Teaching's great but we need more career progression, say students in Dubai and Singapore

Date: 26/09/2018

UK degree students in Dubai and Singapore have an 85% satisfaction rate for academic support. But only 60 to 63% are satisfied that their courses help progress their careers.

In a pilot survey, the Quality Assurance Agency for Higher Education (QAA) has partnered with its sister agencies in Dubai and Singapore to ask students in those countries about their experience of studying for a UK qualification. 350 students took part in Dubai and 20 in Singapore.

More than 700,000 students currently study on a UK programme delivered outside the UK. However, the UK's National Student Survey does not include these students, and neither are they covered by the host regions' own surveys.

'UK higher education is a quality export but facing increasing competition. Understanding students' perceptions of studying for a UK qualification in their own country provides useful insight to universities that want to expand and improve their offer overseas,' said QAA's international manager Fabrizio Trifiro'.

Heriot-Watt is one such university, offering foundation, undergraduate and postgraduate programmes to over 3,600 students at its campus in Dubai. Professor John Sawkins,

Pro-Vice Chancellor at Heriot-Watt said:

'Our Dubai study programmes range from Masters programmes in disciplines as challenging and diverse as Petroleum Engineering and the world-renowned Edinburgh Business School MBA, to undergraduate degrees in Finance, Engineering, Psychology, Fashion and Design.

'We are always looking at ways to enhance our students' experience, and this kind of work to elicit and analyse the views of students gives us a useful insight into the perceptions of Dubai students studying on Heriot-Watt programmes.

'More than that, it gives us and other universities with partnerships in Dubai and Singapore, a better understanding of how transnational students more generally perceive UK higher education, and some of the changes we might want to consider to improve their experience.'

QAA's survey found that 78% of students studying for UK degrees in Dubai and Singapore would recommend their programme to others. The highest levels of student satisfaction were for academic support, teaching and information.

However, respondents from both regions wanted more engagement with industry. Only 54% of students positively rated the opportunities provided by the university for internships, attachments and industry project work.

The small sample of Singapore students taking part in the survey were aware that they could not expect the same student experience as on a UK campus. However, many of them would like to feel more part of the UK university awarding their qualifications.

In Dubai, where UK universities have established branch campuses to deliver their degrees, students said that the reputation of the UK 'brand' was an important factor in their choice of study, and they felt connected to the awarding university.