Universities ‘should help with overseas students’ living costs'

Report also suggests that institutions develop 'more sophisticated' financial arrangements

October 10, 2016
Students working on group project
Source: iStock

Universities should offer international students extra financial support to reduce their cost of living, according to a report that claims some institutions gain up to 30 per cent of their income from overseas students.

That is one of the main recommendations in a report from accounting firm Grant Thornton, which also suggests that universities should “develop more sophisticated financial arrangements” so they are able to withstand drops in international student numbers.

It said that cost of living “strongly influences” where international students choose to study and universities in expensive regions can improve their competitiveness by offering financial support beyond discounts on tuition fees.

It added that universities can learn from the success of aviation and tourism sectors, suggesting that yield modelling techniques could be applied to international student recruitment to help institutions understand the “tipping point” where higher fees outweigh reduced international student numbers.

Universities can also use “cost-effective financial support packages to attract students who make broader contributions to the institution”, it said.

The report also advises universities to “be diligent” when considering overseas partnerships and campuses, noting that there are financial risks and challenges involved in working in regions with different social and ethical norms.

The advice was published last week in “Financing international student mobility”, the second chapter of Grant Thornton’s Higher Education report 2016. The first chapter, “The politics of student mobility”, which examined how government policy across the world has impacted universities, was published in July.

The second chapter cited figures from the company’s Adapting to change: The financial health of the higher education sector in the UK 2016 report, published in June, which showed that international students’ tuition fees accounted for 12 per cent of UK and 17 per cent of Australian universities’ total income in 2014-15. In the UK, nine universities drew more than a quarter of their total income from non-EU international students, it added.

Richard Shaw, head of education at Grant Thornton, said it is “concerning” that the UK government is proposing a tightening of student visas as competitor countries, such as the US, Australia and some European nations, are looking to increase overseas student numbers.


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