240 university counselors in 33 countries took part in an IE University survey designed to pinpoint the interests and preferences of the upcoming generation of university students with regard to study abroad and most popular degree programs.

International mobility has risen fast among young university students worldwide in recent years. This is one of the main findings of a study carried out last month by IE University, in which 240 counselors at international schools in 33 countries around the world took part. The aim of the report was to reveal the interests and preferences of the upcoming generation of university students in aspects like study abroad and preferred degree programs. The survey was linked to the IE University Junior Advisory Board Meeting held this past week at IE’s Madrid and Segovia Campuses, in which 15 students from 13 countries, aged from 16 to 18, met to talk to IE University about how they see their future in higher education.

With regard to study abroad, 70% of participating counselors have seen an increase in international mobility among students in recent years. There are variations in this trend depending on the world region. In India, for example, some 73% of counselors believe that more than 50% of their students will go abroad to study, while in the US, 71% of counselors thought that less than 20% of their students would leave the US to study. Overall, 47% percent of counselors stated that over half of their students were now considering studying their university degree abroad, which reflects the level of globalization in the labor market, the mutual recognition of titles among countries in the European Higher Education Space, and the international redistribution of employment as a result of growing and emerging economies. “Now, more than ever before, we are seeing an interesting flow of talent among host countries,” says Antonio de Castro.  Dean of Undergraduate Studies at IE University and coordinator of the survey. “Just like in the business world, students are considering the best options to link their university studies to their career expectations.”When it comes to students’ top destinations for study abroad, the counselors cited the US, followed by the UK, Canada, Spain, and Germany. The degree that is most in demand by students worldwide is the BBA – Bachelor in Business Management, followed by engineering and the liberal arts. In Spain, the top choice is business administration, followed by engineering and medicine, while in the Middle East and Africa, engineering is the most demanded program.

With regard to languages, Antonio de Castro explained that English, Spanish and French are the languages most in demand, followed by German and Chinese. “The choice of teaching language has been the subject of debate in many countries in recent months, including France. Universities in continental Europe that offer programs with English as their core language are noticing sharp increases in foreign students due to rising mobility. English is now further consolidated as the lingua franca of education on a global level.”

The survey shows students choose a university mainly to gain training and skills for a future job, and choose a specialization because they feel there is job market growth in that field. When asked about the main reasons for choosing a university, counselors cited prestige and location as the main drivers, followed by scholarships and content.

With regard to qualitative recommendations for their students’ choice of university degrees, counselors highlight critical thinking, work in multicultural teams, ethical behavior, interpersonal skills and decision making as the most important skills to learn while at University.  When asked to provide a definition of the next generation in higher education, counselors saw their students as experts in the digital environment, global thinkers, and at ease with diversity, but also very uncertain about its future.

Spain. In Spain counselors believe that 65% of students have a very clear idea of the studies they want to undertake when they leave school. Business administration, engineering and medicine are most in demand, while English is the language of choice (100%), followed by French (65%), German (52%) and Chinese (13%).

Counselors reported that Spanish students give priority to the location of the university ahead of work opportunities or the prestige of the university. Seventy percent of counselors based in Spain believed that less than 20% of their students intended to study away from their hometown, although 65% recognized that the international mobility of their students had increased in recent years. The most popular destinations for Spanish students were the UK, the US, and Germany.