International Student Orientation and Arrival: Findings from the International Student Barometer (ISB)

Student orientation can be a crucial part of the university experience for first year international students, yet 36% of students studying in the UK did not participate in a formal orientation or onboarding programme, compared to an average of 29% in our global benchmark.  When international students in the UK were asked why they didn’t attend, most of them reported that either the programme took place before they had started (41%) or that they did not know about it (34%). Another 7% of those who did not attend an orientation programme said that they decided not to take part.  (Data taken from International Student Barometer findings 2023, including responses from 121,000 international students; 33,000 were international students studying in the UK.) 

Orientation programmes are designed to give incoming students the opportunity to become familiar with their campus, transition to university life and meet their peers.  Meeting with academic staff looks to be very successful here in the UK with satisfaction at 93%, compared to 89% globally.  Giving students the opportunity to meet with academic staff during the orientation programme can be very helpful for students to establish a connection with various staff members and begin to foster that all-important sense of belonging. It is clear that attending a formal orientation programme has a positive impact on students, with 95% of students studying in the UK satisfied with their face-to-face orientation compared to 91% globally.   

One of the first things a student will often do when starting university is look for a place to stay which can be a very daunting experience, especially for students who are moving to a new country.  Fortunately, many universities have an accommodation office to help students find somewhere to stay, and again students appear to be more satisfied with our services than overseas (88% UK vs 84% global).  Students who were not living with friends or relatives were also asked about accommodation and living orientation, where 84% of students were satisfied compared to 77% globally, another strong result for the UK. 

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Most UK universities have several support services such as counselling services, student support teams and various online resources available for students who may be struggling with a variety of issues such as mental health issues, personal issues, and home sickness which is something many students moving to a higher education institute can struggle with.  Introducing students to support services is an important part of ensuring that they have the resources they need to succeed both academically and personally, and with 90% of students satisfied with the introduction to support services they received it indicates that this is a much-appreciated part of the orientation programme; the global benchmark result was 86%. 

Overall, student orientation and onboarding is an important process that can help to ensure a successful transition to university life.  By providing students with a formal introduction which covers various topics such as academic advising, accommodation support, support services, the campus/facilities and giving them the opportunity to meet others, this can set students up for success.   

Teesside University has achieved some of the highest ISB satisfaction scores in the orientation and arrival space over many years. You can hear about what they do in this short video clip:


For a detailed analysis of the latest International Student Barometer (ISB) data and how UK institutions compare, access our latest regional webinar: 

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The international Student Barometer collected responses from 121,000 international students; 33,000 were international students studying in the UK.

The ISB helps institutions make informed decisions to enhance the international student experience and drive successful recruitment and marketing strategies.

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