A recent study by the Higher Education Policy Institute, published on June 25, 2015, found that respondents were generally positive about the contribution of international undergraduates and lecturers to UK universities. The study suggests that more than half of undergraduates believe that international students work harder than British students.
Approximately 1,000 students were polled by YouthSight in May 2015, on behalf of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the Higher Education Academy. Of these, some 54 per cent thought that students from overseas put more effort into their studies than those from the UK. A slight 4 per cent said that international students worked less hard and 33 per cent said that they were just as diligent as UK students.
Students at Russell Group universities were seen even more favourable. Almost almost two-thirds (63 per cent) rated overseas students as harder worker, while only 2 per cent thought that they were lazier than UK students.
The report indicates that the surveyed undergraduates (137 of whom were international students themselves) are also generally positive about the contribution of overseas students to the learning environment.
Only about 26 per cent or one in four students thought that international students required more attention from lecturers and 25 per cent thought that international students slowed down the class because of language issues. Two-thirds or 65 per cent disagreed that the presence of international students cut the quality of the academic discussions.
Nick Hillman, director of HEPI said: “Those who fear international students harm the student experience of home students are wrong. In fact, they enhance it.” He added: “Without a healthy number of international students, it is likely that some courses would be uneconomic to run, classroom discussions would be excessively monocultural and graduates would have a more limited outlook.”
Mr Hillman noted that by highlighting the educational and financial benefits of international students to UK universities, the government's policy over student visas may be softened. This follows the Conservative Party’s commitment in its 2015 manifesto to crack down further on student visas and the Tories’ aim to cut net migration to below 100,000 people a year. However, the government is also setting ambitious revenue targets for international student number growth.
According to Mr Hillman: “The Home Office is in one corner trying to reduce the number of international students, and pretty much everyone else is in the other corner trying to increase them.” “We want to break that stalemate by highlighting the educational benefits of having diverse student bodies.”
The study also shows that the majority of students (75 per cent) are indifferent about whether their lecturers come from other countries.
Stephanie Marshall, chief executive of the HEA said on the growing internationalisation of UK universities: “The rich mix of cultures, tolerance and understanding that an international experience fosters helps prepare students to contribute as global citizens.” She added: “An internationally diverse student body has many benefits – educationally, economically and culturally – for the students themselves and for higher education institutions as a whole.”