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International higher education in facts and figures

Cleo Fatoorehchi

Former Communications Officer
Universities UK International
Rosalind Lowe

Rosalind Lowe

Former Policy Researcher
Universities UK

​Today UUKi publishes the 2017 edition of International Higher Education in Facts and Figures.

The publication looks at a wide variety of themes, including: international students and academics; transnational education; student and staff mobility; global research collaborations, and innovation. ​

An increasingly global higher education

The publication demonstrates the strong international links at the heart of UK higher education and research. Students in the UK benefit from an international experience – from being taught by expert academics from around the world, studying alongside international peers and to having the opportunity to study, work or volunteer abroad as part of their UK degree. 

The UK remains the most popular destination in the world for international students after the USA – 438,010 international students studied in the UK in 2015–16 – 12.5% of the world's total.

Even better, international students are more likely to recommend the UK than any other competitor country at undergraduate and postgraduate levels – and international students' satisfaction has grown over time to upwards of 90%. They think that the UK is a 'good place to be', ranking the UK 1st for support services and overall living experience at the university. They are also very satisfied with the welcome they receive. This is a crucial aspect of the UK experience which we must continue to uphold. 

But why does this matter?

An international experience and the opportunity to develop global networks can boost UK students' employability. In fact, 78% of UK undergraduate students believe that studying alongside international peers prepares them for working in a global environment. Similarly, students who have been abroad at some point during their degree have lower unemployment rates and higher salaries six months after graduation than those who have not on average.

International students also make a vital contribution to every region of the UK economy. On and off-campus spending by international students and their visitors generated a knock-on impact of  £25.8 billion in gross output in the UK in 2014–15 alone, and this UK wide impact is mirrored at a local and regional level.

 The rise of UK higher education transnational education (UK HE TNE: UK degree programmes delivered outside of the UK) confirms that students around the world demand the excellence of the UK higher education experience. Since 2008–09, UK HE TNE student numbers have increased by over 80%. There are now 701,010 students studying for UK higher education qualifications outside the UK. 

The impact of research collaboration

The global engagement of UK universities does not end there. The UK research base is recognised worldwide for its excellence. The ability of the UK to attract the best researchers and engage with partners around the world is fundamental to this success.

Over half (50.7%) of UK research publications now involve at least one international co-author. This is excellent news for UK research, as international co-authorship is associated with higher performance in terms of field weighted citation impact.

The report shows that:

  • 50.7% of the UK's research publications involve international collaboration
  • 29% of all academic staff in the UK are from overseas
  • Horizon 2020 mainly supports collaboration between EU countries, but 806 UK Horizon 2020 projects have involved at least one non-EU partner
  • 61% of UK university-industry co-authored publications involve international businesses

The extent of universities' global engagement testifies to the attractiveness of the UK's universities, both for their teaching and learning but also as research and innovation hubs.

Numerous UK-EU links

EU programmes such as Horizon 2020 and Erasmus+ play a critical part in strengthening UK universities' global networks both in terms of research collaboration and in providing valuable opportunities for university students and staff. As we negotiate our exit from the EU, UUK is asking all political parties to ensure that the next government secures an effective post-Brexit settlement for universities.

International Higher Education in Facts and Figures illustrates the position of EU countries within the UK's wider research collaboration networks:

  • 13 of the UK's top 20 collaboration partners in research are EU member states
  • The UK plays a key role in the EU's research programme, Horizon 2020, coordinating 1 in 6 projects (more than any other country)
  • 14,316 UK researchers and teachers received EU funding to spend time abroad for research, teaching or training between 2007 and 2014

The report also shows how many students who go abroad as part of their degree go to other EU countries (53.1% of mobile students in 2015-16). The EU's Erasmus+ programme is a driving force in increasing our capacity to send growing numbers of students abroad during their degrees: 40% of mobile UK students went abroad through the EU's Erasmus+ programme in 2015–16. 

The UK is regarded around the world as a leader in higher education and research. International HE in facts and figures strongly demonstrates the global links that underpin this excellence.

For more facts and figures on international higher education download the full booklet.

Leave a Comment

Avrupa says:
14 June 2017 at 23:30

Very, very interesting statistics.. Especially "29% of all academic staff in the UK are from overseas" and "61% of UK university-industry co-authored publications involve international businesses" are absolutely eye openers.  Thanks very much for this interesting article. I have learned a lot.

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