Exeter to cut international business student numbers after quality concerns

Ability concerns at University of Exeter business school forces rethink on international intake

August 22, 2013

Source: Alamy

Overseas students: universities with the highest numbers shown in the table below will view Exeter’s plans with interest

Russell Group member the University of Exeter is to cut the level of international students in its business school after concerns over their academic quality, in a move that may be followed by other UK institutions.

Fifty-four per cent of students in the University of Exeter’s business school are from outside the European Union – above the figure of 45 per cent agreed between the university and the business school.

“The university needed other colleges to increase their international student numbers in order to be able to reduce the ratio in the business school,” state minutes of a debate at a recent university council meeting.

International numbers in the business school will be cut by 200 and redistributed to other colleges.

Exeter’s strategy may be viewed with interest by those UK universities with the highest numbers of international students, as judged by non-EU numbers as a proportion of total intake (see table below, supplied by the Higher Education Statistics Agency).

Exeter, which has already reached a 2015 target to expand its international student population to 4,000, ranks 22nd on the list – with 21.7 per cent of students from outside the EU.

Shaun Curtis, director of the international office at Exeter, told Times Higher Education: “Certainly in the Russell Group, we think about…getting the right [international student] balance by level, by programme, by country. If you have an international strategy, you have to think about these things now.”

Dr Curtis added: “The key issue is how do we make sure those [international] students are of a similar calibre to home students?”

Exeter’s international student numbers have been boosted by its hosting of an international study centre run by private company INTO. The company operates feeder centres in partnership with a number of UK universities, which prepare international students for degree study by offering A levels and English language programmes.

The University of Exeter council minutes state that growth in international student numbers in the business school “had been driven by INTO which had resulted in students predominantly from the People’s Republic of China studying accounting and finance”.

The minutes also state: “A review was being undertaken to look at the quality of students entering the business school through INTO, as the quality of these students was now, for the first time, lower than those recruited by the university.”

Bill Rammell, vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, which was 15th on the list, said that the institution had “reduced [its] international student numbers, both to drive quality and ensure effective integration between home and international students which is the key to the positive globalisation of higher education”.

However, a spokesman for the University of Warwick – 18th on the list – said high international numbers were “not really an issue for us” and were likely to increase further. The high numbers were because Warwick was a “research-intensive university with a lot of postgraduates and MBA students”, areas that traditionally attract overseas students, he said.


RankInstitution (2011-12 figures)% Non-EU domicile
1London Business School58.4
2London School of Economics and Political Science47.5
3University of Buckingham40.4
4London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, University of London38.9
5University of St Andrews32
6Soas, University of London30.4
7Cardiff Metropolitan University29.1
8Glyndwr University28.2
9University of the Arts London28.2
10Cranfield University28.2

Source: Hesa

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.