How to better support international boarding school pupils to make well informed higher education decisions

“There is a growing awareness that UKI students have unique needs that are not necessarily being met by support that is focused on either purely ‘international’ or ‘domestic’ students”

Every year the UK welcomes over 29,000 international students to come and study in UK Boarding schools (UKI students).

Many will then want to stay in the UK for their higher education and indeed this is the goal for many international parents-pay for a great Boarding school education to secure a place at a world renowned UK University.

However, the higher education path for ‘UKI students’ is sometimes not straightforward, says Pat Moores of UK Education Guide.

Students from the UK often rely very heavily on their school for advice, but also can expect the active support of parents and family friends based in the UK who can take them to visit multiple universities and may well have been to University themselves and so know the application process.

Contrast this with an international pupil whose parents may be based several thousand miles away, may not speak English as a first or even second language and who may not understand the Higher education application process at all.

So, it is vital that Boarding schools & Universities work together to offer extra support to UKI pupils, to guide them every step of the way as they transition to higher education.

In partnership with the BSA/BAISIS and the Universities of Exeter and Sheffield, UK Education Guide has set up the UKI Student & School Forum – to help universities provide more active support to the UKI market-both schools and pupils.

The first major event the Forum is hosting is the International Student University Fair aimed exclusively at UKI pupils, on September 29.

Some 23 universities will attend the first event and the participating institutions include Russell Group and Post 92 Universities, as requested by schools at a ‘taster’ event held earlier this year. The International Student University Fair will also offer pupils: 1:1 support with Personal Statement development, IELTS information, general university advice and a Q&A session with international students already studying at UK universities.  There will also be a range of speakers talking throughout the day.

Through the Forum, and the research it is undertaking at each event it hosts, there is a growing awareness that UKI students have unique needs that are not necessarily being met by support that is focused on either purely ‘international’ or ‘domestic’ students.

“The research results from the test event we held with 30 schools in May identified that there are some quite unique pastoral care needs that UKI students have that are not directly comparable to the needs of either domestic or international students,” says UK Education Guide director, Rafael Garcia-Krailing.

For example, while international students may understandably suffer from homesickness and miss important cultural markers such as food, UKI students may additionally miss their structured Boarding school lives where days are meticulously planned and structured.

“The wrap around care of a Boarding school can often cushion the blow of moving away from home and sometimes homesickness only really kicks in for a UKI student when they move to a University where days are far less structured and there is a lot more time to fill,” adds Caroline Nixon, international director of BSA.

Overall, the Forum founders see this first event as an important step in improving the level of support for UKI students.

“We hope that ultimately the Forum will be able to support face to face events and co- ordinated UKI student visits to Universities,” adds Laura Drinkwater, regional manager (UK International and Europe) at the University of Exeter

“We ideally want to encourage schools to work together so we can offer a lot more really meaningful and tailored campus visits and events for UKI students,” says Jess Heaney, senior student recruitment officer (Postgraduate and UK based international) at the University of Sheffield.

“Our ultimate goal with the Forum is certainly to try to better mirror the support domestic students take for granted in the support we provide our valued UKI students,” adds Caroline Nixon.

About the author: Pat Moores is the director and co-founder of UK Education Guide.