Leader: Highly recommended

June 29, 2007

It would be unfortunate if a website dedicated to soliciting comments from overseas students was known primarily for "naming and shaming". But the report to the British Council recommending that such a site be set up should nevertheless be welcomed.

British higher education owes international students a great deal. English universities' fees from non-European Union students in 2003-04, for example, accounted for a greater percentage of total income than funding council research income (8.1 per cent against 7.5 per cent). At the same time, the UK's share of the international student market, after growing robustly for several years, is under sustained pressure.

All of which provide good reasons for universities to take the views of overseas students seriously. On the face of it, most have a positive experience of UK higher education - some 89 per cent of international students were satisfied or very satisfied with their stay in the UK, according to last year's National Student Survey. But this pilot study suggests that things may not be so rosy.

Allowing for the propensity of the contented majority to keep silent and the opportunity for the discontented to get personal - institutions should support this initiative. People who are willing to spend thousands of pounds on the right education at the most suitable institution will glean information from wherever they can get it. Far better that they glean it from reliable sources such as the British Council than leave an information gap for the less fastidious to fill.

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