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Anyone who is considering spending time abroad should take safety seriously. For international students, many of who are likely to be living abroad for the first time in their lives and for several months at a time, it is natural to feel apprehensive about the safety issues they may encounter in a foreign country.
If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you are in the right place.
UK crime in numbers
Fortunately, the UK is widely considered to be one of the safest destinations in the world and Europe is generally thought of as the safest region. But, as all good students should know, it is always better to provide more than one source when doing your research.
So, let’s take a look at data collected from two different sources, the first is based on public perception and the second on actual stats.
According to Numbeo’s 2022 Crime Index data, the UK is safer than 65 countries across the world, including neighbouring EU countries like Belgium, Sweden, and France.
This rank considers Numbeo’s Crime and Safety Indexes. These metrics are based on data collected from surveys completed by Numbeo’s website’s visitors, which includes respondents from 142 countries across the globe, to estimate how people feel about the overall levels of crime and safety in their own country.
Next, we will take a look at the results of the Social Progress Index (SPI).
The SPI takes into account actual stats relating to crime, personal safety, violent and accidental deaths, pollution, healthcare, traffic safety and political stability to provide a fair and comprehensive look at safety and opportunities in different countries.
Again we see the UK emerging towards the top, ranked 18th (with 1st being the country with the highest SPI score) and a score of 83.87 out of 100 in the all-important Personal Safety category.
UK university’s campus security measures
We have already mentioned how high levels of crime seem to be isolated in certain cities in the UK. However, as many students spend a large part of their time on campus often living in on-site accommodation, let us examine the level of safety you can expect on a UK university campus.
Fortunately, students can expect most universities to offer a high level of safety and security throughout their campuses. It is the norm for UK campuses to take several safety measures including:
- CCTV throughout all common areas on the campus to prevent criminal activity and catch criminals on camera.
- Security gates and a perimeter fence so that only those who belong to the university can enter the campus.
- On-campus security guards who patrol the grounds and directly handle any safety, security or criminal issues.
- Student support teams with experts trained to help students who feel unsafe.
Brexit and public opinion
From an outsider’s perspective, it is easy to draw negative conclusions about the motives behind the British public’s vote in favour of leaving the EU in 2016 and, as a result, feel unwelcome or unsafe as a foreign person in the UK.
Of course, as in any country, some people in the UK hold prejudice views. But fortunately, this is not as commonplace as you may feel the Brexit vote suggested. Plenty more pro-Brexit votes were cast for reasons such as:
- Following their political alliances
- Anti-establishment politics
- Believing it will benefit the economy.
The point is, there was a wide range of reasons for the outcome of that vote that were not based on racism or an unwelcoming attitude towards foreign people residing in the UK.
For the most part, the UK is a multicultural region that welcomes international people with open arms as we will explore in the next section.
Cosmopolitan and welcoming
The UK is a very multicultural place and international students are a big part of what makes the society work. More than 450,000 international students join UK universities every year which creates a major boost to the nation's economy as the Universities UK 2014-2015 report shows:
- Spending by international students and their visitors contributes £25.8 billion to the UK economy.
- Spending by international students and their visitors supports jobs all over the UK including over 200,000 full-time/equivalent jobs nationally.
- International students support a wide range of businesses in the UK. Including adding £750 million to the UK transport industry and £690 million to the retail industry.
Through their contribution to the economy, as well as the cosmopolitan environment they help create, international students are accepted as part of the UK's fun and diverse society.
UK universities understand the importance of their international students and go to great lengths to ensure they have a fun and worthwhile student experience.
Many UK universities have special clubs and activities set up to help international students integrate and feel at home in the UK.
Plus, cities and universities across the UK host various events to celebrate its diverse range of residents and their varied religions, cultures and interests.
Healthcare and COVID
The NHS for international students
The National Health Service (NHS) is the UK’s government-funded medical and health care service. Those international students studying in the UK for over 6 months are entitled to use the service but will be required to pay a small fee as part of their visa application. Once that has been paid, international students will be able to use any of the following healthcare services free of any additional charge:
- A&E (accident and emergency) services
- NHS hospital treatment
- GP (general practitioner) services
- Sexual health, family planning and contraceptive services
- Diagnosis and treatment of certain infectious diseases
- Treatment of any conditions caused by domestic or sexual violence
- Psychiatric treatment
- Court ordered treatment
- Some palliative (end-of-life) care services.
For more information on the healthcare available in the UK for international students check out this guide by Times Higher Education.
In addition to the list above, international students who are entitled to use the NHS are also allowed free access to COVID tests and treatment, as well as vaccinations against the virus.
At the time of writing this article, COVID cases have been falling steadily across the UK for months. Now, the most effective vaccines are readily available for everyone, including the latest booster shots, which have helped prevent further spread of the virus and have meant a major fall in hospitalisations.
In addition, the country is now operating with zero COVID restrictions which means:
- People are free to choose to wear masks or not at their discretion.
- Restaurants, bars and other businesses are continuing as normal with no capacity caps.
- Those entering the UK no longer need to provide proof of a negative COVID test or have taken their COVID vaccinations.
With all that in mind, COVID should not be a cause for concern for international students who choose to study in the UK. But, to keep up-to-date with the latest UK COVID news, we recommend you regularly check the UK government website.
With so much evidence of the UK’s safety it should come as no surprise that nearly half a million international students choose to start studying in the UK each year.
Like any country, safety in the UK is always worth considering and it is advisable to take care of your personal belongings and quickly familiarise yourself with whichever city you end up in.
But by using your common sense and behaving as you would do in any country that is new to you, you can have a safe, fun and rewarding learning experience as an international student in the UK.