Market Report | What makes a country attractive as a study destination?

27 August 2020

Co-founder Andrew Crisp reflects on what drives perceptions of study destinations.


The COVID-19 pandemic has brought to a halt the rapidly growing international business education market, but a raft of surveys suggest there continues to be strong interest in studying overseas. In the 15th Business of Branding report published with EFMD, CarringtonCrisp again asked current students why they would choose a country for study and what they thought of a range of study destination.

Despite the pandemic and the political upheaval, the USA and the UK remain the most popular study destinations with both Canada and Singapore rising rapidly. Australia, Germany, Spain, Switzerland, the Netherlands and France fill the remaining places in the top 10. The rise of Singapore is no doubt in part due to perceptions of its positive handling of the pandemic, but may also be down to uncertainty over studying in Hong Kong. Canada is benefiting from decisions in the USA that are perceived negatively by international students, but also its long standing offer for graduates to be able to work in the country after completion of their studies is attractive.

Asked what was important to them when choosing an international study destination, student respondents to the survey put the reputation of an individual business school as most important, suggesting countries might struggle to brand themselves as study destinations. However, three other factors are also highlighted by more than 30% of the survey respondents – reputation of a country for business education, cost of study and opportunity to work in a country after graduation.

The relationship between reputation and cost is an interesting one. Asked what they thought of individual countries, 81% of student respondents indicated that they perceived the USA as having a good range of quality business school and universities, with 79% having the same view of the UK, far ahead of France at 45%. However, 79% consider the UK an expensive place to study, with 69% having the same view of the USA; only Switzerland is close at 66% with France having the next largest group at 42%.

However, it is Germany, selected by 39% of students, that is most likely to be considered to offer opportunities to work after graduation, ahead of the UK at 35% and the USA at 34%. Germany is also identified as having the strongest and most dynamic economy, ahead of the USA and UK, reinforcing its position for those considering working in a country after graduation. By contrast, although China is ranked 5th when students are asked about a country’s economy, only 6% believe it offers opportunities to work after graduation.

Australia is thought most likely to offer an attractive lifestyle, New Zealand most likely to provide a sense of adventure, Germany easiest to get a visa for study and The Netherlands most welcoming to international students.

The pandemic may put other items on the agenda of prospective students such as safety and healthcare systems, but with business education closely tied to career advancement, it seems likely that economic strength and opportunities to work in a country after graduation will remain important. Understanding these perceptions and the desires of students offer insights to fine tune messaging to prospective candidates, ensuring business schools get value in their marketing spend. 


Photo by Porapak Apichodilok from Pexels

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