Institutional ranking will always be a key factor when it comes to selecting a study destination.
Whilst agencies play a notorious role in the recruitment process, their role in decision making is mostly advisory. Initial research is usually conducted by students who lean towards universities performing highly in terms of employability, namely the G5 which include Oxford, Cambridge, LSE, UCL and Imperial College. With these spots’ finite, the UK is not short of substitutes and offers a strong selection of world-class arts and creative institutions. With increased information online to compare universities and university experiences, decision makers in higher education are encouraged to reflect their own strengths and storytelling across their proposition.
Exploring a wider view outside of rankings and getting quality education, Chinese students are becoming more attuned to the realities of learning and living as an experience, and sharing with others across social media, online forums, and real-life networks. The rising importance of factors such as community, culture, accommodation, food, facilities on-site and off-site are frequent talking topics, though opinions and preferences are individual.
“They wanted to separate Chinese students into different groups in the first two projects to help us get out of our comfort zone. However, I don’t think our school has done enough to help Asian students transit into this new environment. While we have quite a high percentage of Chinese students, I struggled quite a lot in the first year of my Bachelors and support was absent”, recalls Yu Fan, 25 year old BSc and MSc Urban Planning student shares. In contrast, Shiyu Li, 27-year-old MSc and PhD Aerospace student would rather spend time the year travelling, exploring cities and socialising. ‘We are less concerned about school-organised social events and more concerned about our personal development’, highlighting some differences in desires between even undergraduate and postgraduate students.
Convenience, curation, and connection are three recurring themes that crop up in conversation with Chinese students – whether it’s in regard to finding the library, meeting new (non-Chinese) friends or discovering new societies. As a diverse group of people, the university experience remains very individual, however, creating challenges for institutions. By approaching this customer group as a consumer brand willing to improve cultural fluency, empathy, and coherency in communications, there exists a commitment to assisting students to achieve their desired outcomes.
The UK will remain a top choice for Chinese students to study abroad, with 42% selecting the UK as their destination of choice above the US in a 2020 Survey by New Oriental Education. Combined with broadening interests outside of STEM subjects, there is a rising demand for students to gain skills and talent in the creative arts such as design, animation, game design, advertising, and photography, creating new opportunities for universities across brand building, brand management and capability in creating enriching experiences for Chinese students today looking for more.