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International view on UK HE value bouncing back

International students are more satisfied with their UK undergraduate courses than counterparts holding home fee status, research has suggested.

Seven in 10 students said they hear wide variety of opinions expressed on campus and the curriculum they study is "sufficiently inclusive and diverse". Photo: pexels

While 76% of home fee status students took on work to supplement living costs, 67% of non-EU students said the same

The Advance HE/ HEPI Student Academic Experience Survey 2022 found that 35% of the total 10,000 students asked said that they thought their courses were ‘good’ or ‘very good’ value for money. When broken down into international fee paying students only, this extended to 41% saying the same.

Among home fee paying students, which included some EU students, 33% (2,911 students) reported poor value of education, a marginally higher proportion than the 32% international fee paying students (317 students) who indicated the same.

The sample size for international fee paying students was lower than non-international fee paying students, with 1,117 of respondents holding international fee status.

For 38% of the international students that found the value for money poor, the cost of living in the UK was the primary concern – higher than other factors including teaching quality (28%), course content (28%), and contact hours (24%).

The NUS said that it is “deeply concerning” that the majority of students don’t think they’re getting good value at university.

Researchers noted that the cost of living concerns have become an “issue” for students generally, as has strike action on UK campuses.

However, the research also suggested that the perception of value has improved significantly on the result last year. The 35% of all surveyed students saying value was good, is a jump from the 27% saying the same in 2021. It is yet to reach the high 41% mark from 2019, however.

“It is fantastic to see so many of the key measures bouncing back after such a difficult period. Most students have been keen to get on with their studies, despite the impact of Covid and also industrial action, and staff have been working their socks off to help ensure this happens,” Nick Hillman, director of HEPI, said in a statement.

“We are not out of the woods yet, as some indicators continue to lag behind their pre-Covid levels. Yet the headline story from this year’s survey is undoubtedly a positive one about recovery.

“It is a tough time to be a student, with cost-of-living rises, mental health challenges and worries about the future,” he added.

However, a higher proportion of international students said that their experiences were better than they had anticipated when compared to their home fee paying classmates.

Some 26% of international fee payers said their experience had been better than expected, compared with the 16% of other students who said the same.

The survey also asked questions on loneliness, sense of belong and freedom of speech on campus.

The proportion of international students saying they were completely satisfied with their lives was higher than other student groups. One in four international fee paying students indicated top marks for life satisfaction, compared to one in 10 of other students.

Proportions indicating they feel lonely “most of the time” were similar, but both high at 22% for internationals and 19% for home fee status holders.

“The evidence of poor mental health remains a significant worry,” Alison Johns, chief executive of Advance HE, said.

“I know that many in the sector are working really hard to support students”

“I know that many in the sector are working really hard to support students, and I believe it is imperative that we draw from this evidence that we all need to do even more together, especially sharing good practice.”

Additionally, the survey found that 58% of international fee paying students agreed that their university degrees have “sufficiently prepared” them for life after university, compared to the 49% of home fee status students saying the same.

Non-EU students were also more likely to take on paid employment than other students in order to gain work experience and explore possible career paths, the survey also found. While 76% of home fee status students took on work to supplement living costs, 67% of non-EU students said the same.

“Students from all backgrounds should be confident that they will receive a high quality academic experience which opens doors for a successful life after graduation,” interim chief executive of the Office for Students Susan Lapworth said.

“Where this doesn’t happen the OfS has strengthened our approach to regulating quality, and will take action to protect students from low quality courses.”

NUS vice-president for Higher Education Hillary Gyebi-Ababio urged that the “current marketised, profit-driven model” of higher education is broken.

“The government needs to finally commit to a #NewVisionForEducation, which is fully funded, lifelong and accessible for all,” Gyebi-Ababio said.

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