Higher education think-tank director criticises Home Office for 'trying to reduce the number of international students'

New survey says UK students benefit from studying alongside their international counterparts

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The Independent Online

The director of a major higher education think-thank has said the battle over student migration “has been going on for too long” – after a new survey has shown how a majority of UK students think the presence of international students improves the quality of education.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI), hit-out at the Home Office for “trying to reduce the number of international students.”

He added: “Pretty much everyone else is in the other corner trying to increase them. We want to break that stalemate by highlighting the educational benefits of having diverse student bodies.”

The survey – which was carried out by HEPI and the Higher Education Academy (HEA) – showed how 54 per cent of UK students think their overseas counterparts work ‘much harder’.

Another 78 per cent of British students said that studying alongside their international classmates was ‘useful preparation for working in a global environment’.

UK students believe that working together with people from other countries gives them lifetime benefits, Mr Hillman said, adding that it makes them more aware of cultural sensitivities.

He continued: “Without a healthy number of international students, it is likely that some courses would be uneconomic to run, classroom discussions would be excessively mono-cultural and graduates would have a more limited outlook.”

25 per cent of those interviewed felt the presence of international students slowed-down their classes due to language issues.

To the naysayers, Mr Hillman said: “Those who fear international students harm the student experience of home students are wrong. In fact, they enhance it.

“We put that at risk when we fail to recognise the benefits that internationalisation brings to the UK higher education sector.”

Britain recruits more international students than any country – except for the US – and they make up almost 17 per cent of the total UK student population.

Only 12 per cent of UK students strongly agreed that studying alongside international students helped them to develop, however a massive 65 per cent denied that the presence of international students reduced the quality of the academic discussions.

In his first speech since he became the Minister for Universities and Science in May, Jo Johnson said: “We are committed to increasing education exports from £18 billion in 2012 to £30 billion by 2020.”

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