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New report details habits of international students in UK FE colleges

International students studying in the UK are more likely to mix with their co-nationals than with other British students.

Further, most tended to agree that the UK was a welcoming and tolerant society to live and study in, according to new research into the trends of 641 foreign students spread over 25 FE colleges in England, Scotland and Wales; the first of its kind.

The report, “New Horizons”, published by UKCOSA [The Council for International Education], found that over half [56%] of the students chose the UK as their destination choice for study because of its high quality. Consequently, 88% of the respondents were satisfied with their courses, prompting the report to suggest that: “The sector is delivering the quality expected”.

Dominic Scott, Chief Executive of UKCOSA, said: “We hope the survey results will help colleges to identify their strengths and tackle areas with scope for development, and will help Government and national agencies to identify areas where they can make a difference”.

Other statistics published in the report include the fact that 69% of students had their tuition fees paid by families, while a further 20% paid their own way; only 5% of the 641 students had their fees paid through government scholarship.

Also, when questioned on outcomes, students responded that improving their English skills was the best aspect of their UK experience, with 59% agreeing that they would undertake further study in the UK following their present course.

Principal of Greenwich Community College and Chair of the survey steering group, Geoff Pine, added: “There is much in this report of which the sector can be proud. Nevertheless, in a competitive international market place, we cannot afford to be complacent and the report identifies areas where colleges can give themselves a real competitive advantage”.

The report also recommended that the Home Office, when reviewing charges for leave to remain applications, take account of the fact that: “31% of students said they had had to renew their leave to remain since being in the UK (a third of whom found the process slow and/or difficult); 10% said they would definitely not study in the UK in future if faced with the increased visa and extension extra charges, and a further 35% said they would look at other destinations if the charges were lower there”.

Further, it suggested that government should “address the problems” faced by international students with specific regard to difficulties in obtaining National Insurance numbers, recognition of foreign qualifications, and student understandings on permission to work.

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Vijay Pattni.

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