The decision to study abroad: evidence from international students based in Ireland

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Xiong, Wei
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University College Cork
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Foreign study is an emerging trend in the education market. Increasingly, students choose to leave their home country to study abroad. This decision is not only coupled with financial and time costs, but also involves the challenges of new cultures. This thesis examined push and pull factors, investments and expected returns on foreign education, and parental influences on the decision to study abroad for international students in one Irish university. A concurrent triangulation design was used to collect data, which involved quantitative and qualitative data collection and analysis at the same time. To collect quantitative data, the research used an online questionnaire with 216 responses. In-depth semi-structured interviews were used to collect qualitative data. 24 international students agreed to be interviewed. Quantitative data results indicated that personal factors, which included satisfying language and academic requirements, were the most important factor in international students’ foreign study decision. Destination university’s programme availability was also a popular factor influencing the foreign study decision. Qualitative data showed that the push factors discussed most frequently in the interviews were, lack of programme availability in the home country, and the length of time to study for certain programmes in the home country. The thesis explored factors that were not present in previous literature, such as international students’ attitudes towards competition and university’s ranking. Destination universities should promote their high ranking, as many students preferred high but not top-ranking universities, as they felt that their applications would more successful. The results also showed that destination universities should consider parents’ role in the foreign study decision when promoting programmes in Asian, and particularly, East Asian countries. Moreover, the thesis showed the different priorities for international students from different regions. Destination universities should tailor their promotions to the region/continent that they wish to target.
International students , International education , Education economics , Push and pull factors , Investment and return on education , Parental influence
Xiong, W. 2017. The decision to study abroad: evidence from international students based in Ireland. PhD Thesis, University College Cork.
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