University students in Wales are happier than anywhere else in the UK, a survey shows.
More than 6,620 home and international students at 10 universities in Wales took part in the Wales Student Barometer last term.
It found that on nearly all 38 aspects of their learning and living experience, students here were more satisfied than those in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland.
The students answered the questions online as part of an ongoing worldwide study.
Will Archer, director of i-graduate, which conducted the research, told the Western Mail the survey also suggested that students in Wales were more satisfied with their whole higher education experience than those in the US, New Zealand and the Netherlands.
For the UK the study showed Welsh universities scored comparatively well in most areas, including the quality of teaching, course content, and having expert lecturers.
Students rated studying in Wales particularly highly compared with England and other parts of the UK on levels of financial support, the cost of living and accommodation, student support, assessment, internet access, and personal safety.
They were more likely to describe their university and study destination as a “good place to be” than their peers based elsewhere.
Universities here also scored highly on most aspects of the services they provide for new students, such as introducing them to their new surroundings, providing accommodation, and introducing them to staff and facilities.
Students said Welsh institutions were particularly good at helping them open a bank account - something new international students said they could find problematic.
The only areas where Wales' universities did less well were on transport links, worship facilities, and learning areas.
John Taylor, the barometer's manager, said:
“What is very clear from these results is that the Welsh sector is delivering a very high level of service for its students - and this is really valued by all students, and by international students in particular.”
Newport University dean of international affairs Graham Wood said it was vital to give overseas students a good welcome which included instant internet access.
New arrivals immediately want to contact home and in the age of blogs, texts and emails it was important first impressions of a university were good.
Mr Wood said:
“We can do airport pick-ups but the most important thing for students is internet access as soon as possible. We are well equipped with IT suites and lounges and get them set up with passwords immediately.
“We also help them set up bank accounts and have student ambassadors who can give advice, and we help find them accommodation.”
Kanwar Malhi, 22, said the university was helpful and welcoming when he arrived for his MBA in business studies last year.
“Most students feel homesick for a month or so but my first impressions were that everyone was very friendly and nice,” he said. “You feel a little excited and fearful when you arrive but I think Wales is a much better place compared to lots of other places.”
Virginia West, director of the Wales International Consortium, the body which promotes Welsh higher education to overseas students, said:
“The i-graduate findings are really good news for Welsh institutions, the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and all other HE stakeholders in Wales.”
The findings were unveiled at a conference opened by Education Minister Jane Hutt in Cardiff yesterday.
Speakers included Phil Gummett, chief executive of the Higher Education Funding Council for Wales, and Richard Brown, chief executive of the Council for Industry and Higher Education.
Latest Welsh Assembly Government figures show that in 2006-07, 6,775 students in Wales were from EU countries, 8% more than the year before. A further 11,330 came from non-EU countries to study here - a 16% rise. Numbers of UK-domiciled students have remained the same.
Universities with students taking part in the survey were Aberystwyth, Bangor, Cardiff, Glamorgan, NEWI, Newport, RWCMD, Swansea Metropolitan University, Swansea University, and UWIC.