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Studying in the UK, what it’s like for international students

Studying in the UK, what it’s like for international students

They’re one of the fastest growing demographics in UK universities and despite Brexit anxiety; numbers are expected to increase over the coming years. International students are some of the biggest net contributors to the economy and many eventually settle in the UK, bringing with them innovation and ideas whilst paying into the wider economy.

According to the most recent figures released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA), a huge 13% of UK students come to study from outside of the European Union (EU), with a further 6% of international students coming from inside the EU. The figures also show that Higher Education providers in England have the greatest proportion of non-EU international students at 14%, while providers in Scotland had the greatest proportion of other EU students at 9%.

Those numbers have remained steady for a number of years now, with little evidence to suggest that international students are likely to decline significantly in the short to medium term. With this in mind, what is it like to come to the UK to study?

Student landlords are likely to have come across international students within Purpose Built Student Accommodation (PBSA), but studying in an unfamiliar country can be intimidating and scary. Theresa May arguably hasn’t helped that situation with some tough rhetoric on immigration restrictions, but she has recently appeared to soften her previously tough stance.

In an interview with The Guardian, Professor Seán Hand, deputy pro-vice-chancellor at the University of Warwick said: “The UK system strongly encourages and rewards a student’s own perspective.” Many international students find it difficult to adjust to the more independent study-focused programmes, with the education culture from other parts of the world more prescriptive that our own.

They can also find it difficult to get used to the UK grading systems too, which is fairly unique. Students from India, for example, have spoken of a 50% mark in the UK being equivalent to a 70% mark back home.

One thing that many international students say they found difficult when adjusting to UK life is the campus culture of partying and drinking. Many other foreign countries see studying as a serious business, and with tuition fees so high in the UK in comparison to the rest of the world, many feel baffled that students would not take their studies more seriously.

Of course, with a party lifestyle some see overseas studying as an opportunity to cut loose and let go a little bit, having come from a more oppressive study culture. This, too, has its own dangers as some of students can indulge a little too much in the lifestyle and can find themselves struggling academically.

One thing many overseas students do seem to enjoy about the UK, however, is the scenery and countryside outside of the big cities. A university like Manchester, for example, is located in the busy city centre environment with concrete jungles and noisy environments, but just a few miles on a train can take you to somewhere like the Peak District national park for less than the price of a few drinks at the Student Union.

Liverpool, too, has a wealth of natural beauty outside of the city centre and many students who choose to study in Wales have spoken of their awe at some of the natural scenery around the coasts and through the valleys.

The UK has a fantastic reputation for higher education for a reason, and it doesn’t come cheap. International students play a vital role in our educational development and for the PBSA sector too, we should cherish them.