Teesside’s success in achieving world-leading results in the International Student Barometer 2021

“We pride ourselves on developing our offer around students’ needs and our student-centric approach”

The financial returns of international student recruitment are well-documented across the sector, including the most recent HEPI Report, ‘The costs and benefits of international higher education’, says David Bell, Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) at Teesside University.

The implications for the Tees Valley, where the monetary contribution of international students was valued at over £240m (total net impact) is welcomed by the region, but the significant benefits of international student recruitment stretches far beyond the financial return.

At Teesside, we firmly believe in putting students at the heart of everything we do and delivering a vibrant learning experience within a diverse student community is a vital element of our offer. The true value of our international students is measured through the contribution they make to student life, their experience whilst they are here, and their impact on the world beyond graduation. We pride ourselves on developing our offer around their needs and this student-centric approach has been confirmed by the institution’s results in the International Student Barometer over the last five years, which provides a global benchmark.

Teesside University is an international university with a global network of partnerships, and we attract high quality students and staff from across the world. Students from over 100 countries have graduated from Teesside University and we have successful partnerships with universities across Europe and beyond, including leading institutions in the Czech Republic, Spain, China, India, Malaysia, Sri Lanka and Singapore. And so, this annual recognition that our approach is working for our international students is welcomed and celebrated.

Over the last five years, a key strategy for the university has been to increase the number of international students studying on campus and at our partners across the world, enriching the learning experience for all of our students; helping to develop a global network of students and partners enhances the work of the university across all areas, including teaching, research and enterprise.

But we faced a key challenge to maintain that vital delivery of excellence for our students against a backdrop of increasing numbers of students. It’s fair to say we had a modest cohort of international students in 2015, so offering targeted and bespoke services was likely a simpler endeavour than for many institutions with significant international student cohorts. We knew this approach would need to be enhanced and so we focussed on internationalising our operations through our sector-leading Future-facing Learning Framework. The Dean of our International Business School recently spoke to The PIE News about their new learning model centred around globalisation.

Embedding internationalisation within the curriculum through high-performing partnerships, we co-designed courses and established cross-country projects where students could work with peers across the world, we established flexible exchange programs and virtual mobility options in addition to the traditional study abroad and placement year programs; we realigned our campus to respond to student needs of the future; and we developed world-leading digital partnerships, becoming the first Adobe Creative Campus in Europe and an Apple-Distinguished School, which helps to underpin delivery.

These are just a few examples of activities we have developed to globalise the learning experience at Teesside, as we continue to innovate and enhance the learning experience across the institution. Testament to these efforts over time, this year we once again were ranked number one for ‘overall average satisfaction’ among all the participating institutions in the UK* – a position which we have held for six years. We were also ranked number one for ‘overall average satisfaction’ among all 196 participating universities globally, a position which we have held twice before.

The last two years have been very difficult for everyone around the world and these results show that the hard work and commitment of staff across the institution is having a positive impact for our students. It is particularly rewarding for us to see good results around areas such as student support, IT and learning technology, which have been increasingly important during the pandemic. Over 96% of students were happy with our international student life support team and counselling services; and 97.6% were satisfied with accessing online learning materials. We appreciate how challenging the last two years have been for all of our students and as universities across the world look to the future, the student experience should be central to strategic decision-making. At Teesside, we are committed to our students and will continue to invest and improve our offer to ensure that Teesside University remains a positive choice for students from around the world.

*Based on the views of 1295 students within a global survey response of 92,019 students.

About the author: David Bell is Pro Vice-Chancellor (International) and Equality & Diversity Champion (Ethnicity, Religion and Belief) at Teesside University in the UK. David achieved his masters’ degree in Computer Aided Engineering from Teesside in 1986 and has a professional background in engineering as a Designer, Project Engineer and Engineering Manager with both Thorn EMI and Electrolux. He moved into higher education and held a succession of leadership roles at Northumbria University, including Associate Dean for Learning and Teaching in the School of Engineering and Associate Dean (External Activity) and Acting Dean for the School of Computing, Engineering and Information Sciences. During this time, he achieved his Professional Doctorate investigating the academic success of international students in the educational supply chain. He went on to become Northumbria’s Associate Dean (International) in the Faculty of Engineering and Environment, working to develop multi-million-pound international activity and partnerships predominately in Asia.