UK better than competitors for international student satisfaction, report finds

A higher proportion of overseas students in the UK would recommend studying in the country, compared with those in other nations, study finds

December 9, 2015
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International undergraduate students in the UK are more likely to recommend their higher education experience than those in other major English-speaking nations, according to a study.

Research from the UK Higher Education International Unit found that 85 per cent of overseas undergraduates who study in the UK would recommend or actively recommend the experience to others, a higher proportion than those in Australia, Canada, New Zealand and the US.

The UK is also number one for student satisfaction, gaining a score of 91 per cent, up from 90 per cent in 2008, with universities in the country seeing improvements across 75 of the 84 measures ranked.

However, the UK has seen declining levels of student satisfaction around the availability of financial support, a trend that has occurred since 2011, while its competitor nations have seen a faster level of growth in terms of student satisfaction overall.

Read more: UK should learn from ‘downsides’ of US higher education

The findings, reported in International Undergraduate Students: The UK’s Competitive Advantage, are based on feedback from 365,754 international students studying outside their home country, which was collected from i-graduate’s International Student Barometer.

UK HE International Unit director Vivienne Stern said:While the UK’s improving results and higher satisfaction with the cost of living than main alternative countries suggest we are heading in the right direction, we cannot remain complacent. Other countries are increasing their efforts to attract international students and are enjoying faster growth. The UK must jointly capitalise on its obvious strengths in order to drive sustained growth for this critical component of the UK’s higher education system and its broader economy.”

Responses from 11,362 international undergraduate students in the UK during their first year of study found that the main factors underpinning their decision to study in the UK were (in order of significance): the reputation of their selected institution, the specific course of study, earning potential and personal safety.

Cost of study, cost of living and opportunities to work were rated lower as decision-making factors, but became more significant concerns for students later on in their course of study.

About a fifth of international students in the UK indicated that the country was the only nation they considered, with this rate dropping to 16 per cent for students from Malaysia and 9 per cent for students from China. The primary alternative country considered for study by the UK’s international undergraduate students was the US (44 per cent), followed by Australia (24 per cent) and Canada (19 per cent).

The study also found a significant fall in the perceived attractiveness of the UK as a study destination among education advisers and agents around the world, while the opposite trend was seen for the US, Canada, Australia and New Zealand.

“Noting the significance of the part played by agents and advisers in student decision-making, it would appear that the UK has more to gain, if more in this key group of influencers can be swayed,” the report states.

“More competitive policies around student visas and work rights would have an immediate impact on the attractiveness of the UK to professional advisers. And with or without any policy change, there should be more proactive and coordinated engagement with these gatekeepers for international education.”

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