Global trends of digital students

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A new report compiled by QS has revealed how prospective students digitally research universities and the factors that affect their final decision


Indisputable today is the widespread use of digital resources in all aspects of life, which is only ever increasing for students. However, despite the investments made by universities across the globe in this area, there is still little evidence as to how digital resources are utilized by prospective students as part of their search process; and whether they now outweigh traditional methods.
Compiled by QS, the publisher of the World University Rankings, The Students Online: Global Trends 2014 report looks at how prospective students will utilize technology as well as traditional sources in their decision making process.
Google and Compete’s 2012 US-based study found that nine in 10 enrolled students had used the internet to research higher education institutions, with one in ten exclusively using online sources of information.


A year earlier, the 2011 E-Expectations Report from Noel-Levitz published the alarming finding that one in five prospective students surveyed said they had removed a college or university from their list as a result of a bad experience on the institution’s website.


Laura Bridgestock, author of the Noel-Levitz report, says: “While universities know the online sphere is essential when communicating with prospective students, there’s little information available about


how students use the internet during their research. This report shows that it is important to use a wide range of tools and not to underestimate the importance of traditional communication methods even
in the Web 3.0 era.”


Highlights of the report include:

  • That distinct audiences use very different methods of higher education searching
  •  Third party resources are highly regarded when evaluating universities’ respective offers
  •  Social media is widely used in prospective students’ research, although it is still considered comparatively less important than other resources
  •  Online and offline resources are considered equally important as one another
  •  The surveyed prospective students reported that information on scholarships or funding is the most difficult to find


The scope of the study extended across 35 countries, providing insight not solely into the overarching trends but also regional specific, gender specific, and age specific trends.