Global trends of digital students

A new report compiled by QS has revealed how prospective students digitally research universities and the factors that affect their final decision

Indisputable today is the widespread use of digital resources in all aspects of life, which is only ever increasing for students. However, despite the investments made by universities in this area, there is still little evidence about how digital resources are utilised by prospective students as part of their search process; and whether they now outweigh traditional methods.

Compiled by QS, the publisher of the World University Rankings, The Students Online: Global Trends 2014 report looks at how prospective students will utilise technology as well as traditional sources in their decision making process.

Google and Compete’s 2012 US-based study found that nine in 10 enrolled students had used the internet to research higher education institutions, with one in ten exclusively using online sources of information.

A year earlier, the 2011 E-Expectations Reportfrom Noel-Levitz published the alarming finding that one in five prospective students surveyed said they’d removed a college from their list as a result of a bad experience on the institution’s website. 

Laura Bridgestock, author of the Noel-Levitz report, says: “While universities know the online sphere is essential when communicating with prospective students, there’s little information available about how students use the internet during their research. This report shows that it is important to use a wide range of tools and not to underestimate the importance of traditional communication methods even in the Web 3.0 era.”

Highlights of the report include:

  • Distinct audiences use very different methods of higher education searching
  • Third party resources are highly regarded when evaluating universities
  • Social media is widely used in prospective students’ research, although it is still considered comparatively less important than other resources
  • Online and offline resources are considered equally important as one another
  • The surveyed prospective students reported that information on scholarships or funding is the most difficult to find

The scope of the study extended across 35 countries, providing insight not solely into overarching trends but also regional specific, gender specific, and age specific trends.

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