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#Perceptions: What do British students think about their international counterparts?

More than half of British undergraduates think their international counterparts work harder and a significant majority feel that studying alongside foreign students at British universities is useful in preparing for work in a global environment, a new survey has found.

The study, commissioned by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and the Higher Education Academy (HEA), found that 54% of students think international students work “much harder” or a “little harder” than home students with just 4% disagreeing.

More than three quarters of respondents said studying alongside people from other countries is “useful prepration for working a global environment”.  Significantly, an even larger percentage of foreign students found this to be true.

A quarter of the more than 1000 students questioned said that international students need more attention from lecturers and slow down the class due to language issues (25%) but two-thirds disagree that the presence of international students reduces the quality of the academic discussions, the survey found.

Stephanie Marshall, Chief Executive of the HEA, said: “An internationally diverse student body has many benefits – educationally, economically and culturally – for the students themselves and for higher education institutions as a whole.

“This survey shows that students agree that there are many positive impacts on learning from studying alongside international students.  The rich mix of cultures, tolerance and understanding that an international experience fosters helps prepare students to contribute as global citizens.

Nearly 90% of all undergraduate students in the UK study alongside international students.

One sixth of Britain’s total student population is made up of foreign students who are at the centre of the on-going debate about immigration. 

Nick Hillman, Director of the HEPI, said: “The battle over student migration has been going on for too long. 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.

“Students believe studying alongside people from other countries gives them lifetime benefits. A large majority say it provides them with a better worldview, makes them more aware of cultural sensitivities and helps them develop a global network.  Without a healthy number of international students, it is likely that some courses would be uneconomic to run, classroom discussions would be excessively mono-cultural and graduates would have a more limited outlook.

“Those who fear international students harm the student experience of home students are wrong.  In fact, they enhance it.  We put that at risk when we fail to recognise the benefits that internationalisation brings to the UK higher education sector.”

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