Thursday 11 October 2012

Students worldwide believe the UK is the safest place to study, an international survey has found.

The perceived multicultural nature of Britain’s society is the key reason for its reputation as the most secure study destination, according to students from over 80 countries who responded to a survey conducted by the British Council and the online student forum The Student Room.

Strict laws restricting gun ownership, along with good medical care, and a relatively low crime rate also contribute to the UK’s highly safe status. But having a “very multicultural society” was by far the most significant factor, with nearly 40 per cent of those who considered Britain the safest place to study citing it as the reason for their opinion.

Over a quarter of students who responded to the poll placed Britain top in the safety ratings. Canada came second, voted as safest by over 15 per cent, followed by the United States, Germany, and New Zealand. Non-UK students ranked Singapore and Germany in fourth and fifth place.

Israel is seen as the least safe place to study -- due to fears over terrorist attacks – followed by South Africa, where street crime is considered to be rife. The USA’s relatively relaxed gun laws, offset by its multicultural society and high police presence, divided opinion – leaving it placed as the third least safe as well as the third safest study destination.

A report on the findings from the British Council, published today, says crime against a rapidly rising number of globally mobile students, along with news and views spread via the internet, has led to a heightened awareness of the risks faced when studying abroad.

As a result, safety has risen sharply in students’ priorities when deciding where to study. It is now the fifth most important consideration out of 19 factors influencing choice of study destination, compared with 17th most important six years ago, a separate annual British Council poll of over 160,000 prospective students worldwide has shown.

The British Council’s Education Intelligence team used findings from this poll along with responses from the survey with The Student Room and feedback from focus groups with students and their parents to analyse the perceived threat to students’ personal safety while studying abroad.

The research sought to understand why student opinion on personal safety has changed over time and what factors have influenced it; the impact of global trends in student-centred violence and discrimination on students’ views; and whether the free flow of information online has heightened awareness of these global trends.

The report, Student Insight Hot Topics: The Rise in Global Student Safety Concerns, says the results should help “better understand if there is a growing climate of fear among international students, whether that is based on fact or hearsay, and how the many new ways in which information can be shared is impacting decision making and opinion.”

The UK’s rating as the safest place to study implies a lower level of crime against students and better handling of incidents by police and other authorities – despite last year’s riots.

“ ...countries like the US, UK and Dubai were highlighted as being safe due to their legal systems and police presence,” the report says.

Integration of international students into domestic student communities was also seen as an important factor influencing perceptions of safety.

One focus group member said: “A mixed community of students is very important. Cooking alongside someone else in a kitchen is essential to understanding and trusting them as a person.”

Commenting on the findings, Elizabeth Shepherd, Research Director for the British Council’s Education Intelligence team, said:

“Our research shows that personal safety is of increasing importance to international students, whose unique situation can make them particularly vulnerable. The key to making them feel secure is integration – both with students at the institution where they are studying and within the local community.

“The UK’s cultural mix is clearly a significant asset in this respect. Students we spoke to said they felt safer in the knowledge that in the UK their culture would not be totally unknown.

“Providing a safe environment for international students requires institutions and national organisations to be proactive rather than reactive to safety issues. The UK has not been immune to threats against students, but its reputation as a safe study destination has not been tarnished, thanks to immediate and sensitive handling of any incidents. It is seen as a country where high priority is given to protecting personal safety.”  

For more information, please contact:

Tony Tysome


Media FHE

Tel: +44 (0)1629 636007

Mob: 07545 346076



About the British Council

The British Council creates international opportunities for the people of the UK and other countries and builds trust between them worldwide. We are a Royal Charter charity, established as the UK ’s international organisation for educational opportunities and cultural relations.

Our 7000 staff in over 100 countries work with thousands of professionals and policy makers and millions of young people every year through English, arts, education and society programmes.

We earn over 75% of our annual turnover of nearly £700 million from services which customers pay for, education and development contracts we bid for and from partnerships. A UK Government grant provides the remaining 25%. We match every £1 of core public funding with over £3 earned in pursuit of our charitable purpose.