Thursday 11 September 2014


A new survey of UK students’ attitudes to international students has found a high level of integration and acceptance, with 74 per cent of UK students stating they believe international students are welcomed by their peers in the UK.

A significant majority (76 per cent) of UK students believe that the UK has a collective responsibility to make international students feel welcomed, and only two per cent of UK students believe that international students do not belong in the UK.

Almost one in five of all university students (18 per cent) in the UK have come from overseas, with the proportion rising to over a third (37 percent) at post-graduate level.

The study “Integration of international students: a UK perspective” published today by the British Council found that UK students who had greater interaction with international students were more likely to have international students as friends, were three times as likely to enjoy sharing experiences with international students, and had a better awareness of international students’ motivations for studying in the UK.

Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council Director of Education, said “This month nearly half a million new undergraduates are starting university, and one in ten will be arriving from outside the UK. There’s plenty of evidence that shows international students make a tremendous academic, cultural and economic contribution to the UK as a whole, but we wanted to know what UK students themselves think. It’s great to see that the UK’s young people are welcoming and willing to play a part in integrating our visitors into British life.”

The British Council’s Student Insight survey of young people considering overseas study has found that increasingly a country’s reputation for being a safe and multicultural society is becoming a key factor when deciding where to live and study. Therefore the engagement of UK students with international students is valuable and helps lift overall sentiment towards a diverse, international student body, as well as the internationalisation efforts of a university and the UK as a whole.

Prof Hughes added “Young people today need to have a global outlook if the UK is to remain globally competitive, and people going to university this month will find themselves part of a very international environment. A university friendship between individuals can turn into a life-long relationship that benefits not just those friends, but also the UK economy, the culture of our towns and cities, our students on campus, and of course the international students who come here.”

The report’s author, British Council Education Intelligence Head of Research Zainab Malik, commented: “International students who connect with home students and faculty at an early stage are more likely to feel a sense of security and belonging, which can translate to academic advancement and personal growth. That feeling of contributing and belonging is what continues to draw so many international students to the UK.”

“UK students are aware of issues surrounding integration and largely positive about taking responsibility for their part in providing a welcoming environment.” Ms Malik said. “Our data indicate that those that have little interaction with international students are less knowledgeable about their experiences and motivations and in some cases creating a neutral sentiment towards international students as a whole. There is leeway, then, for the UK higher education sector to improve relevant communication channels.” 

Notes to Editor

The British Council surveyed 2,632 UK-domiciled students in February and March of 2014. The survey consisted of multiple-choice, single-answer questions.

The report can be downloaded here:

The research aims to understand the level of awareness UK students have of incoming international students, their level of interaction with them and understanding of their motivations for studying in the UK.

UK Student numbers sourced from the Higher Education Statistics Authority, correct in 2012/13

o   Of the 2012/13 total UK student body, 1.9 million (82%) were UK domiciled and just over 425,260 (18%) were international students, representing both “other European Union” and “non-European Union” students for the purposes of this report.

·         Just over one in 10 UK undergraduate students were international

o   In 2012/13 the total number of UK undergraduates was 1.8 million. Of these students, 226,400 (13%) were international, representing a one per cent increase from the previous year’s undergraduate total of 225,530 students.

·         More than one in three UK postgraduate students are international

o   In 2012/13, 37 per cent of the UK postgraduate student body were comprised of international students.

·         New UK undergraduate students starting in September 2014 sourced from UCAS

Respondents with friends who are international students largely enjoyed sharing experiences with international students (68%), Conversely, the majority of students who did not indicate interest in or having international friends said they had no opinion on international students (42%), while some said they enjoy experiences they have with international students (21%) and that international students bring culture and diverse views (13%).

For more information, please contact Tim Sowula, Senior Press Officer, British Council or 0207 389 4871

About the British Council

The British Council is the UK’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations. We create international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and build trust between them worldwide.

We work in more than 100 countries and our 7000 staff – including 2000 teachers – work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year by teaching English, sharing the Arts and delivering education and society programmes.

We are a UK charity governed by Royal Charter. A core publically-funded grant provides less than 25 per cent of our turnover which last year was £781m. The rest of our revenues are earned from services which customers around the world pay for, through education and development contracts and from partnerships with public and private organisations. All our work is in pursuit of our charitable purpose and supports prosperity and security for the UK and globally.

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