Overseas-student growth to tail off

Sky's not the limit for international recruitment, British Council report cautions. Jack Grove writes

June 14, 2012

Universities should expect a global slowdown of incoming international students in the next decade, the British Council has said in a report.

The study of economic and demographic trends predicts that the UK will attract an extra 30,000 overseas students over the next 10 years, slightly more than the US. Only Australia is expected to benefit from greater gains in its foreign-student intake by 2022.

But the increase represents a far smaller rate of growth than UK universities have enjoyed in the past decade, the report warns. Between 2002-03 and 2010-11, international student numbers rose by 180,000.

The study, titled The Shape of Things to Come: Global Trends and Emerging Opportunities to 2022, published on 13 June, says the global education market is shifting away from the "Western concept" of recruiting students from countries with less-established higher education systems.

Instead, it calls on universities to set up more overseas branch campuses and promote research partnerships with institutions elsewhere.

The predicted slowdown in student numbers appears to contradict previous studies suggesting that the number of international students coming to the UK is set to soar.

A report by Universities UK in January said the economy's earnings from foreign students would double by 2025, reaching almost £17 billion a year, thanks to a new global middle class keen to send their children to high-quality foreign universities.

But Janet Ilieva, senior adviser on education research at the British Council and co-author of the report, said universities needed to consider how to educate students at home.

"The internationalisation of higher education appears to be moving to a new stage. International students will continue to play an important role, but research and joint delivery of education independently or with overseas partners will have growing prominence," she said.

The report's findings may be seen as a warning to universities not to become over-reliant on tuition fees from international students. It adds that about a third of all academic research produced globally now involves international collaboration - and this is expected to increase.

The study found that around 80 per cent of a country's research impact is directly related to the level of international collaboration. Research produced through such arrangements also had significantly higher citation rates.

It urges the UK government to create policies and research funding mechanisms to support international collaboration.

The report comes just a week ahead of a major speech at Stanford University by David Willetts, the universities and science minister, on the future of UK universities abroad.

jack.grove@tsleducation.com.

You've reached your article limit.

Register to continue

Get a month's unlimited access to THE content online. Just register and complete your career summary.

Registration is free and only takes a moment. Once registered you can read a total of 3 articles each month, plus:

  • Sign up for the editor's highlights
  • Receive World University Rankings news first
  • Get job alerts, shortlist jobs and save job searches
  • Participate in reader discussions and post comments
Register

Have your say

Log in or register to post comments