 1.4 per cent fall in market share. Meanwhile, The US increased market share by 2.3 per cent and Canada by 31.3 per cent.

As well as facing a more competitive market, UK universities have been hampered and started to lose on satisfaction ratings since 2008 thanks to the ending of post-study work entitlements, tougher visa rules, and falling financial support. The reports say postgraduate international students in the UK are highly satisfied with teaching and learning support, but increasingly dissatisfied with the financial support and opportunities to earn. 

“At the level of international comparisons, it is clear that the UK delivers a world-class experience for taught postgraduate students. 86 per cent of students would recommend the UK, the highest rate of comparator countries, and up by 4 per cent since 2007/8. However, the UK cannot be complacent, because satisfaction with both the USA and Canada is also high and improving fast,” the report on postgraduate taught provision warns.

The reports call for a national coordinated campaign to position the quality of the experience and the value of a UK research degree at the heart of messages to attract more of the most talented research students.


Get the full picture on this and other key HE reports: HEi-know Briefing Report 286

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