UK losing HE market share, says British Council

26, February, 2015

The UK’s market share of international students on higher education courses in comparison to the major English-speaking competitor destinations is likely to continue falling, according to a new British Council report.

New international HE enrolments and UK market share. Source - British Council

The report, which compares the most recent UK data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, UK Home Office statistics on student visa issuance and comparative figures from the USA, Australia and Canada, says that although the number of new enrolments grew in 2013/14 for the first time in three years, market share still declined.

Jeremy Chan, author of the report and Head of Research and Consultancy in East Asia for the British Council, said the UK could be returning to a natural level. “It is possible that perhaps the UK higher education sector overheated from 2009-to-2011, in which case the recent three-year decline in market share is a course correction rather than a sign of lagging competitiveness.”

Chan said that in 2012/13 the UK was the only one of the four major destinations to decline, which suggested “some internal shock” explained the weakening competitiveness, rather than an external drop in demand for international education.  

According to the data in the report, the UK’s share of new enrolments among the four countries declined from a peak of 36 per cent in 2010/11 to under 33 per cent last year.

The US higher education system has outpaced all other markets by a considerable margin since 2009, and Chan said with typically longer courses, the US outperformed the UK by a larger margin than headline enrolment figures tend to express. The US had 7.5 per cent growth in new enrolments in 2013/14, according to the annual Open Doors report from the Institute of International Education.

Canada is the only one of the four countries to have registered growth in enrolments in every year since 2005, said Chan, while Australia was the “Jekyll-and-Hyde story” with the deepest declines and now biggest increases. Australia recently had 14.5 per cent commencement growth in the 2014 calendar year, according to recently released data from Australian Education International

“That the UK higher education sector returned to growth in 2013/14 is therefore cause for cautious optimism, but it remains unclear whether this growth was a result of favourable policy changes in the UK offer or simply the result of a rising tide lifting all boats,” said Chan.

In the most recent international higher education mobility data from the OECD relating to 2012, the UK retained a market share of 13 per cent of the 4.5 million international students on higher education courses overseas.



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