The Pathway from International School to Higher Education

Research on the impact of recent macro-environmental factors on the international school student pathway to higher education, exploring changes institutions have made to their undergraduate admissions processes.

Research highlights


Respondents from higher education institutions from




Of respondents welcoming international students for undergraduate degrees without traditional grades or scores



Of respondents made changes to the weighting of admissions criteria for 2021 entry



International students have faced some tough decisions on how to pursue their journey into higher education over the past couple of years. Exam cancellations and limited mobility have impacted their next steps after school. But how have higher education institutions reacted to these changes?

This report builds upon research into pathways from international schools to Higher Education Institutions that ISC Research conducted in 2019 and 2017. The report published in 2020 included a focus on the role of the international school college counsellor for supporting student pathway selection and application.

This report will be of interest for HEIs that may want to compare their own experience with peers, and for international school college counsellors and leadership who will learn about current approaches by HEIs to international student recruitment.

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Key takeaways

In exploring the way HEIs have adapted their recruitment and admissions strategies to support international students through the challenges resulting from COVID-19, this research offers some insight into the attitudes of universities towards disruption and transformation.

This report calls for:

  • global exploration of challenges faced and changes being implemented by some institutions to identify effective models for change.
  • transformation of the pathway of students as they leave school, beginning with open dialogue involving all types of HEIs, schools, examination boards, accreditation bodies, governments and industry leaders.

Have any of the results from this research been evidenced in international schools? We invited five international school college counsellors to respond to results from the report. Download our white paper to read their views.

higher education


pathways to higher education

Included in this report

SECTION 1: The presence of international undergraduates and how this is shifting
SECTION 2: International undergraduate recruitment processes
SECTION 3: Admissions criteria for international students
SECTION 4: English-medium international schools as a reliable supply chain
SECTION 5: The future for international admissions

CASE STUDIES: Responding to the challenges of COVID-19 and valuing the international school sector


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