Jisc shares international student survey to help universities improve digital border crossings

New report describes digital shocks that impact the learning experience of international students studying in UK higher education

Findings from a survey of international students in the UK in a new report from Jisc show how the higher education (HE) sector should address how it supports their digital needs.

The report underscores the integral role technology plays in the international student journey, highlighting the need for a better understanding of international students' digital learning experiences.

International students’ digital experience Phase two: the experiences and expectations of international students studying in UK higher education” builds on 18 years of research by Jisc into the digital experiences of students, and provides feedback from more than 2,000 international students.

It also has input from 14 higher education providers (HEPs) along with sector bodies Advance HE, BUILA, the British Council, QAA, UCAS, UKCISA, UUKi.

The report is the second of four phases of research about the digital experiences of international students conducted by Jisc, the first providing a deeper dive into HE policies and strategies.

The feedback includes student experiences of onboarding, assessment, virtual learning environments, blended and online learning, internet and data, their digital skills and support, and technical problems faced during studies. It also describes the ‘digital shocks’ experienced by many international students coming to the UK, and how to address them.

Recommendations for HEPs include:


  • Give international students an accurate summary of how technology will be used on their course
  • Provide information about how to access the internet on and off campus, including what eduroam is, and the use of reliable wifi versus mobile data in the UK
  • Ensure multifactor authentication that uses mobile numbers allows for the likely transition to new devices when arriving in the UK

On arrival

  • Provide students with an overview of university digital systems and how they interact
  • Advise international students which digital platforms, technologies, resources and apps are available to them and how to gain access

During the course

  • Ensure all recorded lectures have clear, high-quality audio and captions that correctly describe subject-specific terminology
  • Ensure international students’ digital needs are reflected within institutional strategies, including the diversity of digital experience associated with different home global areas
  • Give teaching and support staff the time, recognition and reward they need to cater successfully for a diverse student cohort

Elizabeth Newall, senior sector specialist (digital transformation), higher education at Jisc said: “We hope institutions will feel inspired to use our findings to inform both strategy and practice, providing more tailored support for international students to smooth their digital border crossings.

“This is the first time we have been able to consider the potential impact of different home global areas on the student digital experience and given the recent changes we’ve seen in the international student cohort, this research is timely.

“The open and honest feedback from international students in this report provides an opportunity to improve HE for everyone. Students coming to the UK are increasingly diverse, arriving with different personal perceptions, cultural backgrounds and prior experiences, both inside and outside formal education.

“With a commitment to inclusivity and a primary focus on equitable results for international students, we have the potential to forge a digital learning experience that caters to all students.”

Jacqui Jenkins, Global Programme Lead for International Students Mobility, Education and Society at the British Council, said: “This research into the international student digital experience is vital. It will inform a wide range of stakeholders, improving the HE experience of all our international students, and positioning the UK as a world class study destination.”

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