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International students studying Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics are most attracted to the UK because of the quality of education, rather than their UK career prospects, a major new survey has shown.
New research by the British Council has concluded that undergraduate and postgraduate international STEM students assess the value of their career and research prospects, alongside the quality of the course and the transferable skills they will attain, when deciding were to study.
A survey and analysis of the factors affecting STEM students' choice of course and destination country and the perceived benefits of studying in the UK, US, Australia and Canada found that those that chose the UK did so overwhelmingly because of its reputation for high-quality education, with career prospects and the presence of friends or relatives as secondary influencing factors. High quality education in the UK was also a big attraction for postgraduate students, as well as career opportunities and being at the forefront of innovation in a subject.
Commenting on the findings, set out in a new report International STEM students: Focusing on skills for the future, Gordon Slaven, British Council Head of Higher Education said “It’s great to see that the UK’s excellence in teaching and research in these areas is recognised by STEM students around the world. The fact that the UK continues to attract large numbers of STEM and humanities students means that the UK education experience is contributing to the development of countries around the world, and creating long term connections for the UK in the future.”
However, the study also showed the UK falling behind its international competitors in its reputation as a destination offering strong career prospects.
When the surveyed students were asked which country offered the best career opportunities, Australia came out on top with 72 per cent of the international STEM students studying in-country concurring, followed by the US with 71 per cent of in-country postgraduates and 61 per cent of Canadian in-country postgraduates. Forty-two per cent of UK international STEM postgraduates said the UK was the best destination for career opportunities.
The survey also found that more than one third (39%) of postgraduate international STEM students indicated they would look for a job in their destination country after graduation, while others stated they would seek employment in their home countries (29%), continue to study a further degree upon graduation (17%) and seek a job with the intention to continue further study (11%). Fourteen per cent of respondents stated they wanted to stay in academia after graduating with their STEM postgraduate degree.
A higher percentage of both undergraduate and postgraduate students studied abroad to access jobs in their destination country after graduation, but a comparatively small percentage stated they wanted to migrate permanently, indicating many international STEM student aspire to work for the short-term, perhaps to gain experience or save money.
Zainab Malik, Research Director of the British Council’s Education Intelligence service and author of the report, said: "International STEM students seek high-quality education and enhanced career prospects, therefore the most attractive education systems will be those who are best integrated with the innovation economy. Also, our research shows that while many international students want to work overseas, either where they study or in other countries, in the beginning of their careers they are keen to maintain their link with and transfer their knowledge to their home countries in the long-term.”
Gordon Slaven added: ”What's important about this research is that it compares international student perceptions of four study destinations. It is important to understand not only the motivations of these students, to be able to ensure they have the best chances to fulfil their professional goals, but to examine the drivers that influence their journey. Creating a young workforce with transferable, in-demand skills is what will drive the global economy forward."
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