The number of international students resident at English universities has declined for the first time in 29 years, according to a report by the Higher Education Funding Council for England (HEFCE). The organisation, who distributes public money for higher education to universities and colleges in England, noted in their report that the decline, which the report largely attributes to increased tuition fees, has been most dramatic amongst EU undergraduates, where numbers decreased 25%. EU rules state that fee structures must be consistent for all EU (including UK) students, however EU students are not entitled to the same financing arrangements as their UK counterparts. Therefore the increase in the maximum tuition fees chargeable to students (from £2,465 to £9,000) dramatically reduces the competitiveness of UK HE institutions from the perspective of EU candidates, who are not eligible for SLC funding.
Other non-EU states where flows of undergraduates to England declined include India (-13%), Pakistan (-11%), Saudi Arabia (-15%), Nigeria (-9%), China (-2%) and Malaysia (-2%). These declines were partly offset by increases in student numbers from Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, USA and Norway.
Other Key points from the report include:
- Shorter courses in England compared with other countries mean 53 per cent of all international enrolments are new entrants - English higher education institutions have to work harder to replenish overseas student numbers each year
- Full-time postgraduate masters courses are increasingly reliant on international entrants - 74 per cent of entrants in 2012-13 were from outside the UK
- There are declining numbers of entrants from South Asia - particularly India and Pakistan - at undergraduate and postgraduate levels
- There is more English higher education delivered overseas than in England - through transnational education
- A large proportion of international taught masters entrants studying full-time come from China - 23 per cent of entrants in 2012-13, compared with 26 per cent from the UK