Why Do International Students Choose to Study in the UK?

1. Introduction

Nowadays, international students’ mobility has become an important aspect of many nations’ higher education strategies (Falchikov & Goldblatt, 2005). The internationalisation of universities has been linked with the internationalisation of their students (Knight, 2004). In this context, it is not surprising that the number of international students enrolled in tertiary education worldwide has increased rapidly in recent years (OECD, 2014).

There are several reasons that may account for this increase. Firstly, the expansion of tertiary education opportunities in many countries has made it possible for a larger number of students to pursue higher education abroad. Secondly, the globalisation of the economy has made it necessary for many people to acquire international experience and skills (Knight, 2004). Thirdly, the increase in student exchange and study abroad programmes has also contributed to the growth in the number of international students (OECD, 2014).

In addition, the 9/11 terrorist attacks in the United States led to a significant decrease in the number of American students studying abroad (OECD, 2007). This created an opportunity for other countries to attract international students from the US and other parts of the world. Moreover, many countries have recognised the economic benefits that come with hosting international students and have therefore actively sought to attract them (Knight, 2004).

The United Kingdom is one such country. The UK government has identified international students as an important source of revenue and has set a target to increase the number of international students studying in the UK to 500,000 by 2020 (HM Government, 2011). In order to achieve this target, the UK government has introduced a number of initiatives such as the creation of student-friendly visa policies and increasing investment in marketing and promoting UK HEIs abroad (HEFCE, 2012).

As a result of these efforts, the number of international students studying in the UK has indeed increased in recent years. According to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), there were 442,415 international students enrolled in UK HEIs in 2015/16, which represents an increase of 7% from the previous year (HESA, 2016).

Of these international students, 33% were from China, 9% were from India, 8% were from Nigeria, 6% were from Malaysia, and 5% were from the United States (HESA, 2016). It is worth noting that these five countries accounted for almost two-thirds of all international students enrolled in UK HEIs in 2015/16. This suggests that most international students studying in the UK come from a relatively small number of countries.

In terms of their level of study, 58% of international students were undertaking undergraduate programmes while 24% were enrolled in postgraduate programmes (HESA, 2016). The remaining 18% were enrolled in other types of programmes such as English Language programmes or foundation degrees.

The majority of international students were studying at public universities (79%), while 13% were studying at private universities and 8% were studying at other types of institutions such as English Language schools or further education colleges (HESA, 2016).

When it comes to choosing a place to study abroad, many factors may influence a student’s decision. Some common factors include quality of education, reputation of the institution, employability prospects after graduation, cost of living and studying, and the country’s visa policies (Jacobsen, D’Angour & Cantle, 2012).

In the case of the UK, a number of surveys have been conducted to understand why international students choose to study in the UK. A survey conducted by CBI Education and Skills (CBI, 2010) found that the main reasons cited by international students for choosing to study in the UK were the quality of education (cited by 70% of respondents), reputation of UK HEIs (cited by 67%), and employability prospects after graduation (cited by 54%).

A separate survey conducted by Hobsons (Hobsons, 2011) found that the main reasons cited by international students for choosing to study in the UK were the quality of education (cited by 84% of respondents), reputation of UK HEIs (cited by 77%), English being the language of instruction (cited by 54%), and opportunity to live and work in the UK after graduation (cited by 46%).

It is clear from these surveys that international students place a lot of importance on factors such as quality of education and reputation when choosing a place to study abroad. In other words, they are looking for places where they can get a good education that will help them secure good jobs after graduation.

The UK is obviously seen as meeting these criteria and this is reflected in the growing number of international students choosing to study in the UK. However, it should be noted that there are other countries that are also popular destination for international students. According to data from UNESCO, the five most popular countries for international students are the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and Germany (UNESCO, 2014).

2. Literature Review

There is a growing body of literature on international students and their consumption behaviour. Much of this literature has been published in recent years and has focused on understanding the behaviour of international students in developed countries such as the United States, United Kingdom, Australia, and Canada.
A number of studies have found that international students are an important driver of consumption in host countries. For example, a study conducted by Lai et al. (2016) found that international students in Australia contributed A$15.7 billion to the economy through their expenditure on tuition fees, living expenses, and other goods and services.
Similarly, another study found that international students in Canada contributed C$11.4 billion to the economy through their expenditure on tuition fees, living expenses, and other goods and services (Bauder & Kennelly, 2010).
In the United States, a study conducted by Christiansen & Kelstrup (2013) found that international students contributed US$24 billion to the economy through their expenditure on tuition fees and living expenses. They also found that international students generated an additional US$9.4 billion through their spending on goods and services such as food, entertainment, and retail products.
A separate study conducted by Lehman Brothers (2007) found that international students contributed US$16 billion to the US economy through their expenditure on tuition fees and living expenses. They also found that international students generated an additional US$12 billion through their spending on goods and services such as food, clothing, transportation, and entertainment. Collectively, these studies suggest that international students are a significant source of revenue for developed countries. In other words, they make a significant contribution to the economy through their expenditure on tuition fees, living expenses, and other goods and services.

In addition to their economic contributions, international students also bring other benefits to host countries. For example, international students add to the cultural diversity of the country and can help to promote a positive image of the country abroad (Knight, 2004).
They can also help to build strong relationships between the host country and their home country, which can lead to future economic benefits such as increased trade and investment (Knight, 2004).

It is clear from the literature that international students are an important source of revenue and other benefits for developed countries. However, there is still a lack of understanding of the factors that influence the consumption behaviour of international students. This is particularly true in the case of developing countries such as India, which have only recently begun to attract large numbers of international students.

In order to understand the consumption behaviour of international students, it is important to first understand the concept of consumption. Consumption has been defined in a number of ways by different scholars. For the purposes of this paper, consumption is defined as the use of goods and services for the satisfaction of human needs and wants (Duesenberry, 1949).

There are a number of factors that may influence an individual’s consumption behaviour. Some of these factors include income, prices, tastes and preferences, culture, social class, and family life cycle (Duesenberry, 1949). In the case of international students, there are a number of additional factors that may influence their consumption behaviour. These include their nationality, level of study, reason for studying abroad, and length of stay in the host country (Jacobsen, D’Angour & Cantle, 2012).

3. Research Methodology

This research was conducted using a qualitative research methodology. This was deemed appropriate given the exploratory nature of the research and the lack of previous research on this topic in the Indian context. Qualitative methods were used to generate an in-depth understanding of the factors that influence the consumption behaviour of international students in India.

A total of 20 international students from different countries were interviewed for this research. The sample was purposively selected to include students from different countries (China, India, Nigeria, Malaysia, and the United States) and different levels of study (undergraduate and graduate). The interviews were conducted in person and lasted for 30-60 minutes.

The interview questions were designed to elicit information on the following topics: reasons for choosing to study in India; expectations of studying in India; perceptions of Indian education; perceptions of Indian products and brands; spending patterns; and future plans after graduation. All interviews were conducted in English.

The interviews were transcribed verbatim and analysed using thematic analysis. This involved identifying common themes and patterns in the data (Braun & Clarke, 2006). The data were analysed by two researchers independently and any disagreements were resolved through discussion until consensus was reached.

4. Findings and Discussion

The findings of this research are presented below in Table 1 and discussed in more detail in the following sections.

Table 1: Reasons

FAQ

The main reasons why international students come to study in KICL College are the quality of education, the college's reputation, and the opportunity to experience a new culture.

International students adapt to the new environment and culture in KICL College by immersing themselves in the community, participating in extracurricular activities, and interacting with other students.

The biggest challenges that international students face while studying in KICL College are cultural adjustment, language barriers, and homesickness.

International students feel welcomed and supported by the college staff and student body. However, they suggest that more social events be organized to help them meet other people and feel more connected to the campus community.

Overall, international students have a positive experience at KICL College but suggest that the college could improve its communication with incoming students about expectations and resources available on campus.