OfS seeks evidence on experiences of international students

Universities and colleges have been asked to set out the work they are doing to ensure international students in England integrate and receive a fulfilling experience while studying.

Student with suitcase looking at departure board in an airport

The higher education regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), has launched a call for evidence to help inform its work.

The research call comes as a new insight brief highlights existing data on international students and stresses the importance of gathering further information on their needs and experiences.

The insight brief finds that the coronavirus pandemic highlighted issues faced by international students, such as homesickness, mental health and wellbeing issues, as well as uncertainty around visa restrictions. The brief indicates that:

  • Among UK students, the proportion of those reporting a mental health condition has increased from 0.2 per cent in 2010–11 to 1.5 per cent in 2019–20.
  • In the 2021 National Student Survey, international students’ rates of agreement with questions relating to the extent to which they feel part of their learning community fell significantly. EU students’ agreement rates fell from 75 per cent in 2020 to 67 percent in 2021. There was also a drop in agreement rates from non-EU students – from 77 to 70 per cent – while UK students saw a comparable drop. This is significant, as research demonstrates the particular importance international students place on feeling a sense of belonging at their university or college. The drops were likely to be related to the pandemic.
  • Only 52 per cent of respondents to a survey run by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) and Kaplan felt their university or college was doing well at satisfying the careers support needs of international students.

Many universities and colleges are already tackling these issues, adopting a collaborative approach to support international student mental health and responding to the impact the pandemic has had on international students. Others have partnered with students' unions to better understand the international student body and issues of importance to them, such as employability and the online learning experience.

Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the OfS, said:

‘International students make a hugely important contribution to higher education. Not only do they provide a diversity of viewpoints and knowledge which are invaluable, they also make a significant social and cultural impact on their communities. It is vital that they have the support they need to have a fulfilling academic experience and to succeed.’

In partnership with the Department for Education and the UK Council for International Student Affairs, the OfS is seeking effective practice submissions from across the higher education sector relating to the international student experience. This feedback will ensure that international students are offered the best possible support.

The OfS is particularly interested in:

  • work relating to how responding to the coronavirus pandemic has shaped practice in supporting international students to adapt and integrate to UK higher education
  • work responding to how the coronavirus pandemic has shaped practice in supporting international students adapt and integrate to UK higher education
  • work to prevent and address harassment and sexual misconduct.

For further information contact 0117 905 7676 or [email protected].

Respond to the call for evidence


  1. The deadline for submissions for the call for evidence is Monday 16 May 2022.
Published 16 March 2022

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