International students in the UK are less happy with their university experience than their peers studying in other European countries, a study has found.
While the UK is Europe’s most popular destination for overseas students, it ranks only 13th among some 17,000 students who commented about their studies abroad on the Student Experience Exchange (STeXX) website, a higher education version of the holiday advice site TripAdvisor that is run by StudyPortals, a Netherlands-based firm that lists courses offered by European universities.
Overseas students studying in Slovenia are the most satisfied, with an overall rating of +74 (within a possible range of -100 to +100), followed by Norway (+73) and Austria (+70), according to an analysis by the firm of more than 40,000 comments on the site.
Of the major destinations for international students (those that have attracted at least 450 comments), the UK finishes two points behind the Republic of Ireland and three behind Germany with a satisfaction score of +59 – marginally ahead of the European average (+56).
International students in the UK are slightly more interested in the academic aspects of their university experience compared with the European average, with a quarter of all comments concerning this subject compared with a fifth elsewhere on the Continent.
Only 1 per cent of negative comments in the UK relate to teaching, with factors such as the cost of living, social life and the weather eliciting greater discontent.
The quality of accommodation and its availability attract the highest number of complaints, with one in 10 negative comments addressing this area.
About 435,000 international students studied at the UK’s 163 publicly funded universities in 2011‑12, according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development – comfortably ahead of its main continental competitors: Germany, Russia, France, Spain and the Netherlands.
However, other European nations are becoming increasingly attractive options, said Edwin van Rest, co-founder of StudyPortals.
“This is not the time for British universities to become complacent about attracting foreign students,” he said. “The reviews on our platform…show that the UK on average scores in the mid-league when it comes to student satisfaction.”
The increasing availability of master’s courses taught in English at continental universities may also pose a threat to the UK’s market-leading position, Mr van Rest said.
“An education in English is becoming increasingly accessible in mainland Europe, often at a fraction of the price of studying in the UK,” he added.
“In a more competitive market with increased transparency, it is vital to keep improving the student experience.”