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The Growth of International Students in the United Kingdom

The United Kingdom has a history of prestigious academic institutions, some which rank among the best in Europe and the world. These include Oxford University, Cambridge University, University College London, and St. Andrew’s University – to name a few. Given the UK’s burgeoning multicultural population, it represents an ideal location for international students wishing to pursue postsecondary study.

Recently, the UK’s International Unit, which works to strengthen the country’s higher education activities among international students, released a report which brought favorable news to education administrators throughout the UK. Students coming from abroad report the UK’s teaching and learning outcomes quite highly, which ranks the UK above its competitor countries[i].

The United Kingdom offers three-year undergraduate degrees, which appeals to many prospective students. However, this system requires students to choose their course of study before they begin university, and allows for little flexibility if they wish to change their major.

Key factors that were included in the International Report were the institution’s reputation, the course of study, income potential upon graduation and personal safety[ii]. The United Kingdom’s competitors for international recruitment include the United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand. Factors that have held back increasing enrollment numbers include a cumbersome visa policy, which has typically swayed applicants toward the UK’s competitors.

The report recommended that higher education institutions in the UK engage more frequently with recruiting agents, with whom students develop a quick rapport with. In fact, students reported their satisfaction with recruiting agents to be above 90%[iii]. Agents are frequently used in the United States and Canada on behalf of universities as institutions seek to expand their outreach beyond traditional student populations.