Famous for having some of the world’s oldest and most prestigious universities, the United Kingdom has a well-established reputation for its quality of education. The birthplace of several life-changing discoveries and inventions, the UK has stepped up efforts to promote the British brand of education as it forges new paths of growth in a post-Brexit era.
Fortunately, apart from reputation alone, the United Kingdom, already a melting pot of dozens of cultures, has a few competitive advantages, one of them being English, the medium of instruction and the world’s lingua franca.
Sir Steve Smith, the country’s first International Education Champion, points out the other benefits for foreign students: “Firstly, there is the safety and security, as well as the welcoming environment. Then, we have made the student and working visa situation genuinely competitive now.”
With a wide range of universities in the United Kingdom, thousands of applicants enjoy the of choice. They get to live and study in an environment which feels like home and possibly obtain work and experience anywhere in the country after graduation.
“Our government is committed to making sure that universities continue being very welcoming destinations for international students. That includes the recent changes we made to our visa regime,” Universities UK Director Vivienne Stern said.
The COVID-19 pandemic has allowed British universities to highlight their ability to surmount very serious challenges. In a matter of weeks, schools rolled out measures and programs that reduced disruption to the lives of students without sacrificing the quality of instruction.
“Across the UK, universities provided flexible options to international students, such as starting their studies online or postponing their start dates,” British Council China Director Matt Burney said.
Because of its long, shared history with China, the United Kingdom has nurtured a deep fondness and clear understanding of Chinese culture. With the continued influx of Chinese students, the country has also valued their positive contributions to their universities and their temporary communities.
“They bring diversity to every institution that they attend. The students, faculty and staff welcome them with open arms. We are an inclusive society and we welcome them. We assure them that, if they come here, they will be provided with the highest quality of education and a rich student experience,” a spokesperson for Universities Scotland said.
Universities Scotland also hopes to dispel any worries that Chinese students may have about living thousands of miles away. “Safety. Scotland is a safe, welcoming place. Scottish universities offer a wide range of services which aim to support student safety and wellbeing. Many Chinese students praise the warm welcome of Scottish people whose friendly attitude makes them feel like they can always ask for help,” the spokesperson also said.
In Wales, the education sector hopes that increased engagement with Chinese students will also widen the global outlook of its local community. At the same time, Chinese students will benefit from learning from the distinct Welsh culture.
“We want international students here in Wales. Our government wants international students here in Wales because we see the value that they bring into our campuses and communities. They also help internationalize the experience for all students. We believe that is just as important,” said Gwen Williams, head of international of Universities Wales.
From the four home countries of the United Kingdom, the message is very clear. England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland will be flexible as possible to accommodate Chinese students and will ensure that they are safe and feel like valuable members of the community.
“The sector as a whole has come together on this to make sure that all our institutions are able to provide a safe environment for students to learn. They have been sharing their knowledge and best practices to help each other and see what works best for different types of institutions,” said Tom Pinder, strategic business development manager for UK Education Centre.