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South Asian students in the UK

Moving to the UK to study is a big decision. Here’s some information especially for students from South Asia that may help you make up your mind!

‘Your only real problem is preparing for the cold,’ says Maxine David, international officer at the University of Greenwich, an institution with a large number of students from South Asia.

Fast facts

At what level do South Asian students study in the UK?

A total of 58,281 students from the region were studying in the UK in 2009/10, broken down as follows:

  • undergraduate: 15,333
  • postgraduate: 42,948

Source: HESA Student Record 2009/10

‘Watching a video or DVD of British life doesn’t really help. There are some things you just have to experience to understand. The important thing is to bring enough items of clothing to create a few layers.’

This may not seem the most arduous preparation, though you will certainly regret it if you arrive in Britain during a wintry January having neglected to do it. But the fact that this is your only real problem (beyond the usual challenges that all international students face) is a testament to how easy the transition can be for students from South Asia.

Ease of transition
Partly this easiness comes down to the growing use of English as the second language of tuition throughout your region. There is also the historical links with Britain and the consequent existence of UK communities, particularly from India, Pakistan and Bangladesh, the members of which are now well into the third generation. All medium-sized cities have a community of some size, and the existence of second- and third-generation British whose parents or grandparents came from your country, can make a big difference to your ability to maintain contact with your own culture and religion while you are here. In these cities, the local multi-screen cinemas will have at least one screen dedicated to Bollywood movies for example, while local shopkeepers and supermarkets will have dedicated space to foods from home. Indeed, these communities are so well established that every type of mainstream business now understands the importance of catering to their needs.

What help can you get?
Fast facts

Which South Asian countries supply the most students?

The top five South Asian countries in terms of the number of students enrolled on UK higher education programmes in 2009/10 were:

India (38,500)
Pakistan (9,815)
Bangladesh (4,177)
Sri Lanka (4,022) 
Nepal (1,136)

Source: HESA Student Record 2009/10

So what support can you expect while you are here? Apart from a dedicated International Office and tuition in English language, UK universities will offer a combination of support activities: Foundation Programmes targeted at international students, so-called Job Shops (which will help find part-time work), Careers Services (for longer-term employment), Accommodation Officers, buddy schemes (which pair you with a more experienced fellow national), student ambassadors (who lead activities for particular countries), dedicated facilities (such as international student lounges and halls of residence), and welcome orientations (which are usually free of charge). On top of this, there will be the student support offered by the student union and by volunteer societies. You will often find there will be a student society dedicated to your country or region where you can meet fellow nationals as well as UK students who are interested in where you come from. In the cities with large communities of Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani British, you will also find all the community and religious groups that you will probably ever need. Students from the countries with smaller numbers would however need to live in London to get the same opportunities to build these types of support networks.

If you do come from one of the countries that sends fewer people to the UK, this doesn’t mean that you have a problem. One advantage of being something of a pioneer is that it does means that you cannot hang around with lots of your fellow nationals, speaking your own language, and staying within your own culture. Being a pioneer forces you to get out and speak to different people, with new friendships being the result.

Whatever your situation, however, don’t forget the importance of layering your clothes!

Useful links for South Asian students living and studying in the UK

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