I recently returned from a recruitment trip to the Middle East. I was able to visit Jordan, Oman and Dubai to undertake a mixture of school visits and counselling sessions. It was exciting for me to visit these countries in my new role as the International officer at the University of Bolton and meet with students interested in studying in the UK.

There were around 20 representatives from universities throughout the United Kingdom who were also taking part in the recruitment trip, and the large presence got me thinking about what students look for when making a decision about where to study. Beyond the obvious reason of the university offering the right course, what other reasons are there? Putting myself into the shoes of a student, I had a look at the top few reasons I would have for studying abroad and how the University of Bolton (UoB from now on) fits in…….

(1) A learning environment- I learn best when I can interact with the teacher and my classmates, where I can ask questions and not be afraid of being left behind. I like working with people in small groups where my voice can be heard and my opinions matter. UoB offers small class sizes (typically no more than 25-30 students) and an inclusive learning environment where the student comes first. Lecturers get to know students in their care, and come to understand their strengths and weaknesses. As such, there is a real communal feel and collective responsibility withing the classes – students and lecturers working together to succeed.

(2) A social environment- If I’m leaving my family and friends behind to study abroad, I will want to make friends quickly to help me settle in. What a university does to help integrate new students, especially international ones, into their new environment is very important. UoB has a dedicated Student’s Union team which organises social events throughout the year which bring the student body together. Sports competitions, music nights, trips away and of course the Student’s Union bar and cafe are all ways in which students can meet each other and make lifelong friendships. UoB also has an Internationl Society which offers support, friendship and advice for international students.

(3) Location - Sometimes I like to be in the thick of things, hanging out with friends and meeting new people in the hustle and bustle of a city. Sometimes I like to get away to the countryside for some quiet, reflective time. For me, it is all about lifestyle options, which the choice of location has the most influence over. UoB is located in the large town of Bolton, which has plenty of restaurants, pubs, cinemas, shops and sporting clubs for me to be able to get involved with. It is also only a ten minute train journey into the centre of Manchester where I can indulge my love of loud rock music by watching some of the worlds biggest bands in concert, or cheer on my beloved Manchester City in the Premier League! On the other hand, it has several parks to relax in and is only a few miles from the beautiful hills surrounding Rivington and Belmont where I can go and enjoy nature in peace.

(4) Cost- I would need to be able to afford to make it through my course! Taking into account tuition and accommodation fees, as well as the general cost of living, how does UoB match up? Well, with some of the lowest tuition fees for both undergraduate and postgraduate courses in the UK, coupled with the low cost of living in the North West of England compared with cities such as London, Birmingham, Edinburgh and Cardiff, UoB comes out as extremely good value for students. Factor in the opportunity for international students tio work upto 20 hours in term time and 40 hours in the holidays and (which would more than cover accomodation costs alone) and it makes UoB an even more attractive proposition for me as a prospective student.

So there we have it, a quick look at how the University of Bolton would match my particular needs if I were an international student looking to undertake a course. As an International Officer on ‘the other side of the coin’, it’s interesting for me to be able to meet potential students and listen to their criteria in choosing a place to study. What I have found is that students have many different reasons, but most, if not all, agreed with me on points 1 and 2 above!

Tom Whittaker

International Officer for Africa and the Middle East