Nahid Almanea, 31, was found by a member of the public on a quiet footpath in Colchester on Tuesday morning with severe head and body injuries. Despite treatment from paramedics, she died at the scene.
Ms Almanea was due to complete the Essex English Language Programme at the University of Essex’s International Academy in August before going on to further study. A 52-year-old man has been arrested in connection with her death.
Richard Barnard, head of the International Academy, described Ms Almanea as a “hard-working and conscientious student”.
“She was a quiet, considerate and well-respected member of the programme and had ambitions to move on to further academic study,” he added. “She will be greatly missed by her teachers and her fellow students.”
A police statement said that the victim was wearing “a dark navy blue full-length robe, called an abaya, and a patterned multi-coloured headscarf, known as a hijab”, and urged members of the public to come forward if they had any information that might assist the investigation.
Detective superintendent Tracy Hawkings said there was “no current known motive for this attack”, but that the police were “conscious that the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation”.
However, she said, there was “no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion”.
Essex vice-chancellor Anthony Forster said: “On behalf of the entire university community, I express our deepest condolences to Nahid’s family and friends following this devastating loss.
“We have students and staff here from over 130 countries and are proud of our genuinely global community. We are committed to ensuring that all our students and staff are being fully supported by the university.”
The university has opened a helpline to provide support for students, staff and other members of its community.
“Following advice from the police we have reminded our community of our safety procedures,” a university statement said. “There is 24-hour security at Colchester campus and our Students’ Union shuttle bus is running from campus to surrounding areas in the evenings.”