This paper addresses evidence that developing a sense of belonging for students from different ethnic groups impacts on their engagement. It notes previous findings that in universities habits of coexistence may present barriers to the development of relationships and the sense of student belonging. The paper proposes that cosmopolitan engagement offers a frame for considering the experience of cultural difference in the classroom. It stresses the importance of relationality and communication. The research, involving students undertaking business and science programmes in two culturally similar universities, has sought to develop a better understanding of how students in London engage with higher education, with their learning and with cultural others, and the impact on their learning of differing communication patterns. The study finds that students often feel distant from their tutors and afraid to ask for further explanation. Instead, they rely on a circle of friends to provide support and clarification. Students have identified the development of agency through engaging with others from different cultures. Engagement in practical collective tasks such as forensic lab work seems to have the potential to encourage communication across cultures, but observation have suggested that students tend to self-segregate. The article concludes that there cannot be a presumption of cosmopolitan engagement. Rather universities need to develop strategies for improving communication between students and staff and between students of different cultural backgrounds.