The Students in Motion, Outlook for International Student Mobility to the UK report uses a range of variables to suggest that while both national groups will continue to grow in absolute numbers – their student traffic to the UK will be at a less prolific rate than in previous years.
Most noticeably, the UK’s share of Nigerian overseas students – a fast-growing group worldwide – is expected to decline from 45% to 30% by 2015, with numbers plateauing at around 17,000 a year by 2014. This follows a leap of 115% in the number of Nigerians studying in the UK between 2004 and 2010.
Meanwhile, the number of Indians studying in the UK will continue to grow but at a slower rate than in the last decade – the tail-off already apparent with annual growth rates falling from 25% in 2009–2010 to just 3% in 2010–2011 after the introduction of the points-based visa system.
The study attributes the potential changes to a range of factors including the political climate, the economy and the development of HE in the host countries, as well as the policies surrounding international students in the UK.
The Students in Motion UK study is part of broader research that also forecasts mobility trends in Australia, the US and Canada. Among its predictions, it suggests Canada will attract an increasing number of Indian students due to its cheaper tuition fees, perceived multicultural bias and clean environment.
This will be compounded by the UK’s raising of English language requirements for language or pathways programmes
The US meanwhile may see a significant decrease in market share of Chinese students, from 30% in 2010 to 24% in 2015, due mainly to deteriorating trade between the two countries. Inversely Australia, which was said to have seen the greatest increase in enrolments from China of any study destination in the last decade – from 6% to 21.5% – may see its share grow a further 1% by 2015.
“In the past, accessing a higher quality education overseas and bettering one’s job prospects post-graduation were the main contributing factors to international student mobility,” said Dr. Janet Ilieva, Head of Research at Education Intelligence, the agency which produced the study. “However, in recent years, less-quantifiable factors have come into play.”
In Nigeria, a weak exchange rate and currency tied to the US dollar is likely to make studying abroad more expensive, curbing demand. This will be compounded in the UK by its raising of English language requirements for language or pathways programmes – a common route for Nigerians into UK universities.
For Indians, the study claims, the UK’s new visa policies have dampened the perception of the country as a study destination – an issue highlighted by countries such as Australia simplifying their visa processes to win more international students. Increases in average tuition fees in the UK are also likely to deter Indian students.