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Int’l students in UK twice as likely to prioritise living on their own

The cost, availability and quality of student accommodation is “increasingly important” for international students when they are choosing where to study, research has suggested.

There are "indications that some international students may be less inclined to engage in support framed around ‘mental health and wellbeing’ despite having significant struggles", the report says. Photo: pexels

Nigerian students would pay more rent for improved bedroom space, amenities, communal spaces and design

Published in July, the Global Student Living and College & University Business Officers report explores international students’ accommodation experiences, with a focus on students from China, India and Nigeria.

Compared with their domestic counterparts in the UK, international students are more likely to view accommodation as an important decision-making factor, it found, as it advised institutions to consider their housing options to meet demands from future students.

Surveying close to 43,000 students – including 15,180 international students – across the UK and Ireland, it identified that international students are twice as likely as UK students to prioritise living on their own.

However, it elaborated on the need to offer ‘sense of community’ for different cohorts of students.

“As global student mobility continues to rise, with well over 700,000 international students currently studying in the UK and Ireland, there are challenges in addressing the needs of a more diverse cohort of students overall, as well as specific international cohorts,” Jan Capper, CUBO executive director, said.

Chinese and Indian students fare better socially than those from Nigeria, the UK and Ireland, the report highlighted.

“There will be challenges in addressing the needs of an even more diverse profile of international students”

“Chinese students are much more likely than other groups to prioritise living alone or living with their friends,” the paper reads. They also rank kitchen size and facilities, technology/Wi-Fi and range and quality of amenities highly.

For Indian students – of which 2,333 were surveyed – kitchen size and facilities, bedroom and availability of communal spaces matter, it added.

Like other students, the 937 Nigerian students surveyed indicated that value for money was highly important. They would also pay more rent for improved bedroom space, amenities, communal spaces and design.

“Improved communal spaces are so important that they are a key driver of overall satisfaction for Nigerian students,” the report states.

They are less likely than others to say social events in their accommodation are good or very good, it noted, adding that they want more social events than other internationals and students from the UK.

Different student groups struggle in various areas meaning that wellbeing support needs continued prioritisation, the report says.

Homesickness is reported by Indian students at much higher levels than other student groups, while Indian and Nigerian students are more likely to report work and career-related struggles than those from the UK or China.

Chinese students are significantly more likely to say they are struggling with gaining the right skills than finding part-time work.

“Specific targeted support, particularly around homesickness, managing workload, budgeting and finding part-time work, may cut through to these groups more effectively,” the reports suggests.

While satisfaction is generally improving, students have increasingly high expectations, it continues.

An anticipated change in the mix of international means that accommodation will need to adapt, it suggests.

“Chinese students will remain an important market, but other sending countries are gaining prominence and there will be challenges in addressing the needs of an even more diverse profile of international students.

“Chinese students are more likely to prioritise living on their own entirely”

“The growing cohorts (India, Nigeria and others) tend to be significantly more price sensitive. They are also much more dependent on casual work to supplement their studies, and these markets are particularly vulnerable to changes in government policy on family visas and post-study working rights, both of which are now under attack.”

Institutions must consider the implications of their international recruitment strategies, maintain a diverse accommodation stock and “develop the agility to be able to respond and adapt service delivery to the student mix as it becomes more dynamic”, it recommends.

As institutions look to diversify their international student cohorts, they must consider “pro-active interventions” to allow students to find a ‘critical mass’ of other students like them – which “appears to have a strong positive effect”.

Individual institutions must understand the demand for different types of accommodation, the “future premium” that may realistically be achieved for studios, as well as the “adaptation and reprioritisation” of aspects of accommodation ‘experience’ to the future student profiles.

The research found that 51% international students are likely to prioritise living on their own, compared with 25% of UK students who indicated the same.

“Students from the UK (68%), India (70%) and Nigeria (70%) are significantly more likely than students from China (50%) to prioritise having an en-suite, however, this is presumably because Chinese students are more likely to prioritise living on their own entirely,” it adds.

It also details differences among student cohorts in how they identify housing options.

Chinese students are more likely to book accommodation through an education agent, while Indian and Nigerian students generally favour university websites.

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