International postgraduate students still favour on campus studies

The Postgraduate study preferences survey, carried out by FindAUniversity between June and August 2021, found that the Covid-19 pandemic has not “fundamentally reshaped postgraduate study preferences”.

Traditional Masters and PhD experiences are strongly preferred, particularly among international students, the paper found.

Overall, around two thirds of prospective postgraduate students would prefer to study on campus. However, UK-based students were more willing to join online or blended programs, when compared to students from other countries.

At a masters level, students from South Asia, and from India in particular, were keen to study on campus, the report found.

“Broadly speaking, preferences for flexible study are highest where students are likely to study domestically and lower where they are likely to study abroad,” it noted.

Masters study preferences by audience. Photo: FindAUniversity

Study preferences at a PhD level were similar, with 79% of students from South Asia and 71% of those from East Asia preferring on campus studies over online or blended alternatives.

“The swing is particularly big for East Asia, where only 15% of prospective PhD students are seeking online study (vs 30% of prospective Masters students),” the report read.

“The pandemic hasn’t immediately reshaped the ways in which people want to study going forward”

“This reminds us of the need to differentiate between qualifications when considering international student trends at postgraduate level.”

The report also found that international students generally want to study a campus-based masters or PhD abroad, “with little significant difference between destinations”.

At a masters level, 85% of students hoping to go to Norway preferred on-campus studies compared with 6% who were open to online. In Germany, 84% of prospective international masters students preferred on-campus over, 5% which preferred online.

The findings were mirrored at a PhD level, where 85% of prospective international students hoping to go to Norway, 82% to Germany, 77% to the Netherlands and 73% to the US favoured campus studies.

PhD study preferences by destination. Photo: FindAUniversity

“Flexible study is particular popular with international PhD students interested in Australia, the UK and Canada, with roughly a third of people considering blended or online learning for these destinations,” the report found, but added that the majority of international postgraduates want to study a traditional on campus PhD.

By subject, Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics / Medicine students have a clear preference for on campus study at both masters and PhD level, when compared to Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences students, the research also found.

“Postgraduate study is innovative by nature, but these findings remind us that the pandemic hasn’t immediately reshaped the ways in which people want to study going forward,” Mark Bennett, director of Audience & Editorial at FindAUniversity said. Earlier this year, Keystone Education Group acquired the postgrad specialist.

“One of the things we see at FindAUniversity and across the Keystone Education Group is that preferences really do vary for different audiences,” Bennett added.

“By making online and blended learning more visible, Covid-19 may well be a catalyst for change – but that process is likely to be evolutionary, rather than revolutionary. It’s something we’ll continue to track across our research and insights.”

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