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.”