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Is there a ‘typical’ international student in the UK?

Wednesday, 11 February 2015 17:33 Written by Rhodri Llewellyn
Is there a ‘typical’ international student in the UK?
Just as political party lines have become increasingly similar in their focus and objectives, we must consider whether the objectives and ambitions of international students on UK programmes have also experienced a gentrification since the turn of the century. The recent decade has seen the international education sector become a more broadly established (and hopefully more refined) service industry, where a unique set of needs has evolved, which is not limited just to those of academia. As those needs have been more clearly defined over this development phase of international education, institutions have re-visited their strategic plans to consider what impact international education might (and should) have on the way universities and colleges are run. This has meant reviewing educational delivery from two opposing aspects; the first being the way in which education is offered out to students, whether those students are from home or abroad, and the second being the requirements and preferences of those students – to determine if any mismatch existed. And this is where one might ask, is there a ‘typical’ international student on whom we can model the ideal educational system.

Each of us individually would of course profess to not being typical, and we would not want to be classified as such, but do many of not share at least some common objectives? Many institutions would argue that we indeed do share some typical traits, especially when it comes to the ideal outcome of our study experience.

One area that we have seen this typified is in the emergence of city-based satellite campuses being established by universities and colleges from the UK and abroad, and more commonly than not that city is London. There are 2 fundamental requirements of the modern-day student that might be met by such geographic campus networks. One is the propensity for London to be seen as increasingly synonymous with the UK, resulting in the greater degree of international students making London their first choice as a destination (sometimes because they simply don’t know of any other viable UK destinations). The second reason is the centralisation of economic activity – and therefore career opportunities – in the UK. This writer sees bright prospects in a number of locations across the UK, but the quantifiable trends in international student preferences cannot be ignored and London has therefore enjoyed a Spring-time of institutional development across the city.

Universities such as the University of Sunderland and Coventry University are 2 notable additions to the London academic landscape, with modern city-based campuses providing students with world-class UK qualifications at the doorstep to the country’s financial centre. The opportunity to study programmes up to MBA level, and at the same witness first-hand the operation of a world-class financial city, has proven a successful formula to meet the needs of many students, especially those looking toward a Business school. There may well be an element of ‘typical’ in all of this educational progress, but we might be short-sighted to suggest that typical must always mean unexciting. In this case, it indeed seems that exciting times lay ahead in international education, and as Axial Colleges continues to develop its international Study Centres and its ties with universities here in London, we see the benefits rolling out to students across continents near and far. And if students are typically happier with the overall outcome of their study experience, then we think that’s a good thing!

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