International postgraduates happier with UK courses, survey finds

Higher satisfaction levels among the rising numbers of Indian and Pakistani students have led to strong approval ratings for UK universities, says Advance HE

November 29, 2023
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International postgraduates studying at UK universities are significantly more likely to rate their courses highly than their British peers, a major survey has found.

Overall, 83 per cent of the nearly 84,000 students from 101 institutions who responded to Advance HE’s annual Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey say they are satisfied with their course, the highest level recorded since 2016.

That record high is, however, partly because taught postgraduates from India, Pakistan and Nigeria, whose numbers have grown dramatically in recent years, are much more likely to speak highly of their courses.

According to the results of Advance HE’s survey, published on 29 November, 88 per cent of African postgraduate students and 87 per cent of Asian postgraduates were satisfied with their course, compared with 79 per cent of UK students who were satisfied – which was the same rate as for European Union students.

Asked about teaching, skills, organisation and their engagement with their course, students from India, Pakistan, China and Nigeria expressed significantly higher satisfaction than UK students, the survey found.

Advance HE:Postgraduate Taught Experience Survey 2023

Source: Advance HE

Several international students spoke warmly about the quality of teaching, the challenging nature of assessment and the ability to engage with other international postgraduates, as well as their lecturers, says Advance HE, reflecting on comments left by foreign students.

The results underline the extraordinary success of UK universities in attracting overseas postgraduates since the lifting of pandemic-era travel restrictions, with the number of first-year international postgraduates climbing by 32 per cent in 2021-22 to 266,760 students, according to official figures.

That rise has, however, led to a clampdown on visas issued to taught postgraduate students, who, from January, will not be allowed to bring dependant family members with them while studying.

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Jason Leman, Advance HE survey executive and the survey report’s author, said the difference in satisfaction levels was “one of the most striking findings” and “highlights the successful expansion of taught postgraduate study for these students across UK higher education, particularly in business and management, but by no means limited to that subject area”.

The survey also found that international students were far less likely to consider dropping out of their course than UK students.

Some 29 per cent of UK postgraduates say they have thought about abandoning their course early, compared with just 6 per cent of Indian taught postgraduates and 12 per cent of Nigerian graduate students.

“UK students are much more likely to consider leaving their course than overseas students, often due to the difficulty of balancing their studies with pressures of the day job or looking after family,” said Mr Leman, who added that “finances are becoming an increasing source of challenge for all students, both UK and overseas”.

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