Overseas student enrolments at UK universities fall again

Number of first-year students at UK universities from India, Saudi Arabia and Nigeria all down, latest data show, but numbers from China still rising

January 12, 2017
Colourful world map

The number of first-year students from outside the European Union enrolling at UK universities fell by 1 per cent from 2014-15 to 2015-16, according to data released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Data from the past five years show which countries are sending fewer students to study in the UK.

Despite a large increase in the number of students enrolling from China, a cohort that has grown by 12,500 since 2011-12, enrolments by students from India fell by 13,150 over the same period.

Other notable changes include an increase in students from Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia and a fall in students from Saudi Arabia and Nigeria.

In contrast, the number of students from other European countries enrolling at UK universities for the first time was up by 2 per cent since 2014-15. At the same time UK-domiciled student numbers rose by 1 per cent.

However, although overall EU student numbers are up, enrolments from some countries in particular have fallen over the past five years, Hesa’s data charts show. Since 2011-12, fewer students from Ireland, Germany, Greece, Poland, Cyprus and France are coming to the UK to study.

But more students from Italy, Spain, Romania and Bulgaria enrolled at UK universities in 2015-16 compared with 2011-12.

Meanwhile, the data on postgraduate enrolments offer the first chance to understand how £9,000 undergraduate fees have affected this market. The first cohort of students to pay £9,000 a year graduated from three-year courses in the summer of 2015. Experts predicted that the burden of undergraduate debt would dissuade these graduates from pursuing a taught master’s qualification.

But the data released today suggest that the number of students enrolling on postgraduate taught master’s in 2015-16 has remained stable.

When postgraduate research course enrolments are taken into consideration, the total number of students pursuing postgraduate courses is 532,975 – a 1 per cent drop since 2014-15.

Elsewhere, the number of students studying part time continues to fall. In 2015-16, 5 per cent fewer students opted to study in this way compared with 2014-15, and since 2011-12 numbers have dropped by 30 per cent. In 2015-16 less than a quarter of all university enrolments were part-time learners.

Undergraduates in the UK are increasingly choosing to study science subjects. The data show a large increase in the number of first-year enrolments in almost all science degrees, with the exception of the biological sciences. Enrolments in education and history degrees fell.

Also of note is a rise in the number of students gaining a first or upper-second degree. In 2015-16, 73 per cent of students secured these classifications, up from 72 per cent in 2014-15.


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