© 2015 Taylor & Francis. Higher education is an increasingly competitive global market. Consequently, it is crucial that universities fully understand students’ motivations in university selection. While past research mainly focused on university-level attributes, this study extends the factors used to evaluate different international universities to include both the university's country and the programme's mode of delivery. Following a qualitative stage, conjoint analysis was used to examine the relative importances and part-worth utility scores of these attributes on students’ perceived risk (performance, financial and social) when selecting an international university. The study found that country of origin and delivery mode contributed significantly to all three risk types, in particular to social risk. With an enhanced understanding of factors affecting these risk perceptions, higher educational marketers are better placed to implement suitable marketing strategies that minimise risk perceptions, helping to attract more international students.