That is the finding of a report by the British Council, An examination of host destinations from a student perspective, that collected over 153,000 responses from students about what made them pick their institution and country of study.
One of the defining moments of last summer's civil disorder in the UK was footage of a Malaysian student having a games console stolen from his bag by youths pretending to aid him after he was attacked in Barking, east London.
A video of the robbery of Ashraf Rossli has attracted over 6 million views on YouTube and the incident was condemned as “disgusting” by David Cameron, the prime minister.
But when students were asked in 2012 what made the UK their first-choice destination, the fifth most popular answer was that it is a safe country to live in.
In 2007, by contrast, safety was only the 17th most important factor.
“I think the UK is quite safe; people don’t have guns,” said one anonymous school student interviewed for the report.
The riots were not the only news event that featured a high-profile attack on a foreign student in the UK last year.
In December Anuj Bidve, an Indian studying at Lancaster University, was murdered in a shooting in Salford.
Safety was cited as an increasingly important trait in all study destinations.
International students who came to the UK ranked safety as a higher factor in their decision than those who went to the US, Australia and New Zealand.
The consideration was equally important for those who chose Canada.
The report also reveals that just over half of the students surveyed picked the UK before they selected a particular institution.
Around 38 per cent picked a university before anything else, while under 10 per cent chose the city first.
The top four factors for international students coming to the UK in 2012 were: quality of education, an internationally recognised qualification, career prospects and universities’ reputation.