The number of Russians taking British university degrees has risen steeply in the past two years to almost 1,500, figures released by the British Council reveal.
British universities saw a 40 per cent increase in the number of Russians on full-time undergraduate and postgraduate courses, from 1,050 to 1,470, for the academic year 2001-02, research conducted by the council's Moscow office shows.
Further education colleges in Britain had a total of 542 Russians in 2000-01, the last year for which figures are available, a 25 per cent increase on the previous year.
Recruitment from Russia to degree courses has more than doubled (up 122 per cent from 663) since 1996-97, when the council first began collating figures, said Paul Norton, assistant director for education promotion at the British Council in Moscow. Further education recruitment to the UK grew by 38 per cent from 392.
"The main reason numbers are rising is the demand for practical business skills, an area in which the UK excels," Mr Norton said. "The most popular subject at higher education level is business. A more stable economic and political climate has boosted the growth in demand for business degrees."
The council estimates that up to 143,000 Russians have studied in Britain in the past decade.
The figures show that 63 per cent of those who studied at higher education level in Britain in 2001-02 were self-financed. This underlined both the growing strength of the Russian economy and the importance attached to high-quality, internationally recognised degrees, said British university officials involved in attracting overseas students.
Benjamin Plummer, international liaison officer at Warwick University, said: "Russian families regard education as very important, and they make a lot of sacrifices."
The university recruited 85 students from other countries in eastern Europe, the Caucasus and Central Asia. Warwick is among the top six British universities recruiting Russians, according to Higher Education Statistics Agency figures for 2001-02.