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International Student Satisfaction: New i-graduate Report

By Laura T

Updated March 5, 2016 Updated March 5, 2016

International students are satisfied on the whole, according to a recent i-graduate analysis of student satisfaction surveys from almost 50 universities in the US, UK and Australia.

The surveys, conducted for i-graduate’s International Student Barometer, were filled in by 60,000 international students studying in the US, UK and Australia. The analysis of these results showed that while the overall trend is fairly positive, student satisfaction levels vary depending on the student’s country of origin. The report also highlights the possibility that integration may be inhibited when large numbers of international students originate from a single country.

Analyzing the International Student Barometer

Also known as the International Graduate Insight Group, i-graduate uses the International Student Barometer to map international student experiences, and it is this upon which the data for the international student satisfaction analysis is based. For the survey, students were asked to rate their satisfaction on a scale of one to four – one meaning “very dissatisfied” and four meaning “very satisfied”.

In the report itself, the authors acknowledge the subjectivity of the term “satisfaction”, and the fact that student satisfaction is not necessarily correlative with the quality of the programs being taught. They state that the analysis is intended to shed light on international student experience, rather than course quality.

Impact of cost on student satisfaction

On average, undergraduate international students rated their satisfaction at 3.09, while graduate students averaged out at 3.08 (just slightly above the “satisfied” threshold). The institution-specific satisfaction scores ranged from as low as 2.88 to as high as 3.3, although the i-graduate report refrains from identifying each individual university.

Additionally, the report found correlation between lower costs of living and students’ willingness to recommend an institution, as well as relatively low satisfaction levels for students across all regions regarding all cost-related areas (ranging from 2.49 to 2.62 on the scale).

Which international students are happiest?

The i-graduate analysis of the International Student Barometer also shows that European students are more likely to rate their satisfaction levels as higher, and to recommend an institution, compared to students from Asia. Spanish, French and Irish international students accumulated the highest averages for student satisfaction, while students from Hong Kong, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia and South Korea offered the lowest averages. “It is notable,” the report states, “that China ranks as number one in terms of number of international students, but 26th among the 30 largest nationalities on overall satisfaction, and 21st on recommendation.”

Barriers to integration for international students

According to the report, these region-specific results can be explained in a number of ways. Most pertinent perhaps is the element of the language barrier that many Asian students encounter when studying abroad in English-speaking countries. Within Asia, Indian students exhibit higher student satisfaction than students hailing from East Asia, likely to be at least partly due to stronger English-language skills. The report also suggests that other cultural traits such as open-mindedness or critical outlooks may have an effect on student satisfaction ratings.

As the recruitment of undergraduate international students increases – in particularly rapid numbers for the Chinese student population studying in the US – many fear this may lead to a lack of cultural and social integration. The analysis of the International Student Barometer suggests that the higher the number of international students from a single country, the lower the levels of integration. This tendency was also found to be the most pronounced among high numbers of international Chinese students.

This article was originally published in August 2014 . It was last updated in March 2016

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Written by

Laura is a former staff writer for TopUniversities.com, providing advice and guidance for students on a range of topics helping them to choose where to study, get admitted and find funding and scholarships. A graduate of Queen Mary University of London, Laura also blogs about student life.