Huge Increases in Foreign Student Numbers

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On the same day that new figures revealed huge increases in international student numbers in the UK, a leading figure in Higher Education warned that politicians cannot be complacent.

Yesterday, the higher education statistics organisation HESA, released the figures for the number of non-UK students studying in Britain over the last five years. The results were startling. Between 2005 and 2010, the number of foreign undergraduate students increased by 27%, whilst non-UK postgraduates increased by a massive 37%. In comparison, UK based student numbers increased by just 5% at undergraduate level, and by less than 9% at postgraduate.

These figures show the extent to which UK universities have increased their intake of overseas students more and more each year. Due mainly to the added financial benefits that international students bring, almost every university in Britain has made a concerted drive to recruit more during the last few years.

"Redouble our Efforts"

However, there are question marks over whether this pattern will continue after visa restrictions and increased fees are implemented next year. With plans to restrict post-study work visas for foreign students, as well as the increased fees that EU students will have to start paying, leading figures are anxious about the future of international students in the UK.

Indeed, Sally Hunt, who is General Secretary of the University and College Union, has already revealed her concerns about the changes to the higher education system. In an article released online yesterday, she argued that:

"We must not get complacent and must redouble our efforts to ensure we continue to attract the best and brightest students and academics to our shores. The government might think soundbites around immigration play well to a domestic audience, but they risk doing real harm to our universities and our reputation on the world stage. UK universities are enriched by the students and academics that come to this country to study, carry out research and share their knowledge."

Such a sentiment echoes similar arguments from other higher education figures and organisations over the past year. However, the true impact of the changes will ultimately only be revealed over the next twelve months, as students begin to apply for the 2012 academic year.


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