The student was identified as Nahid Al Maena, a Saudi Arabian national in her early thirties. Nahid was on the Essex English Language Programme at the International Academy.
She was wearing a patterned headscarf and a dark navy full-length robe when she was attacked as she walked along a quiet footpath in Colchester on Tuesday morning. Police say that she may have been targeted because she was wearing Islamic dress.
Police confirmed a forensic post-mortem is due to be carried out but that it appeared a knife or other bladed weapon was used in the attack. A 52-year-old man is being questioned in connection with the killing.
She was due to finish her studies in August.
Richard Barnard, head of the International Academy, said that the Essex English Language Programme, where Nahid was enrolled, develops students’ English language skills.
He added: “Nahid joined this programme and was a very hard-working and conscientious student, who was making excellent progress. She was a quiet, considerate and well-respected member of the programme and had ambitions to move on to further academic study. She will be greatly missed by her teachers and her fellow students.”
But Detective Tracy Hawkings said the investigation team was keeping an open mind about the motive for the attack.
She said: “We are also conscious that the dress of the victim will have identified her as likely being a Muslim and this is one of the main lines of the investigation but again there is no firm evidence at this time that she was targeted because of her religion.”
Police said anyone who could assist the inquiry should contact the major investigation team on 01245 282103, telephone Essex police on 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.