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UK tops student satisfaction ranking for undergrad study

New research from the UK HE’s International Unit has delivered some good news for the UK: despite policy settings widely considered to be cumbersome, international students rate the UK’s teaching and learning outcomes as excellent, and the country enjoys a higher satisfaction rate overall than its competitor countries.

International students feel that the UK "excels in teaching and learning". Photo: University of RoehamptonInternational students feel that the UK "excels in teaching and learning". Photo: University of Roehampton

"Reputation matters, but what matters most is how our international students rate us"

These are topline findings from a new report, International Undergraduate Students, The UK’s Competitive Advantage, which was authored by Will Archer of i-graduate for the IU.

International undergraduate student satisfaction with UK higher education was very high at 91%, and satisfaction has also increased in every area of the learning experience.

UK HE International Unit Director Vivienne Stern commended “our universities’ hard work to continuously improve the student experience”. But she noted that other countries are increasing 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,” she said.

The findings are based on international student experience data derived from i-graduate’s International Student Barometer (ISB), supported by statistics on international student recruitment and enrolment in the UK, as well as high level analysis of other major destinations government policies on recruitment, support and post-study employment.

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter, commented, “Reputation matters, but what matters most is how our international students rate us. This survey gives a definitive answer to that question.”

The number of international UG students in the UK as a proportion of total international student numbers is lower than most of its rivals, with 50% of international students studying at undergraduate level; the US is broadly similar with a 51% ratio.

The report reveals a low level of reliance on part-time work to help UG students in the UK

The report reveals a low level of reliance on part-time work to help UG students in the UK

A notable difference between UK and US provision is that most UK undergraduate honours degrees take three years compared to four in the US, Canada and Australia, meaning that the UK recruits and graduates more students each year relative to the total number studying at any one time, and does so with fewer years’ fees and faster access to the labour market for students.

Of the 130,000 international UG students enrolled in the UK in 2013–14, around 75% were from Asia, with lesser numbers from Africa (11%), the Middle East and North America (both 9%) and around 1% from Latin America.

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