North America's appeal to postgraduates wanes as more European universities run courses in English

Europe is winning the battle for the most popular region for postgraduate study. According to preliminary 2009 statistics compiled by QS (Quacquarelli Symonds), the private provider of higher education information services, North America has continued to slide in the esteem of prospective postgraduates. There has also been a noticeable increase in the proportion of students studying international relations, communications and law, mainly at the expense of Fame (finance, accounting, management and economics) subjects .

The analysis is based on information from the QS World Grad School Tour. The company takes universities wanting to attract postgraduates to student fairs it organises in about 60 cities around the world each year. The information is provided by prospective students who must register on the company's website and complete a questionnaire to attend a fair. QS has consistent data for the past four years, obtained from 40,000 to 60,000 students annually.

"We've noticed that Europe is becoming more popular. People are turning away from North America as the destination for study," says David McClelland, senior operations manager at the QS World Grad School Tour. In general, 33.5 per cent of postgraduate applicants preferred North America (the US and Canada), and 57 per cent Europe in 2009, against 39 per cent and 50 per cent respectively in 2007.

The trend is clear across most regions. In North America itself, 27 per cent of prospective applicants in 2009 wanted to study in Europe, an increase of 8.5 percentage points over 2007, against a fall of 7.9 percentage points over the same period for candidates opting to remain in North America.

In Europe, just over 21 per cent of prospective postgraduate applicants wish to study in North America (a fall of 6.8 percentage points from 2007), and almost 76 per cent prefer to stay in Europe. In Asia, the latest happy hunting ground for universities, the percentage of prospective postgraduates wanting to study in North America fell by 7.7 percentage points between 2007 and 2009 to almost 46 per cent.

India is the outstanding example. About 34 per cent of prospective applicants wished to study in North America, down some 20 percentage points in two years, compared with 51 per cent who prefer Europe, up 18 percentage points on 2007.

The exception is Latin America, where preferences appear to have changed little between 2007 and 2009. Of prospective applicants, 57.5 per cent favoured Europe, compared with 27 per cent who opted for North America.

A twist to the tale is that men and women students have markedly different regional preferences. Of males, 54 per cent favour North America against 35 per cent choosing Europe. For females, the figures are reversed with 59 per cent favouring Europe and 33 per cent the US.

What explains Europe's growing popularity? One possibility is language. "It's grown more attractive to study in Europe because many more universities are putting on courses in English," says Dominic Scott, chief executive of the UK Council for International Student Affairs (Ukcisa). He also argues that North American universities are pricing themselves out of the market.

The UK is particularly attractive because of the Post-Study Work scheme, which allows foreign graduates to work for two years after finishing their studies. The UK has 11 per cent of the global student market, but Scott warns: "France, Germany and the Netherlands were nowhere five or six years ago. Now they're almost on a par with the UK."

McClelland points out that European universities have been more aggressive than North American competitors about recruiting overseas students, and the greater visibility of rankings has made students more aware of the high quality of many European universities. That is important because "the main motivation behind postgraduate study is definitely career progression", McClelland says.

However, explaining the declining status of Fame subjects seems to be less easy. Whereas the percentage of students choosing Stem (science, technology, engineering and maths) subjects has stayed stable at around 23 per cent for several years, Fame has tumbled from being the preference of 41 per cent of students in 2006 to 29 per cent last year.

One possible explanation is the corresponding increase in the number of candidates opting for international relations, communications and law in recent years. The trend is most noticeable among younger students: in 2009, 13 per cent of candidates for international relations and law were under the age of 21.

"In recent years, international relations has been an increasing part of the World Grad School Tour. Younger people are interested in the world and want to change it. A growing number want to work for NGOs and international organisations," says McClelland.

The next QS World Grad School Tour fair is on 11 March, from 4pm to 8pm, at Renaissance Chancery Court Hotel, 252 High Holborn, London, WC1V 7EN

News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Bruce, left, with Cream bandmates Ginger Rogers, centre, and Eric Clapton in 1967
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Money
Welcome to tinsel town: retailers such as Selfridges will be Santa's little helpers this Christmas, working hard to persuade shoppers to stock up on gifts
news
News
i100
News
people
Arts and Entertainment
Architect Frank Gehry is regarded by many as the most important architect of the modern era
arts + entsGehry has declared that 98 per cent of modern architecture is "s**t"
Arts and Entertainment
Soul singer Sam Smith cleared up at the Mobo awards this week
arts + entsSam Smith’s Mobo triumph is just the latest example of a trend
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Leeds November start...

EBD LSA required - Vale of Glamorgan

£60 - £65 per day + plus free travel scheme: Randstad Education Cardiff: The J...

EBD Teacher - Food Technology Specialist

£100 - £181 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: The JobTo plan and deliver all ...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker