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International Student Trends: Focus on Italy

International Student Trends: Focus on Italy main image

Following our recently released report on Trends in International Student Mobility, we’re taking a closer look at what the data collected reveals about prospective international students in specific countries. First up, here’s a look at what surveyed students in Italy told us about their preferences and aims when making decisions about where and what to study abroad. Survey respondents were all applying for a master’s or PhD, and shared an interest in studying internationally.*

Preference for Western European countries

Following the global trend in student mobility, Italian students were most likely to want to study in either the US or UK. But beyond this, more regionalized preferences are clear, with Italian students understandably more likely to be considering studying in nearby countries in Western Europe, such as France, Germany, Switzerland, Spain and the Netherlands. Nordic European countries such as Sweden, Finland and Norway also appear fairly high-up on Italian students’ wish-list.

Nonetheless, many of our Italian respondents were keen to travel further for their studies; study-abroad staples Australia and Canada both ranked well within their top 10, while more than 5% of selections were for an Asian country. Singapore was the most popular of these, followed by Japan and South Korea.

See how these trends compare to our overall survey results >

High interest in FAME & international relations

Reflecting the overall global trend, the most popular subjects for prospective graduate students in Italy were those within the FAME group (including finance, accounting, management, economics, business and related fields). Comparing the Italian group with the average for all international student responses, Italians were more likely to be applying for courses in the international relations field, and less likely to be interested in STEM subjects (sciences, technology, engineering and mathematics). In line with global results, other popular choices were law, and communications and media studies.

Discover more global trends in grad school applications >

Eyes on professional development and future jobs

As per the global trend, Italians selected “international recognition of qualifications” and “cultural interest and lifestyle” as the two most important factors when deciding which country to study in. Compared to the international student average, they were notably more likely to choose a country with a view to staying on to work there after graduation, and also more likely to be seeking opportunities to improve their language skills.

Also of note is the fact that the availability of scholarships and financial aid appeared lower down Italian students’ list compared to the global trend. This was seventh in their list of priorities, after “location of target school” and “opportunities to create a network”. It seems that for our Italian group, future career prospects, professional development and gaining entry to the institution of their choice all outweighed concerns about finances and funding when deciding on a country. This may be partly linked to their preference for Western European countries such as France and Germany, where low or no tuition fees make funding less of a concern.

While clearly ambitious, Italian respondents were comparatively less likely to see themselves running their own business when asked about their 10-year career expectations. While this was the top 10-year career goal internationally, the most popular target roles for Italian respondents were CEO or director positions, with a preference for roles in large or public organizations. Compared to the Western Europe average, Italians were more likely to expect longer working hours; 65% of Italians said they expected to work more than 50 hours per week, compared to 47% when considering responses from this region collectively.

Find out how working hours expectations vary around the world >

More young Italians applying for graduate degrees

A final trend apparent from analysis of the Italian group is the tendency for more students in Italy to apply for a master’s or PhD program at a younger age. Globally, 52% of our surveyed prospective graduate students were aged 21-24, while 66% of Italian respondents were in this range. This perhaps reflects the nation’s high youth unemployment rate, which reached a new peak in 2013. It seems possible that poorer job prospects are encouraging more students to stay in education and progress straight from undergraduate to graduate studies – as well as looking further afield when considering study options and future employment opportunities.

*The data referred to here was collected as part of an international survey of students applying for graduate-level studies, in partnership with the QS World Grad School Tour. The majority of respondents were attendees of a QS event and/or applicants for a QS scholarship. In 2012-13, more than 4,000 responses were collected, including 82 from prospective graduate students in Italy. For more on the survey demographics and methodology, download the full report

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Written by Laura Bridgestock
The former editor of TopUniversities.com, Laura oversaw the site's editorial content and student forums. She also edited the QS Top Grad School Guide and contributed to market research reports, including 'How Do Students Use Rankings?'

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