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UK students disappointed by fewer international students at university

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Recent research has found that first year UK university students and applicants would be disappointed at the thought of less EU and International students at their universities.


According to the UPP survey carried out by YouthSight, students were asked to imagine that there were substantially fewer EU and international students at their university. Thinking about how this would make them feel during their time at university, 45% admitted they would be disappointed, whilst 19% said they would feel as though they had missed out.


As the new academic year has begun with UCAS reporting 3% fewer EU students, this report is not only timely but offers meaningful insight into how domestic students view their international counterparts.


Meeting a variety of people was regarded as an important part of their overall university experience. When asked what specifically was important to them, 67% of students said meeting people culturally different to them, while 64% said meeting people from a different country.


The impact of Brexit no doubt plays a role in the declining number of EU students. According to the Hotcourses Insights tool, this trend is also reflected with 31% of European students looking to study in the UK. This is down from 36.1% prior to the Brexit vote. What’s notable in these findings also is the increasing interest to study in Ireland, making it an alternative destination for international students are turning to.


How do people feel about this report?


Rachel Carrell, an international student from New Zealand, studied in the UK and has gone on to remain here and start up her own business, Koru Kids, which helps other university students find jobs.


When asked about her thoughts to these findings, Carrell said: ‘It’s great to see that international students are valued by the university community. I think we do bring a lot and help make the university more vibrant and interesting for everyone. As a Kiwi, at my university I was an active member of the Australian and New Zealand society. We were known for throwing great parties and barbecues!’


The report also revealed first year students from Russell Group universities were significantly more likely to say they think of meeting people who are culturally different to them (79% vs. 61% other universities) and people with different political points of view (42% vs. 25% other universities).


Jon Wakeford, Director of Strategy and Communications at UPP and a member of the Higher Education Commission, says: “These results show that first year students and applicants value the opportunities universities offer to expand their horizons, and that, clearly, meeting with students from different countries with varying backgrounds forms a significant part of the student experience. Students want to benefit from a rewarding student experience and want to live and learn in quality shared spaces that do more than just provide a place to sleep.”


Back in March, The Telegraph discussed the implications Brexit could have on international students. One notable point was the change facing EU students.


The article said: ‘Research has suggested exiting the EU could lead to a decline in the number of EU students coming to study here because they would be recruited as international students, which would mean their fees would go up substantially.’


Why international students are important to UK universities


Though a lot has been discussed when it comes to immigration and economic and financial matters, very little has been insight has been offered to more subjective topics. This is why the UPP’s Student Experience Report is a warm change to the dialogue currently in the mainstream media and sheds a different light on how a younger, emerging generation views international students and how important they are to the overall student experience.


‘I loved university and ended up extending my course so I could stay longer. I didn’t initially intend to stay in the UK after leaving university, but I met my husband and decided to stay in London and start a business up over here rather than go back home,’ Carrell explained.


‘Now I work with international students a lot every day. My company, Koru Kids, helps university students get a job as an after-school nanny working with London families who need help after school. We have lots of international student nannies, and it’s great for everyone – the parents love giving their children some international exposure and especially love it when the nannies speak other languages. Meanwhile the student nannies love getting to know local families and having a really fun part time job.’


The integration of international students is imperative for the continued diversity the UK prides itself on. Retaining interest after the societal damage Brexit unleashed will take more than top level negotiations. Revealing attitudes and thought processes associated with international students from the ground will be a powerful tool if only to build bridges on a human level.


For Carrell, the results are significant and meaningful.


‘It’s nice to hear that we immigrants are welcomed by many Brits! It’s not a message you hear very often.’

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