- According to the QS International Student Survey, international students actively seek information about schools’ environmental sustainability activities when considering study-abroad options.
- The survey finds that climate change is the biggest challenge, with 81% agreeing that everyone must reduce their carbon footprint.
- 51% of prospective international students are unsure about whether they are willing to pay more tuition fees for universities with environmental initiatives.
In a previous article, I discussed how international students carefully consider factors like funding assistance, visa and immigration processes, living expenses, and other practical information when choosing their study-abroad destination.
While all this essential information is readily available, new research has identified a new factor that piques the interest of international students.
The recent QS International Student Survey shows that sustainability now plays a significant role in study-abroad decisions. Given that sustainability has become a top consideration for students, educational institutions must understand and embrace this trend
Sustainability Takes Center Stage in Student Research
The survey clearly indicates that many prospective international students are interested in an institution’s sustainability. A significant 82% of these prospective students actively seek or potentially seek information on an institution’s sustainability efforts, with only 18% of respondents stating that they do not consider this factor when scouting for potential universities abroad.
Among the various factors related to sustainability, environmental impact is one of the most important. According to the study, 98% of respondents believe it is essential for an institution to be involved in environmental sustainability.
Moreover, 79% consider environmental impact extremely or very important. Additionally, 66% of respondents agree that climate change is the biggest challenge facing society, with a notable 81% emphasizing that everyone must take responsibility for reducing their carbon footprint.
These statistics reveal that sustainability is not merely a passive consideration but a focal point in students’ decision-making processes.
The Need for Greater Institutional Environmental Action
Now that we know that prospective students consider sustainability a significant factor in choosing a university abroad, it is also important to determine which practices impress them.
The study also revealed that a majority (73%) assess an institution’s environmental impact through on-campus initiatives, including commitments to recycling water, waste reduction, and reliance on locally sourced produce.
Thus, educational institutions must reconsider how they contribute to sustainability, from encouraging students to use reusable bottles and food containers to launching environmental campaigns and adopting more energy-efficient machinery and equipment. Institutions must view their environmental actions as investments. Their sustainable practices and transparent communication efforts will give them a competitive edge in attracting environmentally conscious students.
Sustainability and Its Cost
Without a doubt, going green can be costly. The question is: Are students willing to pay more for it?
While environmental sustainability is a significant factor in their decision-making, the study indicates that prospective international students are uncertain about whether they would be willing to pay higher tuition fees for an institution that invests in environmental initiatives. The study shows that 51% are unsure, and only 20% affirmatively stated that they would.
To what degree would these students be willing to accept a tuition fee increase? 44% selected the lowest option of up to a 5% increase only. These numbers may indicate that prospective international students expect their chosen university to have its own environmental efforts, rather than viewing it as an additional attribute that comes at a cost to them.
The QS International Student Survey emphasizes the growing significance of sustainability considerations in prospective students’ decisions to study abroad. It is clear that sustainability is not merely a passive consideration but a pivotal factor when a student decides to study abroad. Thus, institutions must prioritize sustainability in both the environmental and other social dimensions and effectively express their commitment to these causes to remain competitive in the global education market.
As sustainability becomes a defining factor in student choices, educational institutions have a unique opportunity to lead by example and shape future leaders who prioritize the well-being of the planet and society. Additionally, the report underscores that sustainability is not just a trend but a pressing need at the core of higher education institutions worldwide. (SUNEETHA QURESHI)
Suneetha has worked for 15 years in the international education sector and 25 years overall for her work for other industries. As president of MSM, she fortifies its business development outreach globally, particularly in the face of MSM’s foray into edtech-based recruitment via MSM Unify. She preserves the premium, value-adding services provided to each MSM partner institute, including dedicated teams on the ground, agent management, lead generation and inquiry management, application prescreening, and student and parent support through pioneering pre-departure briefing sessions.
She has an impeccable track record of successfully launching the representative offices in Asia and Africa of many North American and European higher education institutions. Her key strengths include hiring, training, and developing teams as evidenced by the successful results of the dedicated in-country college and university client teams.
Suneetha also has taken the lead in developing several initiatives at MSM, including building robust standard operating procedures, the Rise ‘n Shine team engagement platform, and the organization’s data analytics and audit segments.
- 2023. QS Sustainability Rankings 2023. QS. Retrieved from https://www.qs.com/reports-whitepapers/2023-sustainability-rankings-higher-ed-report-2/
- 2023. Some 81% of international students leverage online resources to research study options; what can educators do?. MSM. Retrieved from https://msquaremedia.com/research/some-81-of-international-students-leverage-online-resources-to-research-study-options-what-can-educators-do/