Non-EU students decline in UK

17 January, 2014

The number of non-EU students enrolled at higher education institutions (HEIs) fell for the first time in the 2012/13 academic year, driven by further declines from India, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

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The total number of non-EU students at HEIs fell one per cent from 302,680 in 2011/12 to 299,970, which is still the second highest ever recorded, but breaks a trend of year-on-year increases. Although non-EU undergraduate students actually increased by three per cent, a decline in the postgraduate sector was large enough to cause an overall decrease.

Despite the decline in actual numbers, non-EU students increased as a share of the overall total – from 12 per cent to 13 per cent – due to a seven per cent decline in domestic students. The overall student population, including domestic students, declined by six per cent to 2,340,275.

In terms of source markets, the most significant decline was from India, which fell 25 per cent to 22,385 students, around 60 per cent of the 38,500 Indian students that were enrolled at UK HEIs in the peak year of 2009/10. Pakistan, the eighth largest source market, also posted a similarly large decline of 19 per cent.

The removal of the post-study work visa is thought to have strongly impacted on both of these markets. In an article on UK university recruitment that will appear in the February issue of Study Travel Magazine, Andrew Mandebura, Head of International Projects at the University of Huddersfield, said, “Our largest overseas nationalities continue to be from China and the Middle East. We did used to have large numbers from South Asian countries such as India, but changes in the UK visa policy had had a negative impact on these markets.”

China remains comfortably the largest source country for the UK, and increased by six per cent to a total of 83,790. There were also increases among the top ten source markets from Hong Kong (15 per cent) and Malaysia (three per cent).

Students from other EU countries fell by five per cent to 125,290 and there were declines from all of the top five source markets: Germany (down 9 per cent), Ireland (-16), France (-9), Greece (-7) and Cyprus (-7).

In terms of first-year enrolments, all of the top ten EU source countries declined, suggesting that the change to the tuition fee structure introduced in 2012/13 – meaning that domestic/EU students now pay around UK£9,000 (US$14,799) per year – have had a significant impact on recruitment. Scotland, the only part of the UK that does not charge tuition fees for EU students, registered a seven per cent rise in EU students.

The HESA release also shows that students studying wholly overseas for UK HEI qualifications, such as overseas branch campus, affiliated campuses and distance learning, increased five per cent to 598,925, although 43.7 per cent of this total was accounted for by the Oxford Brookes University’s Association of Chartered Certified Accountants (ACCA) programmes.

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