Hong Kong and China dominate UK independent schools

01 May, 2014


China looks set to soon rival Hong Kong as the largest recruitment market for British independent secondary schools, following further increases recorded in the latest annual survey from the Independent Schools Council, completed by its 1,257 member schools.

D’Overbroeck’s College, a UK independent school active in international recruitment


For the first time, the ISC has made a distinction between international students based on whether their parents reside in the UK or overseas. In the 2014 census, there were 24,391 non-British students with parents living overseas, and 11,329 non-British students with parents living in the UK.

Among the international students with parents overseas, Hong Kong was the largest source country, accounting for 4,704 students and 19.3 per cent of the total, followed by China (4,381 students and 18 per cent) and Russia (2,536 students and 10.4 per cent). Non-British students with parents overseas constitute 4.8 per cent of all students at ISC member schools.

In the 2013 census, there were 24,391 international students recorded. However, year-on-year comparisons should be treated with caution, as some students with parents in the UK may have previously been recorded as overseas students.

Nonetheless, it would seem that the number of students from Hong Kong has declined. The 2013 census recorded 5,732 students from Hong Kong, while the 2014 survey shows 4,704 students, with an additional 87 Hong Kong students with parents based in the UK.

There were increases from the other major source countries: students from China increased from 3,891 in the 2013 survey to 4,381 this year, with an additional 372 students with parents in the UK; and the number of Russian students rose from 2,150 last year to 2,536 in the 2014 census, overtaking Germany to become the third largest source country. There were a further 521 Russian students with parents living in the UK.

Overseas students are more likely to come to UK independent schools as sixth-form students, the census showed: 54.4 per cent of international students were in Years 12 and 13; while 34.6 per cent were in Years 7-to-11, with the remainder in Year 6 or below.

The international students with parents living in the UK were more likely to be from other English speaking countries: there were 1,943 USA students in this category; 519 from Ireland; and 532 from Australasia.

The survey revealed that 645 ISC member schools currently hold Highly Trusted Sponsor status, which allows them to recruit non-EU students. It also showed that there are currently 39 overseas campuses of British independent schools worldwide, up from 29 in 2013 and educating a total of 22,514 students.

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