Wales has recorded the UK higher education sector's largest increase in international student numbers - and universities in the principality are planning to expand their share of the lucrative market. Their first step will be to carry out the first detailed study of the Welsh student experience.
The Welsh Student Barometer, which will be undertaken by consultants the International Graduate Insight Group, known as i-graduate, will canvass the opinions of 60,000 students. The results will be used to help improve the appeal of Wales to overseas students.
Figures produced by the Wales International Consortium show that overseas students as a proportion of the student population grew by 8 per cent in Wales in 2005-06 compared with 4 per cent in Scotland and Northern Ireland and 1.5 per cent in England.
Virginia West, director of the consortium, which helps market Welsh universities outside Europe, said Wales was an attractive place for foreign students.
"The main reason they seem to give is the warmth and friendliness of the reception they get here.
"That's mainly due to the fact that we're a small part of the UK. We're only 6 per cent of the UK sector, and most of our institutions are a lot smaller than the average. When you have about 70 or 80 students in an institution of about 1,000, then it's quite an intimate experience for students."
Ms West said many students, particularly Americans, were drawn by the scenery and, she added, "even in the bigger towns and cities, Cardiff and Swansea, there are not the urban problems there are in the rest of the UK".
She said Wales was creating its own brand and needed raw data to help shape that process. "There's a lot of talk in Wales about the internationalisation of the curriculum, of the university environment, of the staff."
William Archer, director of i-graduate, said: "By combining the results from all the universities and colleges, the first national picture for Wales will emerge. Institutions will clearly see what convinces students from outside Wales to study here - and what makes Welsh students stay."