UK mores alienate foreign entrants

December 3, 2004

International students find it tough to make UK friends, and many are put off socialising by the heavy drinking culture and "smugness and superiority" of British people, a survey published this week has found.

The difficulties of integrating overseas students socially and academically with their UK peers is a "recurring theme" in a survey of 5,000 international further and higher education students carried out by Ukcosa, the Council for International Education.

Nearly three quarters of postgraduate and more than half of undergraduate international students said they had no UK friends, the Ukcosa report says.

UK students were considered hard to get to know by 43 per cent, and more than half felt that making contact with British people outside their institution was difficult.

But not all those who had made contact were impressed with what they found.

The report says it is clear that some students find the UK's drinking culture "a barrier to integration", an issue that has not emerged in studies in other countries.

Other respondents complained of the stuffiness, arrogance and smugness of British people, although only a small minority said that they had encountered racism.

Finance is another concern for many international students. Nearly a quarter said they did not have enough money to live on, with nearly three-quarters saying living costs were higher than they had expected.

Only half the respondents felt their course was good value for money, with some complaining of "hidden extras" and of the new visa extension charges.

Despite the problems, 89 per cent said they were satisfied with their stay in the UK, and 87 per cent said they were satisfied with their course.

Dame Alexandra Burslem, chair of Ukcosa's board of trustees and vice-chancellor of Manchester Metropolitan University, said: "We hope the survey will become a regular process to enable us to gauge our success in welcoming international students."


'Overall, UK people are very helpful, friendly and fun to hang out with when they are sober' Malaysian male undergraduate

'Its diversity has surprised me at times, yet its stuffiness regarding many other countries does not cease to amaze me' Female Finnish undergraduate

'Younger students are normally not interested in mixing with overseas students and they assume you can't understand English anyway' Female postgraduate from Hong Kong

'I never expected that my favourite food would be a Cornish pasty' US female undergraduate.

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