Where Are the Opportunities for International Postgraduate Recruitment Right Now?
- Overall international PGT interest in the UK is down again in November, but PGR interest is up
- Indian, Nigerian and Pakistani Masters audiences are the worst affected
- EU audiences are much more robust, with some growth in UK interest from France, Germany and Italy
October saw a dramatic shift in our Share of Search data for international students interested in UK postgraduate opportunities. The obvious questions are: 'what are we seeing in November?' And 'how universal is this?'
This is a quick attempt to answer both – looking at what we're seeing, one month on in November, and highlighting some more robust audiences (including a few that have been growing).
You may also be aware of the other big news for postgraduate recruitment, with a future review of the Graduate Route announced this week. I've taken a look at the potential impact of that, elsewhere on the site.
PGT interest is down for non-EU; PGR is more positive
The chart below plots the relative Share of Search for UK PG opportunities amongst international audiences in 2023 so far. I've split by level of study and into EU and non-EU as we see some quite different trends for these:
Bear in mind that the UK is over-represented in FindAMasters listings compared to some other international study destinations. That means that the absolute percentages are less important than the trend: the UK didn't have a 52% global market share amongst prospective international Masters students in January, but the fall to 25% as of November is still significant.
On the plus side, the same fall isn't happening for EU PGT and there's actually an uptick in interest for both EU and non-EU PGR.
A few things potentially account for this. Firstly, EU PGT may be less sensitive to the rise in immigration fees or dependents ban, both of which effectively came into play from October. Similarly, non-EU PGR audiences are also more likely to draw from regions like China that are also less concerned with these changes.
We can see more of this if we compare Share of Search for individual countries.
Where are the opportunities?
In the charts below, I've represented Share of Search in November for the top 20 international PGT and PGR audiences for UK study (based on our data).
Remember, what we're comparing here is the proportion of users from these countries who search for opportunities in the UK. As such, the absolute numbers are less important than their relative size and the year-on-year change.
As expected, the biggest drops here are for India, Pakistan and Nigeria – collectively some of the biggest audiences for UK Masters study in recent years. However, other audiences such as Kenya, Hong Kong and Saudi Arabia are more robust, whilst Share of Search is actually up year-on-year for some EU countries.
The drops are fewer and smaller for prospective doctoral students, with many audiences roughly where they were last year. This is a much more positive picture, but it's worth remember that countries like India, Pakistan and Nigeria make up a much smaller proportion of PGR recruitment. On the other hand, we're seeing relative gains for places like Italy and Germany which do account for more UK PhD interest.
The simplest takeaway from this data, I think, is the need and potential to diversify.
The changes to UK immigration policy are hitting international PGT interest hard and it doesn't feel prudent to rely on the two or three large audiences that have driven the recent increase in Masters-level enrolments.
But what this isn't, so far, is a wholesale collapse in UK postgraduate audience. We still have plenty of visitors searching for UK universities on FindAMasters and FindAPhD. And, as the charts above demonstrate, some of those – particularly from the EU – are slightly more likely to consider UK study.
I'm going to keep digging into the data in the new year. In the meantime, we've put together a deep-dive into the possible impact of Graduate Route changes and a ready reference on UK student visas and changes, specifically for PG marketers and recruiters. The rest of the FAU team are also ready and willing to help explore and explain the recruitment opportunities available to you.
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