Foreign students fuel decade-long growth in numbers

The number of students at UK universities has gone up by almost a third in the last 10 years with those coming from outside the European Union more than doubling, according to a new report.

October 17, 2011

The Patterns and Trends in UK Higher Education study from Universities UK, which looks at changes in key indicators for the sector since 2000-01, shows that there are now around 2.5 million students studying annually.

More than 400,000 now come from outside the UK, with the number from a non-EU domicile increasing 11.7 per cent in the past year.

China continues to provide the highest numbers of international students taking first degrees, postgraduate research and other undergraduate courses while India is the biggest source for those taking postgraduate taught courses.

Overall, the increase in students taking postgraduate courses full time has been much bigger (73.1 per cent) than the rise in full-time undergraduates (28.5 per cent), thanks in part to the increases in non-UK students, who tend to study at postgraduate level.

The report also shows that for all UK countries other than Scotland, the growth in full-time undergraduates was higher than that seen for part-time undergraduate provision between 2000-01 and 2009-10.

Meanwhile, female students continue to remain in the majority, accounting for 56.6 per cent of the total student population in 2009-10. This pattern is repeated across all levels and modes of study other than full-time postgraduate provision.

The report also highlights significant changes in the relative popularity of different subject areas, with large increases in those studying clinical and biological sciences, mathematics, physical sciences, and architecture, building and planning.

The only subjects to see decreases in the absolute number of students between 2003-04 and 2009-10 were computer science and historical and philosophical studies – although both have seen increases in the last year.

In terms of graduate employment, 80 per cent of universities show between 86 per cent and 94 per cent of their students as having a job after six months.

However, the report says that “the impact of the recession is evident”, with small declines in the proportion employed over the last year.

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