The study, What predicts international higher education students’ satisfaction with their study in Ireland, found that students who were satisfied with the college they were attending were “five times more likely to be very satisfied with their studies”.
Being physically healthy and happy in their social circle also substantially influences the satisfaction of international students during their time abroad.
Merike Darmody, one of the article’s authors, said that while it’s not particularly surprising that satisfaction levels are influenced by the choice of institution, it highlights the role that universities play in international student satisfaction.
“The institution can matter for a number of reasons: prestige; support it gives to the students; courses available and so on,” she said, adding that despite international students’ contribution to the Irish economy, few studies have so far been made into how satisfied they are with their experience.
“International students generate substantial income both for their institutions and for the country they are living in,” she said. “Yet, relatively little is known how international students feel about studying in Irish higher education institutions.”
“Relatively little is known how international students feel about studying in Irish higher education institutions”
For the report, Darmody and her colleague Mairéad Finn analysed surveys from Eurostudent IV data, which collects information about the social dimensions of higher education in Europe.
While the survey did not break down what aspects of the college students are satisfied with, Darmody expects that this is related to “overall satisfaction” with the institution itself.
Looking only at data from full-time undergraduate international students, a total of 607 student surveys were analysed for this research.
Health, originally included in the Eurostudent study, is based on a self-assessment of a combination of factors including active lifestyle, emotional wellbeing and stress.
International students who subjectively rated their health as ‘good’ were more than twice as likely to be satisfied with their studies, the research found.
A similar example can also be seen for how the students rated their level of satisfaction with their friends.
Those who were happy with their friendships were two and a half times more likely to be very happy with their studies, according to the analysis.
“Migrant pupils have stronger feelings of belonging if they have friends and teachers that support them”
Still, social integration continues to be a challenge for international students. Darmody argues that there are opportunities for educational institutions themselves to improve this aspect of the study experience.
“Third level institutions can focus on approaches to enhance their on-campus experience, including their social experience,” she said.
And with the Irish government’s drive to recruit students from the emerging markets of India, Brazil and China, Darmody said that “the findings point towards a need to ensure that the challenges that nationals of these countries may face in adjusting to life in Ireland are addressed through policy and practice, primarily within the education institutions themselves.”
The highest number of students studying in Ireland at tertiary level are from the UK, accounting for 16% of the total, according to the UNESCO Institute for Statistics. This is followed by students from China and Malaysia.