It’s an incredibly rich dataset and is likely to be pored
over by people in the higher education sector looking for patterns
and trends. The big story, though, is likely to be what it tells us about
the numbers of students coming from outside the UK to study here.
The number of students coming from across the EU is up by
2%, with strong growth in students from Spain and Italy; students from the EU
now make up 6% of the student body, up from 5% in 2014–15. This doesn’t tell us
much about what might happen in the future though, because the figures are all
pre-Brexit and the students recorded in them will have made their decisions to
study in the UK before it was clear there was going to be a referendum. The
UCAS figures that will be released on 2 February showing numbers of
undergraduate applicants from the EU and elsewhere are likely to be a more
useful indication here.
Another area likely to be picked up is the very slight fall,
by less than 1%, in the numbers of students coming from outside the
EU. New, first year students (generally a better indication of what the changes
have been and possible future growth) from outside the EU have also fallen
slightly, down by 1%. While some areas have seen growth – the number of new
students coming from the United States is up by 3% – others have fallen, with new
students from India down by 10%, and new students from Nigeria, where Britain has historically been the first choice of overseas education, down by 20%.
Although this release only covers the year up to
summer 2016, it helps to illustrate some of the other data we have on
international student numbers because it shows actual enrolment numbers. We
have more recent figures,
up to the end of September 2016, on the number of student visa applicants who
are sponsored by universities, but these aren’t a reliable indicator of
international student numbers because not all applicants go on to come here –
don’t, maybe because they've gone to study elsewhere or their circumstances have changed. The reliability of UCAS figures
showing falls in the number of international students accepted is similarly
limited because many international students don’t use UCAS. And, as we’ve blogged about previously, there are considerable issues with net migration figures on international student numbers.
The data also helps us to compare how the UK is
doing with its international competitors. We know from Universities UK International’s analysis of
the International Student Barometer that more international students would
recommend the UK than the United States, Canada, Australia or New Zealand. The HEPI
report released today shows that the UK’s world-leading higher education
remains very attractive to international students. But given projected
growth in the numbers of university students looking to study outside of
their home country (to 8 million by 2025), the UK has the potential to be doing a lot better.
A number of other countries have developed
ambitious targets, backed by government action, to increase their numbers of
international students. Canada, China and Japan are all looking to double
international student numbers by 2020; Australia is looking to increase numbers
to nearly three-quarters of a million by 2025; and New Zealand is seeking to
double the value of its education exports over 15 years. We’ve already had figures
for the United States for the same period as the HESA release, and they show a 5%
increase in international students, including a 19% increase in students coming
from India and a 14% increase in students coming from Nigeria.*
In 2015 the government made a commitment to increasing
international student numbers and to achieving a target of £30 billion in
education exports by 2020. In a post-referendum world this is even more
important and we should be welcoming international students – not just as an
opportunity to grow exports from one of our world-leading sectors, but as contributors
to communities all over the UK. However, for this to happen we need an
immigration system which welcomes genuine international students.
*This blog was updated on 21 February 2017 due to slight changes in figures for the United States.
Hello...! Eleanor Jubb.
Really Interesting and Informative post and the chart also is very easy to read.