Britain gets vote of foreign students

September 28, 2007

Poll gives top rating to quality of teaching and course content in UK universities. Tariq Tahir reports

UK universities are the best in the world for teaching and supporting their international students, a survey of more than 40,000 students has found.

The findings, released exclusively to The Times Higher , conclude that the UK is a "world leader when it comes to international education", ahead of global rivals across key measures such as teaching, course content and student support.

The survey, by the International Graduate Insight Group, known as i-graduate, and commissioned by the Council for Industry and Higher Education, conflicts with another major study this week, which warned that the UK's multibillion pound share of the international student market, a vital income source for some institutions, was "vulnerable".

The latter study, by the Higher Education Policy Institute, said a "worrying" per cent of international students believed they received "poor" or "very poor" value for money from English universities. This was cause for "serious" concern, coupled with data showing English degree courses were shorter, less intensive and were more expensive, Hepi said.

But William Archer, director of i-graduate, said Hepi's study was based on fewer students, while his polled 34,932 international students at UK universities and 8,419 international students at overseas universities in the US, the Netherlands and South Africa, covering a total of 48 institutions.

Revealing his findings ahead of a CIHE conference on Internationalising Higher Education next week, Mr Archer said: "We asked students to rate various elements of the learning experience, and consistently the most important elements, as you would expect, are good teachers and good course content. It's in those areas that we are measurably ahead."

The UK was also marginally ahead of its international rivals in terms of support.

"From students' perspective, what we are seeing is that they are able to get time from academic staff when they need it," Mr Archer said.

The UK was behind its rivals in areas such as accommodation and library facilities.

Keith Hermann, deputy chief executive of CIHE, said: "When it comes to the meat and drink, we are a world leader."

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