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5 things we learnt from our 2021 Student Destinations Survey

Cambridge Learners  Higher education   #UniversityStudent destination survey

Every year, Cambridge International surveys schools to find out what their latest cohort of Cambridge International AS & A Level students chose to do on leaving school. The results indicate that around 96 per cent of Cambridge students go on to university and also reveal key trends about where students choose to go to university and the subjects they study.

In our most recent survey, we asked questions about students who took their Cambridge International AS & A Levels in 2021. Here are five things we learnt from the results:

Cambridge students progress to the world’s top universities

At least 60 per cent of Cambridge students in 2021 went on to attend a top-500 ranked* university. We also know that Cambridge students progressed to universities in the UK and USA that all appear in the top-500 list.

We know from other research gathered from admissions officers that universities value Cambridge International students highly. Cambridge students are often reported to perform as well as, or better than, the rest of their cohort once at university**.

Value for money is increasingly important

There is anecdotal evidence that suggests value for money and financial considerations are becoming increasingly important when students are considering university destinations. This trend is driven by a couple of different things.

Firstly, schools around the world report that an ongoing impact of the Covid-19 pandemic is an increase in financial hardship. This is leading students to either consider studying closer to home, or to choose overseas study destinations that are perceived to offer more value for money. Secondly, Brexit has led to increased costs for students from the European Union wanting to study in the UK, and many are considering alternative destinations.

Increasing range of international student destinations

The traditional English-speaking destinations of the UK, USA, Canada and Australia are still the most overwhelmingly popular destinations for Cambridge students wanting to study overseas. 61 per cent of Cambridge students who choose to study overseas go to university in one of these countries.

However, there is some evidence that the range of countries students are considering is becoming broader. In recent years the Netherlands has been working to position itself to attract more international students. Our survey shows that it was the top destination among Cambridge schools in Europe who responded to the survey. While not showing in the data yet, there are some suggestions that Belgium is also positioning itself as an overseas destination and may grow in popularity in the future.

In Asia, students who want to study abroad but stay closer to home are considering Hong Kong, Malaysia and Singapore. These countries have possibly benefited from the closure of borders in Australia due to the pandemic.

Covid-19 still has an impact on decisions

The previous year’s survey of students who progressed to university in 2020 showed significant impacts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. This year’s survey showed that the pandemic is still affecting student decision-making. 84 per cent of schools report an impact on student choices.

Some students are more reluctant to study overseas and are concerned about the possibility of travel restrictions. Students are also reluctant to study at overseas universities that are still teaching remotely as they want an on-campus experience. These uncertainties cause students either to change their choice of destination, or to delay starting university until the situation is more settled.

STEM and professional subjects are the most popular

This year we changed the methodology of the survey to collect more accurate data on Cambridge students’ subject choices. The top ten undergraduate degree subjects chosen by Cambridge students show a strong interest in STEM (scientific, technical, engineering and mathematics) subjects and related professions.

  1. Engineering
  2. Business & management
  3. Computer Science / ICT
  4. Accounting & Finance
  5. Medicine
  6. Economics
  7. Biological Sciences
  8. Law
  9. Mathematics
  10. Psychology

The Student Destinations Survey is sent to schools around April each year. The results are important to our Global Recognitions team: the survey raises their awareness of new and emerging destinations, informs conversations with universities around the world and helps Cambridge to support schools with relevant information about new higher education study destinations.

To find out more about all the universities that accept Cambridge qualifications worldwide and more, please search the Cambridge International Recognitions database: https://www.cambridgeinternational.org/recognition-search/

296 schools from 51 countries took part in our Student Destinations Survey 2021.

Find out more about applying to study in specific countries, and download our Destination brochures, at www.cambridgeinternational.org/programmes-and-qualifications/recognition-and-acceptance/country

More information

*According to the QS Top Universities rankings – https://www.topuniversities.com/

**For research into the performance of Cambridge students at US universities, see Higher education research and insights webpage

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