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New HEPI/Kaplan research shows benefits of studying alongside international students

  • 19 March 2015

Research is available on the economic benefits of international students, but less is known about the educational benefits. So HEPI and Kaplan used the YouthSight Applicant Omnibus Survey to ask those on the cusp of higher education what they think about the prospect of studying alongside students from abroad.

The results show clearly that higher education applicants recognise there are benefits from learning alongside international students. They also suggest people are not naïve about the ways in which it can alter the student experience.

Two-thirds (68%) of higher education applicants have studied alongside international students before. When asked about the effects of studying alongside students from abroad on reaching higher education:

  • 87% say it will give them a better world view
  • 85% say it will be useful preparation for working in a global environment
  • 76% say it will help them develop a global network

Although a minority of applicants worry that learning alongside international students will bring some challenges, greater numbers disagree:

  • 67% say the presence of international students will not lead to lower quality academic discussions while 11% state this is a risk
  • 42% say students without English as a first language will not slow down a class while 29% state they might
  • 39% say international students do not need more attention from teaching staff while 29% state they could

Nick Hillman, Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said:

‘The economic benefits of international students are well known. Educational benefits are thought to exist too, but there is less evidence for them. That is why we set out to test what people applying for higher education think about studying alongside those from other countries.

‘The results provide a missing piece of the jigsaw and are overwhelmingly positive. Almost nine-in-ten applicants think studying alongside international students will prepare them for working in a global environment. Today’s school leavers truly are tomorrow’s global citizens.

’UK policymakers have a tendency to exaggerate the costs and underestimate the benefits of students from abroad. That explains why foreign students remain in the Home Office target for reducing net migration, despite a growing consensus that this is contrary to the national interest. The Home Office should now ask the Migration Advisory Committee to undertake a full review of the costs and benefits of international students.

‘In the future, other Government departments should be given a say in setting migration policy too. They understand the educational and soft power benefits of educating people from other countries and could provide a counterweight to the Home Office’s different priorities.’

Linda Cowan, Managing Director of Kaplan International Colleges, said:

‘An important finding of this research is the extent to which domestic students about to begin their university studies already anticipate benefits of studying alongside students from other countries.

‘Kaplan recruits and prepares more than 6,500 international students for entry to UK universities, so we are well acquainted with the ways in which these students enrich the experience both in the classroom and socially. This survey data on the expectations of UK domestic students provide an interesting dimension to this picture.’

For further information, please contact Nick Hillman, HEPI Director at [email protected].

Notes for Editors

  1. Fieldwork for this research was conducted by YouthSight between 6th and 7th of February 2015. The sample consisted of 500 interviews with applicants, representative of the UK in terms of gender, age and school type. Further details on the methodology are available from YouthSight or HEPI.
  1. The results document is available at and the data is available from HEPI.
  1. HEPI was established in 2002 to influence the higher education debate with evidence. It is a charity that is UK-wide, independent and non-partisan.
  1. Kaplan International Colleges opened the first university pathway college in the UK, Nottingham Trent International College, in 2005. Kaplan has since built a network of eight pathway colleges in partnership with 12 leading universities in the UK and a number of other pathway and preparation programmes abroad, offering foundation and pre-masters courses for international students looking to gain entry into Kaplan’s partner universities. Preparation courses equip students with the academic skills, key subject knowledge and English language ability they need to progress on to university. In 2014, Kaplan recruited more than 6,500 international students for entry to UK universities. Kaplan International Colleges is part of Kaplan Inc., which is a subsidiary of Graham Holdings Company.

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