Overseas student growth ‘not as high as government hopes’

The number of international students coming to UK universities will grow at a slower rate over the next 13 years than is hoped for by the government.

October 8, 2013

That is the upshot of a new British Council report that anticipates the UK will host 568,000 overseas students by 2024, boosted by demand from countries including India, Saudi Arabia, Pakistan and Nigeria, a 29 per cent increase over 2011 levels.

Yet the government’s industrial strategy for education, released in July, says it is “realistic” for international student numbers to grow by 15-20 per cent over the next five years, a much faster rate of growth than expected by the British Council.

Despite this, the British Council report, The Future of the World’s Mobile Students to 2024, released today, is upbeat about the global market for outbound students.

It has revised up previous estimates of international student growth, and now expects numbers to grow at 1.8 per cent a year to 2024, reaching 3.85 million by then.

It points out that despite squeezed household incomes and tougher immigration rules that were introduced in many countries from 2009 to 2011, the number of international students still grew by around 6 per cent a year to 3.04 million.

“This highlights the economic resilience of the higher education sector and the strong growth potential it continues to offer even during more challenging economic times,” it says.

It predicts that by 2024, India will have replaced China as the biggest sender of students to the UK, partly due to an ageing Chinese population.

The US and the UK will remain the biggest markets for international students in 2024, although it says that China, Malaysia and possibly India could be among the top ten countries by this point.

The report does caution that the rapidly growing economies of Brazil, Russia, India and China could fail to expand as quickly as anticipated, and this would lead to a reduction of around 52,000 students going to host countries like the UK and US by 2018.

Australiawill take on an extra 71,000 students a year by 2024, the report predicts, but this is a slower growth rate than the US or UK.

This is attributed to “the high cost of living and study in Australia as a result of the strong Australian dollar” the report says.

david.matthews@tsleducation.com

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