Foreign students impressed by standards of UK education, survey shows

by Ray Clancy on August 25, 2011

UK education levels remain impressive

Cities such as London, Edinburgh and Manchester are prime locations for overseas students wanting to study in the UK because of the strong reputation of their educational institutions, it is claimed.

Overall the UK offers good value for money for overseas students and accommodation is keenly prices, according to a survey by UNITE, a developer and manager of student accommodation.

In 2010, a total of 405,000 international students studied at UK higher education institutions, an increase of 10% on 2009. Some 16% of all students in the UK are international and, unsurprisingly, are geographically biased towards London, where 24% of the city’s entire student population is from outside the UK.

The company said it has seen a huge surge in demand from overseas students. They now account for 46% of the Company’s customers and 70% of its customers in London. UNITE’s customer base clearly reflects this growing trend.

The survey found that the strong reputation of UK Higher Education degrees was seen as the major reason why international students chose the UK over other countries for study. This overturns the perception that international students come to the UK primarily to improve their English language skills.

One of the major reasons cited by postgraduate students for choosing the UK is that the shorter course lengths offered by many institutions represent significantly better value for money, compared to their home country.

UK universities were also seen as less complex and more straightforward to join, as opposed to those in the USA and Canada, whose enrolment procedures was seen as an issue for many international students.

The decision to study at a particular university in the UK is often driven by existing links of that University with their home school, college or university and also by the specific course available at a particular institution.

The reputation of a city, and, most notably for those studying in London, Edinburgh and Manchester, was a common reason for choosing a particular UK university.

As far as accommodation is concerned, proximity to the University, and not the city centre, is the main driver when deciding on where to live, the survey also found. Price is considered to be less of a concern for international students, although clarity on the total cost is considered important.

Questions relating to security are one of the most common areas raised by potential customers and communal areas and kitchens were seen to be an important factor for international students, particularly those from the Far East, who tend to cook much more often than domestic students.

One of the key findings from the report, reflected by almost all of the customers surveyed, is that the biggest problem when initially coming to study in the UK is the lack of support and information provided on helping them move and setting up basic requirements, such as bank accounts, on arrival.

‘The UK’s Higher Education sector relies heavily on the income derived from international students, which is becoming increasingly important as we see deeper UK Government cuts. We are pleased that this research demonstrates the ongoing appetite from international students to study at UK institutions and that they are making their decisions based on the UK’s world class reputation,’ said Shane Spiers, managing director at UNITE.

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