Number of Overseas University Students Has Decreased: New figures have revealed that the number of overseas university students has decreased in England. The data, released by the Higher Education Funding Council for England, suggests that the number of international and EU students coming to study in England has fallen from 311,800 in 2011-2012 to 307,205 in 2012-2013. This represents a drop of 4,595 students – the first decrease in this figure for 29 years.
Commentators have suggested that this fall in overseas students coming to England may be the result of tougher restrictions on visas and those who can receive them. However, the government maintains that there is no cap on the number of students who are allowed to travel from abroad to study in English universities.
That the number of overseas university students has decreased may signal a decline in the global demand for English higher education – particularly in areas of South Asia. There was a marked decline in both undergraduate and postgraduate applications from countries such as Pakistan and India. Since 2010-2011, the number of Indian students coming to study in England has fallen from 18,535 to 10,235 in 2012-2013. Similarly, the number of Pakistani students attending English universities has fallen by 38% in the same time period – having been at 4,580 in 2010-2011.
Still, the data released by Hefce also shows that students closer to the UK have also become less likely to study in England – with the number of full-time undergraduates originating from the European Union falling by a quarter, from 23,440 in 2011-2012 to 17,890 in 2012-2013.
International students bring in around £3 billion per year for UK universities. In May 2013, Vince Cable, the Liberal Democrat Business Secretary, cautioned the government that introducing tighter rules around visas may create a perception that the UK was not a welcoming destination for students to study.
Responding to the Hefce figures, A spokesman for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills stated that:
“International students make a huge contribution – boosting our economy and enhancing cultural life. That is why there is no cap on the number of legitimate students who can study here.”
Sally Hunt, General Secretary for the Universities and Colleges Union, said that the government should be doing more to increase the number of foreign students given the uncertainty around the future of higher education funding. These thoughts we echoed by Nicola Dandridge, the Chief Executive of Universities UK, who said that the UK needs policies to attract foreign students in order to fulfil its potential in a growth area. She also stated that in the run up to the general election, Universities UK would be campaigning for a growth strategy for attracting students from abroad.
We welcome comments from all our readers - so please feel free to express your views in the space below. You can also sign up to receive posts directly to your inbox, free of charge. Additionally, education professionals may be interested in joining our community.