Category: UK

We’ve decided to be very transparent in our work with student recruitment agents

Vincenzo Raimo, Director, International Office at the University of Nottingham, UK, writes…

“The value of international students to UK universities is unquestionable and much more than just financial: they help create more diverse and interesting student communities, they help UK students develop a more global outlook and they help UK universities compete with the very best in the world by ensuring our student body, particularly at postgraduate level, is made up of the very best students from around the world.

But the need to bridge income shortfalls has put a great deal of pressure on international student recruiters to bring-in more students and increase income levels.
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Vincenzo Raimo is pro-vice-chancellor (global engagement) at the University of Reading in the UK.

Ten great reasons to study in the UK

Carla Stanton, International Manager of UCAS (Universities and Colleges Admissions Service), sets out her top 10 pointers on why the UK remains a great study destination:

ONE: British higher education and qualifications have an impressive international reputation, with students in the United Kingdom encouraged to develop their potential while enjoying a full social life.

TWO: It’s easy to research the right course for you by visiting the UCAS website. Everyone who goes to UCAS.com has access to the Course Search database containing details of around 38,000 courses from archaeology to zoology.

THREE: Students who register are guided, step-by-step, through the process and use the online application system, Apply. It’s not too late to apply this year – UCAS will still send applications to universities and colleges up until June 30.

FOUR: Studying in the UK will help you develop excellent language skills. The English language is of crucial importance in today’s global business arena. (Most UK universities offer language support to international students but institutions have their own criteria for the level of English that students need to master.)

FIVE: You’ll be in good company. The UK has a long history of welcoming international students to study in its universities and colleges. In Britain last year there were 1.8 million full-time undergraduate students in higher education, which included over 104,000 international students.

SIX: UK universities are inspected regularly to ensure that they uphold the high standards of teaching, learning and research set by the Government. The Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) is the key body charged with maintaining these standards.

SEVEN: The cultural diversity of life in British higher education is unrivalled. From cosmopolitan cities like London, Cardiff, Belfast and Glasgow, to historic counties like Warwickshire and Yorkshire, the UK is a place of contrasts and culture, where ancient buildings sit alongside contemporary architecture.

EIGHT: Undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the UK tend to be shorter than in other countries which can help to keep the cost of tuition fees and living expenses down. Most undergraduate courses take three years to complete, although in Scotland it would be typically four years and postgraduate courses can be from one year upwards.

NINE: Typically, international students are allowed to work for up to 20 hours a week during term time and full-time during holidays. If you are from an EU country, there will be even more flexibility. Full details about the conditions for working are on the UK Border Agency website and also on the UKCISA (UK Council for International Student Affairs) website.

TEN: EU students may be eligible for financial help with tuition fees, and possibly some extra help, depending on family circumstances. Find out here.

Last year over 110,000 people from outside the UK applied through UCAS to study in Britain. UCAS is the central body which has managed admissions to higher education in Britain for over 50 years. Carla Stanton is the International Manager of UCAS. 

The UK is caught in a ‘perfect storm’

“Having spent the last two years working with leading Australian universities to support their international student recruitment, coming back to the UK to see the challenges being faced by universities here brings a fresh perspective to the issues.

In my experience and that of my colleagues at Hobsons, the feeling within the sector is that the new visa regime recently implemented by the UK Border Agency means that, in effect, UK universities have been closed for business from international students.

This is far from the case but perception counts for a lot and perception amongst the press, foreign agents, prospective international students and indeed within some universities is that the UK is no longer such an attractive proposition.

It’s true, UKBA reforms and the ongoing economic crisis have brought fresh challenges but the fundamental reasons for the UK being the destination of choice for countless thousands of international students and their families over the past half a century have not changed. Institutions need to start focussing on what makes our education system so appealing and stop worrying about what our competitors are doing; especially Australia.

The simple fact is that the implementation of the recommendations from the Knight review in Australia has made the visa process for oversees students more straightforward, it has made the cost of studying financially less burdensome and it has increased potential career opportunities post graduation.

The Australian Government has risen to the challenge of promoting openness and you can be sure that the universities will hold up their end of the bargain; maximising the opportunities created through responsible recruitment. In the meantime, the UK is caught in a ‘perfect storm’ – and one that is partially of our own making.

We cannot control what other countries do however we haven’t done enough to affect those elements within our control: our brand, our offering, our message. We need to manage perception otherwise someone else, with a very different agenda to our own, will do it for us.

Putting aside perception for a minute, the reality for UK universities is that we provide a world class education system in one of the most culturally diverse and welcoming countries in the world. This reality is at risk of getting lost amongst the negative press surrounding student fees, English language requirements and opportunity to work; it is the responsibility of the sector as a whole to address this disparity between perception and reality.

There is a logic behind the UK visa reforms, even if the government has taken a rather heavy handed approach to the solution for the existing gaps in the system. It is up to us to work within this changing landscape and re-focus our efforts. Universities must get specific; they must use what they know of their current and past international student cohorts to determine what message they need to get to market and then they must ensure that message is received loud and clear.

As a sector and as individual institutions, we need to make sure that we are absolutely clear about our aim, our message and our medium. You cannot buy what is unique about British higher education – its history, quality and prestige. You certainly cannot buy what is unique about your institution. In an increasingly competitive market, the universities that thrive will be those that are able to differentiate themselves.”

Duncan Findlater, Head of Client Services at Hobsons, has recently returned from Australia. Find out more about Hobsons: http://www.hobsons.com/europe/