May 2012 issue

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Market report UK

International applications for UK university places are still rising, but universities are innovating to stay ahead of the game as visa changes cause concern, discovers Matthew Knott.

The UK continues to be a popular destination for overseas students in higher education, with well over 400,000 students during the 2010/11 academic year (see box). Changes to domestic fee arrangements and student visa policy have caused negative publicity and hesitation, but, as the University of Birmingham’s Amy Cory attests, the doors are very much still open. “The University of Birmingham is proud to attract the brightest talent from around the globe and it is this diverse mix of people and cultures that greatly enriches the learning environment,” she enthuses.

Alexandra Cole at the University of East Anglia (UEA) informs that non-EU applications have been growing steadily each year. “There are several reasons why international students are attracted to UEA, and the main reasons are the quality and reputation of our courses,” says Cole. “Many students consult university and student satisfaction rankings in which UEA performs well,” she continues.

Students at UEA receive plenty of language support, Cole explains. “All international students have access to free term-time English language support and for students that do not meet our entry requirements, our on-campus partner, Into, provides academic and English pathways to UEA degree courses.”

Cory relates that the University of Birmingham has one of the largest international student communities in the UK, with currently over 4,500 students from 150 different countries. “A long history of welcoming international students means that the university understands the type of support students need to settle into life in a [foreign] country,” Cory adds. An International Students’ Welcome Week provides a hospitable introduction, while the International Students’ Advisory Service and the English for International Students Unit offer ongoing assistance.

From September, domestic and EU students will be required to pay tuition fees of up to UK£9,000 (US$14,308) per year, which can be taken as a loan and repaid after gradation. Initial figures show declining UK and EU applications (see box); leading to suggestions that many universities will become increasingly dependent on non-EU applications. However, Cole advises, “UEA home applications are still healthy, so while international recruitment is important, we are not under additional pressure to recruit more international students.”

In order to meet ambitious immigration pledges, the government has also been tightening student visa requirements for non-EU students, including withdrawing the post-study work visa. Students will now need a firm job offer from an approved employer or a university recommendation for “entrepreneurial flair” to stay (see STM, January 2012, page 8). Nicola Dandridge at Universities UK (UUK), the university representative organisation, advises that while it is too early to gauge the full effect, the policy “is playing badly internationally”. UUK is lobbying the government to be careful with language used around immigration and to reconsider the status of overseas students. “The message from government must be the UK is still open for business and welcoming legitimate international students wanting to study in the UK at one of our world-class universities. International students make a massive contribution to our universities, both academically and culturally, and contribute over UK£5 billion (US$8 billion) to the UK economy,” says Dandridge. “Genuine international students should not form part of the government’s immigration targets.”

Cole confirms concerns that changes may damage particular markets, notably India, but to counteract this UEA employs an International Careers Officer to assist both home and international students with internships and job opportunities in the UK and overseas. Cory adds that they too have a “firm focus” on employability skills. “International students are given an extensive range of support and opportunities to build their employability skills and market themselves during the job hunting process.”

Universities are also innovating in their efforts to attract and assist international students. UEA has launched an International Summer School for 2012, a four-week course with intensive tuition providing 20 units of UK academic credit. The University of Birmingham, meanwhile, recently unveiled the Birmingham Foundation Academy. “We are constantly developing new and innovative ways to reach talented applicants and stay ahead of the competition,” advises Dr. Edward Harcourt, Director of International Relations.

In terms of recruitment, Cory says academic staff regularly travel overseas to meet prospective students and give guest lectures, while international officers are often in-country to answer practical questions. At UEA, Cole explains, “We use international agents and attend education fairs in many regions, as well as embarking on online activities which combined together are effective.”

International students at UK universities

Data recently released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) and gathered from all UK public universities, shows that there were 428,225 international students in the 2010/11 academic year – 130,120 from other EU countries (up 4.1 per cent over 2009/10) and 298,110 non-EU students (up 6.2 per cent). China was the top source market with 67,325 students, followed by India.

Application figures for September 2012 entry from Ucas, the organisation that administers UK university applications, show a 13.3 per cent increase over 2011 for non-EU students (as at 20 February 2012). However, the introduction of full tuition fees of up to UK£9,000 (US$14,308) for UK and EU students appears to have had a marked effect: domestic applications are down 8.5 per cent, while EU applications have dropped by 11.5 per cent.

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The following language schools, associations and accommodation providers advertised in the latest edition of Study Travel Magazine. If you would like more information on any of these advertisers, tick the relevant boxes, fill out your details and send.






English Australia  
Fedele Spain  
Feltom Malta  
MEI Ireland  
NEAS Australia  
Perth Education City  
Quality English  
Study Gold Coast  
The English Network  

Generation Estates  
Sara's New York Homestay LLC  

Access Macquarie Limited  
Bond University  
English Australia  
ILSC Australia  
Impact English College  
International House Sydney
Language Studies International  
NEAS Australia  
Perth Education City  
Study Gold Coast  
University of Newcastle Language Centre  
University of New South Wales  

CERAN Lingua International  

Eastern Townships School Board  
Greater Victoria School District  
Halton Catholic District School Board  
International House Toronto  
Omnicom School of Languages  
Peace River School District  
Powell River School District  
Qualicum School District  
Red Deer Public School District  
St James Assiniboia  

iMandarin Language Training Institute  

Bright World Guardianships  
Camp Beaumont  
CES - Centre of English Studies  
International House London  
Kaplan International Colleges  
King's Colleges  
London School of Business & Finance  
London School of English  
Malvern House London  
Queen Ethelburga's College  
St Giles International  
Study Group  
University of East Anglia  
University of Essex - International Academy  

Quality English  

Cambridge Esol  
City and Guilds branch Office in Europe  
TOEFL Educational Testing Service  

Alliance Française Lyon  

Dr Walter GmbH  

Active Language Learning  
Clare Language Centre  
Cork English College /Language & Activity Holidays  
Galway Cultural Institute  
Galway Language Centre  
International House Dublin  
International School of English  
Language College Ireland  
MEI Ireland  
MLI International Schools  

A Door to Italy  

Clubclass Residential Language School  
EC English Language Centre  

Fedele Spain  
Inturjoven Spanish Courses  

EF Language Colleges Ltd.  
Eurocentres International  

Malta Tourism Authority  
Study Gold Coast  

California State University Chico  
California State University San Marcos  
FLS International  
Forest Ridge  
Global Language Institute  
Army and Navy Academy  
Saint John's University  
University of Arizona  
University of California Berkeley  
University of California San Diego  
Zoni Language Centers  

Gower College Swansea  

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