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International Undergraduate Students: The UK’s Competitive Advantage

Published on 9 December 2015

91% satisfaction with UK undergraduate education from international students: The UK has the highest satisfaction ratings amongst our comparators.

Research released by the UK HE International Unit at Universities UK today (9th December) shows that the UK is the global leader in high quality undergraduate education for international students and "excels in teaching and learning". The research, International Undergraduate Students: The UK's Competitive Advantage, shows that a higher proportion of international students would recommend the UK than any of its major English-speaking peers. 

Key findings include:

  • International undergraduate students rate the UK number one for student satisfaction, ahead of the USA, Canada, Australia, Germany and New Zealand.
  • International undergraduate student satisfaction with UK higher education is very high at 91% and satisfaction has increased[1] in every area of the learning experience
  • 85% of international undergraduates who study here would recommend the UK experience to others; the highest recommendation rate of all of the major English-speaking destinations.
  • Despite the UK's improving satisfaction results, some other countries are enjoying faster growth than the UK.

Universities & Science Minister Jo Johnson said:

"International students are very welcome in the UK and play an important role in making our education system one of the best in the world. These results show that in return they can expect a truly world leading standard of teaching and learning. Our Higher Education reforms are putting students at the heart of the system, making sure that all students are getting a high quality education wherever they are from."

UK HE International Unit Director Vivienne Stern commented: 

"International undergraduate students choose the UK for its world leading higher education. Their experience of learning here and living here means the UK rates number one for student satisfaction when compared to other major destinations.  The evidence in this report endorses our universities' hard work to continuously improve the student experience. Whilst the UK's improving results and higher satisfaction with the cost of living than main alternative countries suggest we are heading in the right direction, we cannot remain complacent. Other countries are increasing their efforts to attract international students and are enjoying faster growth. The UK must jointly capitalise on its obvious strengths in order to drive sustained growth for this critical component of the UK's higher education system and its broader economy".

The report's author Will Archer, CEO of i-graduate added:

"A key factor driving continued growth is the demonstrated ability of UK universities to deliver on the promise of a world class undergraduate experience. To have achieved increases across all measures of the learning experience, while sustaining such high ratings for student services across a period of growth, deserves recognition."

Professor Sir Steve Smith, Vice Chancellor of the University of Exeter commented:

"The results of this survey show the exceptionally high quality of the UK's university experience as rated by the most important people - our students. The UK's universities provide an outstanding learning environment for international students. The rich diversity of excellence amongst UK universities means that students can find the right course for them and, most importantly, have a world-leading experience during their time here. Reputation matters, but what matters most is how our international students rate us. This survey gives a definitive answer to that question". 

The findings are based on international student experience data derived from i-graduate's International Student Barometer (ISB), supported by statistics on international student recruitment and enrolment in the UK, as well as high level analysis of other major destinations government policies on recruitment, support and post-study employment.

View the full e-book here.

View the PDF version here.


Note to editor.

1. International Undergraduate Students: The UK's Competitive Advantage

This research report on international undergraduate students is part of a series commissioned by the UK International Unit to examine the UK's market position focusing on international student recruitment and the international student experience.  It complements two companion reports that look at the UK's competitive advantage concerning international postgraduate research students and international taught postgraduate students. The report was supported by funding from the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills, UKTI and the Higher Education Funding Council for England.

2. The UK Higher Education International Unit

The UK Higher Education International Unit (IU) represents UK universities internationally and works to help them meet their international aims. We do this by actively promoting UK universities abroad, providing trusted information for and about them, and creating new opportunities through our ability to act at sector level. We draw on UK university expertise to influence policy in the UK and overseas, and deliver high quality services to overseas governments and universities themselves to enable engage with a broader range partners internationally, for mutual benefit.

2. Contact: Vikki Challen Head of External Affairs,, 0207 419 5615 or 07787 423 176


[1] 2008-2014


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