Alumni urged to build on goodwill

February 17, 1995

More than three-quarters of international students are so positive about their experiences of British undergraduate life that they would recommend their institution to family and friends - but a worrying 7 per cent said that they definitely would not.

A survey of 1,200 international undergraduates in 82 institutions argues that British universities should establish better alumni organisations to capitalise on this goodwill.

But they need better language support and more accurate promotional material if they are to avoid ill will.

The survey, which does not include students from the European Union, found that it was the students with language difficulties who were least likely to recommend their institution to others.

Higher Education: The International Student Experience also says that universities do not need to go far afield to recruit international students - more than a quarter of current students have studied in the United Kingdom for A levels or similar qualifications.

Alison Allen, market research manager at the Higher Education Information Services Trust, and co-author of the report, said: "We found that 39 per cent of the international undergraduates had family members who had been educated in the UK. The value of cultivating alumni in this context cannot be underestimated yet many alumni officers report that senior managers are often unwilling to release resources for such services.

"We believe that this is a short-sighted policy."

The high fees charged by British universities were criticised: "I have the same classes as UK students but I have to pay six times as much," was one comment. Tony Higgins, chief executive of the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service and the other author of the report, said: "Many students were clearly very worried by the level of the fees."

But one student sympathised with British policy: "It's fair that UK students don't pay as you don't want to be overrun with a lot of foreigners."

The report also questions the wisdom of creating halls of residence specifically for overseas undergraduates.

Only 6 per cent of students wanted to live in such halls - the majority having come here to improve their English and experience British culture.

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