Just a few years ago, I was doing a master’s  degree in marketing and business analyses at the University of Edinburgh Business School. Being a Ukrainian citizen, I experienced many of the typical challenges international students face when they come to study in the UK: getting a visa, coping with a new environment, and, eventually, finding a job with an employer willing to sponsor a work permit. Now, I feel lucky to have overcome these challenges as I live in London working for an organisation which, by pure coincidence, helps international students to find their best place to study.

This month, I attended the Chartered Association of Business Schools Annual Conference where the key speaker Lord Karan Bilimora gave an inspirational speech about the importance of international students to the UK. Last week Hobsons supported the GuildHE Annual Conference where Jo Johnson reiterated that the UK is open for international students.

With recent events such as Brexit and the US presidential election, immigrants like myself have started to feel less welcome in the UK; it was reassuring to hear a positive message from senior figures.

But what about universities? Are they doing the right things to reassure international students?

Based on my own experience, I have put together some tips that I think universities should consider as they support international students through the decision-making process.
 

1. Hold their hand and guide them through the process

Don’t take for granted that an international student knows what UCAS is and what IELTS means. While these are second nature to those of us working in the sector, they can be confusing and intimidating for an international student unfamiliar with the UK higher education system.

You might have sent this information by email, but don’t rely on the fact that it’s been understood. Pick up the phone and call your potential students! Give them a chance to ask questions they have but don’t know who to speak to.

Institutions might be surprised to find out how important this kind of support is to your future students. Hobsons’ International Student Survey found 48 percent of international students want to be able to request a phone call from a university. I was not surprised as I was indeed one of them!
 

2. Once enrolled, keep students engaged

International events, constant communications, and a friendly and personalised approach are the keys to student success. Every institution wants its students to finish the education they started and to be successful in their studies. However, being an international student can be quite an isolating experience.

I remember feeling like I didn’t know who to turn to with my many small but important questions after enrolling in university in the UK. For example, paying tuition fees online was new to me, as it barely exists in Ukraine, and I often had to turn to fellow students for help. Having more personalised and practical support would have helped a lot.
 

3. Help students plan their careers

The Career Services Office was practically my second home at university! Thanks to them I found out about the list of Tier 2 Sponsors, the importance of having a LinkedIn profile, and how to create a decent CV. I attended a number of talks, workshops, and meetings before my job applications started to receive replies. In my experience, it takes at least five interviews for an international student to secure their first job in the UK, but to get those five interviews an international student might submit hundreds of job applications. The Career Services Office helped me to understand where I should focus my efforts to get the best results.

Three years later, I’m very grateful to still be in the UK, working for a company that helps international and domestic students to find, enroll, and finish their studies at universities which are the best fit for them.

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