'Lower fees for foreign students'

September 25, 2008

International Student Income
UniversityTotal income (£)Per cent from non-EU fees
London School of Economics129,124,00033.5
Soas40,047,00031.9
Essex82,867,00017.8
Luton-Bedfordshire51,246,00017.7
City118,340,00017.3
Westminster124,505,00016.5
University of the Arts118,402,00016.3
Middlesex128,263,00016.0
Hertfordshire131,769,00015.7
Bradford84,533,00015.7
Goldsmiths50,614,00014.9
Oxford Brookes111,072,00014.2
Kent at Canterbury93,174,00013.3
Greenwich117,102,00012.7
Portsmouth113,520,00012.7
Universities must be ready to lower the fees they charge international students if they are to continue to enjoy the benefits, financial and otherwise, that they bring.

Bahram Bekhradnia, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said the UK was in danger of pricing itself out of the market as global competition for students shifts.

Speaking at the "Global Perspective: Our International Future" conference at the University of Nottingham, he said the successful internationalisation of higher education in the UK underpinned much of the sector's overall prosperity.

However, he warned of "weaknesses and vulnerabilities", including the impact of a downturn in student numbers from overseas.

Listing the institutions most heavily dependent on fees from overseas students, he singled out the University of Bedfordshire as an example of one that could potentially face difficulties.

"Given that its total income and expenditure are pretty much in balance, any downturn in the international student market - to which I suspect universities such as Bedfordshire are particularly vulnerable - would be very bad news indeed," he said.

The UK had until now made hay from its reputation as one of the highest-quality sectors, he said, but this now under threat from other, cheaper countries.

"So far we have managed to maintain and expand our market despite the cost, and it is a remarkable fact and to our great credit that is so," he said.

"However, it is not at all clear that that is something that is sustainable long term. My fear is that we are pricing ourselves out of the market... We have to be prepared to lower fees in order to secure the many non-direct benefits that will follow."

Dr Bekhradnia went on to note that it was universities that would lose out financially if fees were lowered, and society and the economy as a whole that would benefit by the efforts to maintain high numbers of international students.

In this eventuality, he said, there was a case for a public subsidy for overseas students through more scholarships - a number of which have recently been cut.

john.gill@tsleducation.com.

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