UK universities enjoy continued growth in international student enrolment

The number of international students attending UK universities grew in the last academic year, with notable increases from China and India.

The number of international students attending UK universities grew in the last academic year, with notable increases from China and India.
The latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) have found that in 2018/19 international student numbers were up by 5.9 per cent on 2017/18.Students from outside the UK now account for more than 485,000 of the 2.38 million higher education (HE) students at UK universities.

China and India bolster student numbers

Recruitment of Chinese students was the highest than any other country, rising 13 per cent to more than 120,000 for the first time. India saw a sharp increase of 42 per cent of new student enrolments on 2017/18, with an additional 17,760 students for 2018/19.Vivienne Stern, director at Universities UK International, says, “The 42 per cent growth in the number of new Indian student enrolments in 2018/19 is particularly notable. Visa application numbers indicate that this growth will continue, suggesting that Indian student numbers are set to reach numbers not seen since 2011 in the coming years.“We know that students in India, and around the world, will be encouraged by the announcement of a new two-year graduate visa route and we are working with government to ensure that this is implemented as quickly and smoothly as possible."  

Total student numbers for the UK's top ten sending countries in 2018/19

  1. China (120,385, +13% since 17/18)
  2. India (26,685, +35% since 17/18)
  3. United States (20,120, +7% since 17/18)
  4. Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China) (16,135, -1% since 17/18)
  5. Malaysia (13,835, -8% since 17/18)
  6. Italy (13,965, level with 17/18)
  7. France (13,675, level with 17/18)
  8. Germany (13,475, -1% since 17/18)
  9. Nigeria (10,645, +1% since 17/18)
  10. Greece (9,920, -2% since 17/18)

Despite Brexit, the number of new enrolments from EU countries increased by 2 per cent.Chris Skidmore, the universities minister for England, commented on Twitter, “Really welcome news today to see a continued rise in the number of international students choosing our world renowned universities to study - including a rise in EU students - our HE sector continues to thrive globally thanks to its quality and reputation.“We will continue to work with other key partners… to deliver our International Education Strategy so that our HE sector can benefit from 600,000 international students by 2030.”
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Grade inflation in first-class degrees halts

The HESA figures also revealed that the previously ongoing increase in the number of students being awarded top-class degrees halted in 2018/19. Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of the Office for Students (OfS), says, “This data shows us that the rapid increase in the rates of students being awarded first-class degrees has stalled. This arrests a long-term trend, with significant, year-on-year increases having been seen since 2011. Previous analysis from the OfS found evidence of unexplained increases in the rates of first-class degrees at 94 per cent of universities.“We will analyse this data further and... use statistical modelling to determine the proportion of first-class degrees that can’t be explained by things like entry grades or the make-up of the student body.“Grade inflation risks undermining public confidence in higher education for students, graduates and employers alike.”

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