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Higher education choice and success for international school students as market expands
Higher education choice and success for international school students as market expands

New research reports on the university choices that are being made by students at the world's English-medium international schools and explores the crucial professional relationships between schools and universities that facilitate selection success.

The Pathway from International School to University report, published by leading supplier of data and intelligence on the international schools market, ISC Research, involved qualitative as well as quantitative research of college counsellors in over 180 international schools around the world.

The research highlights the fact that English-medium international schools are a fast-growing source of high calibre undergraduates for universities. It also identifies the challenges that students and guidance professionals at these schools face as the higher education market expands and becomes increasingly competitive.

International schools around the world have become recognised for their success in offering a reliable pathway to higher education and this has helped the market to grow into a multi-billion-dollar industry. Many parents select international schools on this fact alone. There are now over 10,000 English-medium international schools worldwide delivering learning to over 5 million students. 55% of the schools provide learning for students aged between 16 and 18.

The report highlights the grade averages of the three most popular qualifications offered by the world's international schools; A Levels, International Baccalaureate Diploma Program and Advanced Placement. They suggest significantly higher levels of academic achievement than global averages. In addition, 83% of respondents in the survey stated that over 90% of their 2017-2018 grade 12 students gained places in higher education.

University destinations for 2017-2018 international school students were varied, covering all countries where English-medium degrees are now offered. The most popular countries were the US, UK, Canada, Netherlands, Spain, Australia, Germany, Japan and the UAE. The report indicates various reasons motivating students' choice of country including cost, visa benefits, safety of the country, ranking of the university, and active promotion by the university to students, as well as location of the university and quality of education provision. Almost 50% of the college counsellors researched in the study said that universities from more countries were now promoting their degrees to the school and its students.

The most popular universities where international students gained places in 2018 were University of British Colombia and University of Toronto in Canada, University College London and King's College London in the United Kingdom, and New York University in the United States. The most popular subject choices focused on accounting, finance, business and management studies; engineering; economics; and computer science and information systems. But the research highlights the fact that international school students made a broad selection of degrees that also included politics, law, medicine, art and design, and psychology.

The research provides some clear insights into the challenges and opportunities that international school students face as they select their next step and make their move to higher education. It also demonstrates the benefit that trusted relationships between international school college counsellors and university international officers can have on student pathway outcomes. However, the research suggests that, for some international schools, the guidance of students at this pivotal stage of their life, may be lacking as a result of the increasingly complex nature of university selection. The report highlights areas where improvements may need to be made at international schools, and by universities, if college counsellors are to offer the best guidance, resulting in successful progression and degree retention for all students.

The 50-page Pathway to Higher Education Report, published by ISC Research is available for schools, universities and professionals supporting student pathways. It is accessible by contacting

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