Detective Chief Superintendent Steve Worron, of Essex Police said there were "obvious similarities" between the stabbing of Nahid Almanea and the murder of James Attfield, a vulnerable man with brain damage, who died after being stabbed more than 100 times in a park in Colchester in March.
"For the moment they remain separate but parallel investigations unless further evidence provides a definitive link," he said.
"We are also exploring the possibility that she was targeted because of her distinctive dress which would have identified her as likely being a Muslim."
The University of Essex student was wearing a dark navy blue full-length robe called an abaya, and a patterned multi-coloured hijab headscarf.
CCTV images of potential witnesses to the savage murder of an Essex student have been released by police today.
Detectives investigating the murder of Nahid Almanea have issued an efit of a man they would like to speak to.