Attracting international students - do UK universities offer real value?

26 November 2010

Chris Smith

Chris Smith

Former Head of Digital Transformation

Prime Minister, David Cameron’s recently commented about how the increases to UK students’ tuition fees will reduce the high prices currently paid by international students who come to this country. The remarks, which were made during a recent envoy to China, seem logical but low prices are not the only thing that will ensure the survival of our university system in the world circuit. Regardless of where the funding is coming from, big question marks remain about our ability to develop a world-class student experience.

The downfall in our higher education system is becoming more and more apparent: Britain is now fifteenth in the world league table of graduates according to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD). Furthermore, a recent National Students Survey highlighted how certain aspects of the university experience consistently bring down the overall student satisfaction score.

To attract international students to our institutions, rather than looking to offset costs by passing them from one student to another, vice-chancellors must determine whether their university is geared to offer real value for money.  A high quality student experience involves looking at more than the course and qualification.  Even before they step foot in the lecture theatre, many international students today traverse a variety of departments just to sort through their course fees, timetable or basic living and accommodation arrangements. 

Alongside their fellow domestic students, those that come to the UK for further education are forced to accept huge inefficiencies that have grown from an outdated bureaucratic management system. In many universities this bureaucracy is exacerbated by a multitude of independent, disparate departments running their own administration, which is backed by a unique IT system. This all results in unnecessary obstacles, spiralling costs and in all fairness, a poor impression for individuals who in some instances will even invest their life savings into gaining a good education. I’m certain this is not exactly the type of ‘welcome’ our PM envisaged for prospective international students he was addressing at Peking University.

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