The VitalSource Resource

The VitalSource Resource

Why students choose to study abroad - and what that means for your institution

Posted by Vanessa Boddington on November 12, 2019

person-holding-terrestrial-globe-scale-model-taken-1079033Here in the UK, freshers’ weeks are over and temperatures are falling. For Year 13 students thinking about making their university applications, it’s not hard to see the appeal of studying overseas in a sunnier climate. According to a Unifrog survey, in 2019 nearly a third of sixth formers actively considered studying abroad.

The idea of studying in a different country is undeniably attractive. The chance to discover other cultures, outlooks and traditions. To make friends, learn a foreign language or simply immerse yourself in a brand new environment.
For many students, this is their first opportunity to be truly independent and explore the world.

Regardless of the ongoing Brexit rumblings, higher education is a global marketplace. Your local students are checking out universities the other side of the world – and students on the other side of the world are checking out your university. In 2019, 40,720 international, non-EU students were accepted onto UK courses, 6% up on 2018. This revenue matters. Overseas students add around £20 billion to the UK economy each year. International students also bring new perspectives to your university and add to the cultural diversity.

Australia is one of the top choices for UK students studying overseas, and the climate is not the only appeal. Australian higher education institutions are on an upwards trajectory. The THE World University Rankings released in September included 11 Australian institutions in their top 200. That’s more than any country other than the US, UK and Germany. As a nation, they were third for year on year improvement (following China and Japan), with numerous institutions improving their position. The University of New South Wales saw the highest climb in rankings of any university this year.

One element transforming Australian institutions is the investment in technology to support digital learning. Swinburne University in Melbourne is strategically investing in science, technology and innovation in order to build its global reputation. They saw a dramatic increase in their position for STEM subjects in the THE rankings, and are one of a growing number of Australian institutions who have invested in an eTextbook programme. In a VitalSource survey, carried out by Shift Learning, 46% of students reported that their institution had provided them with an eTextbook, and 87% thought that it was a good idea.

Unsurprisingly the survey uncovered similar perceived benefits to those reported in surveys carried out in the UK and the US. Students in Australia reported that practical considerations such as portability (63%), ease of access (42%), and affordability (42%) are amongst the biggest benefits of using eTextbooks. However, they also value search functionality (46%). This can help students use their time more efficiently by rapidly finding the content they need.

Findings suggest that institutions committed to implementing and supporting students through eTextbook programmes are likely to see higher levels of satisfaction. What's more, students are likely to be more satisfied if they are informed about eTextbooks, receive training and information on access and use, and have eTextbooks integrated within their teaching.

Understanding where students’ expectations converge, regardless of nationality, is helpful for institutions that are seeking to grow globally. In addition to our regular research in the UK, at VitalSource we also carry out research in other key regions so that we can respond to changing needs. If you’re interested in finding out more about student attitudes and expectations, we have a number of resources that will help.

Read our latest Australian research: Australian Students’ Success and Satisfaction Research
Read our latest US research: Predicting Student Outcomes With Engagement Data
Read our latest UK research: UK Students’ Learning Outcomes Research



Study International
Australian Financial Review
Study International
UK Council for International Student Affairs
Times Higher Education


Topics: eTextbooks, academic leadership, digital transformation, student experience, budgets, international students, studying abroad

Recent Posts

Subscribe to Our Blog

Posts by Topic

see all