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International higher education in facts and figures 2016

2 June 2016


A delegation of UK Vice-Chancellors are meeting with their counterparts in Berlin today to discuss the impact of a potential Brexit. The UK HE International Unit launches its International Higher Education in Facts and Figures 2016, which examines the latest trends and data on international higher education, including a number of figures on the strong relationship between the UK higher education sector and the European Union.

Key findings include:

  • Between 2003 and 2013 the number of international students in the UK increased by 63%.

  • The UK is the most recommended destination by international students among its competitors.

  • Graduates in the UK have among the lowest unemployment rates in the OECD, lower than half the OECD average.

  • Over 664,000 students study for UK HE qualifications outside the UK.

  • Between 2003 and 2012 the proportion of UK research publications which involved an international collaboration grew faster (+29.5%) than its key competitors', reaching 46% of all research publications. While the USA has a faster growth rate (+32.9%) only 30% of publications in the USA are internationally co-authored.

  • In the last five years the amount of UK research funding from abroad has increased by over 65%.

How membership of the European Union has a positive impact on the UK higher education sector:

  • EU students contribute more than £3.7 billion to the UK economy, supporting over 34,000 jobs in all corners of the country.

  • The UK coordinates more projects under Horizon 2020 than any other country, and over three quarters of these projects are led by universities.

  • The number of UK students going abroad through the Erasmus programme has increased by more than 50% since 2007-08.

  •  Over half of the 22,000 students spending a period of time abroad during their studies went to other EU countries.

  • In 2014-15 70% of international investment in UK research came from the EU (up from 60% in 2009-10).

Commenting on the report, the Assistant Director for Policy of the UK HE International Unit Dan Shah said: "This guide draws from a range of global data sources to demonstrate the UK HE sector is one of the world's most internationals. UK Universities lead the way in international student satisfaction and employability. International research collaboration is growing, increasing quality and funding to the UK. With other countries growing their investment to compete, it is crucial that the UK supports its universities to connect internationally."

Lucy Shackleton, Europe Policy Manager, noted the importance of EU students for the UK HE sector: "It is quite striking to see the importance of the EU quantified across the sector's activities - the increasing number of students spending time abroad in an EU country, the high impact of EU students on the UK economy, and the overwhelming share of the EU in international investment in UK research. In this context, it is clear that a potential Brexit represents a serious risk to the UK higher education sector."

The full PDF version of the report is available.

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