‘Soft’ skills attract international students

UK institutions should focus on employability skills to attract international students, says new report

A survey of more than 45,000 prospective international students has found that, for higher education institutions that want to compete globally, league tables remain king but it is ‘soft’ skills and the student experience that can make the difference when it comes to recruitment. 

The third annual study by Hobsons is the largest of its kind – surveying students from 210 different countries who intend to study abroad. The report finds that the UK remains a popular destination attracting students from 199 of those countries surveyed. But there is more that institutions can do to attract the best overseas talent. 

It is not surprising that students rate worldwide league tables as the main driver of their decision of which country to study in and which institution to apply for. But the research also finds that like domestic students, those from overseas are increasingly looking at the student experience and our employability factors when they make decisions about their future study.  

Higher education institutions must therefore place a renewed emphasis on employability through soft skills and combine this with providing context around rankings, which communicate value not just by how high they are but in a tangible way through industry accreditations, alumni success or differentiators against competitors’

There is an opportunity for UK institutions to attract international students by successfully communicating how they can help students develop ‘soft’ employability skills. The UK ranks highly in terms of quality of education and recognition of qualifications but we are falling behind when it comes to demonstrating how soft skills that lead to good employability are built alongside educational outcomes. 

The results from the study also show that international students are increasingly motivated by a positive student experience as well as by hard outcomes such as earning potential. Nine out of 10 international students rate the face-to-face interaction with course leaders as important, highly important or very important. Similarly 82% of participants value the importance of making personal connections in the same way.

Honor Paddock, Hobsons’ Director of Client Success at Hobson says: “These findings reinforce what we already know, that while the UK remains a popular destination for international students in an increasingly fierce and globalised HE sector it becomes more important to understand the market itself. Higher education institutions must therefore place a renewed emphasis on employability through soft skills and combine this with providing context around rankings, which communicate value not just by how high they are but in a tangible way through industry accreditations, alumni success or differentiators against competitors. By working with Government and providing students with the tools to develops the skills in the global work environment the UK can continue to attract the best talent from around the world.” 

To download the full report visit https://www.hobsonssolutions.com/EMEA/ISS2015

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