Overseas students considered hardest workers, survey finds

Respondents to Hepi poll were generally positive about the contribution of international undergraduates and lecturers to UK universities

June 25, 2015
A female student holding a pile of books
Source: iStock

More than half of undergraduates believe that international students work harder than British ones, a new study suggests.

Some 54 per cent of just over 1,000 students polled on behalf of the Higher Education Policy Institute and the Higher Education Academy thought that students from overseas put more effort into their studies than those from the UK.

Only 4 per cent said that international students worked less hard, while one-third (33 per cent) said that they were just as diligent as UK students, according to the results published on 25 June.

Students at Russell Group universities were even more favourable, with almost two-thirds (63 per cent) rating overseas students as harder workers. Only 2 per cent thought that they were lazier than UK students, says the poll, which was undertaken by YouthSight last month.

The surveyed undergraduates – 137 of whom were international students themselves – are also generally positive about the contribution of overseas students to the learning environment, the report says.

Only one in four students thought that international students required more attention from lecturers (26 per cent) or slowed down the class because of language issues (25 per cent), while two-thirds (65 per cent) disagreed that the presence of international students cut the quality of the academic discussions.

“Those who fear international students harm the student experience of home students are wrong. In fact, they enhance it,” said Nick Hillman, director of Hepi.

“Without a healthy number of international students, it is likely that some courses would be uneconomic to run, classroom discussions would be excessively monocultural and graduates would have a more limited outlook,” he added.

Highlighting the educational and financial benefits of international students to UK universities may help to soften government policy over student visas, Mr Hillman said.

It follows the Conservative Party’s commitment in its 2015 manifesto to crack down further on student visas and the Tories’ aim to cut net migration to below 100,000 people a year, despite also setting ambitious revenue targets for international student number growth.

“The Home Office is in one corner trying to reduce the number of international students, and pretty much everyone else is in the other corner trying to increase them,” said Mr Hillman. “We want to break that stalemate by highlighting the educational benefits of having diverse student bodies.”

The study also shows that the majority of students (75 per cent) are indifferent about whether their lecturers come from other countries.

“The rich mix of cultures, tolerance and understanding that an international experience fosters helps prepare students to contribute as global citizens,” said Stephanie Marshall, chief executive of the HEA, on the growing internationalisation of UK universities. “An internationally diverse student body has many benefits – educationally, economically and culturally – for the students themselves and for higher education institutions as a whole,” she added.

jack.grove@tesglobal.com

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POSTSCRIPT:

Article originally published as: Overseas students are the hardest workers, according to Hepi survey (25 June 2015)

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