Students Online: How students look for and choose their perfect education programmes online

Monday - July 13, 2015

The Internet and its countless possibilities – a controversial topic that always stirs up arguments about advantages and disadvantages. Yet, one thing is for sure: the Internet has brought about countless benefits to students, as it provides them with quick information and useful advice on basically everything they want to find more about. Google and Compete carried out a study in the US in 2012 and found out that 9 in 10 enrolled students had made use of the benefits of the Internet when doing research on higher education institutions. What’s more, every high-ranked university knows how important online communication is, and therefore they invest in creating a highly informational and user-friendly website in order to promote itself among prospective students.

Nevertheless, the communication process between universities and interested students is still a grey area that hasn’t been thoroughly analysed so far. QS Quacquarelli Symonds, the producers of the QS World University Rankings, has seen therefore a need to take a closer look at how students make use of online information, what websites appeal to them most, and the difficulties in accessing certain information which they come across when doing their research for the perfect course and university.

Using data gathered from 2, 215 prospective students all over the world, The 2014 QS Students Online: Global Trends Report set out to pinpoint students’ online preferences according to location, age and type of course. The students who took part in the survey come from 49 cities in 35 countries in Europe, Asia, Americas and Africa, the majority of which (73%) were interested in applying for post-graduate level courses.

As for the main findings, the report has discovered that online and offline resources are equally valued when it comes to students researching for courses/ universities, and that official university websites are essential sources of reliable information. Along official websites, they said that university ranking websites are the next valuable resource when comparing and contrasting different higher education institutions or various programmes. Social Media Channels are a source of inspiration for students, because they redirect to a wide array of further resources and informational content, but they are still regarded as an additional information source, the main ones being official and ranking websites.

The report also draws a parallel between online and offline resources and emphasizes the usage of different types of online resources for prospective international students, such as official university websites, other websites about universities, university ranking websites, universities or courses directories, student forums/ chat-rooms, and Social Media websites, which play a very important role in students’ research for universities and therefore were dedicated a special chapter in the report, where various types of Social Media and their relevance are analysed.

Further key-findings:

  • “Almost 40% of respondents reported difficulty finding information about scholarships and funding’.
  • “Email remains the preferred method of communication, but response times need to be improved to keep pace with the new expectations and immediacy offered by social media.”
  • “A majority of respondents report using more than one type of device when researching universities online.”

You can further read the free report to see more findings and, why not, get some inspiration for your next research for your suitable program or university.