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Networks “vital to keep UK open” – UUKi

It’s the world’s third-largest producer of internationally co-authored research and the second most popular destination for international students – UUKi’s latest report pictures the country’s HE international links, which span the entire globe and are “vital to keep the UK open to the world.”

The UK's top collaborative research partners. Image: UUKi

The UK also has the second-highest participation and funding rate in the EU research program Horizon 2020

Using data from various sources – including HESA, OECD and UUKi’s Gone International report – it offers a round-up of facts and figures on the UK’s international engagement, from its thriving TNE (enlisting over 700k students in 2016/17) to the international students’ contribution to the domestic economy of £25.8bn in spending in 2014-15.

“International campuses, staff and research collaboration bring great benefits to the UK sector and those they work with”

“I’m delighted to see our institutions becoming more global, year on year. International campuses, staff and research collaboration bring great benefits to the UK sector and those they work with,” UUKi director Vivienne Stern said in a statement.

“The extensive international networks of our universities are fundamental to ensuring the UK remains open to the world.”

A strongly internationalised area for UK HE is its staff and its research output. According to HESA research, 30% of academics in UK universities are from abroad, and the percentage goes up to almost 50% for research contracts, UUKi added.


Similarly, 54% of the UK research publications are co-authored with an international author.

In both instances, Europe provide the lion’s share of presences: seven of the top-ten staff nationalities are European countries – with the number of EU academics doubling over the past decade – and so are the majority of the top-20 research collaborators.

The UK also has the second-highest participation and funding rate in the EU research program Horizon 2020.


Internationalisation numbers falter a little for outward mobility, with only about 7% of UK students participating in a study abroad experience between 2013-2015. But UUKi’s recently launched campaign Go International aims to double that proportion by 2020.

In terms of international student numbers, the OECD data used in the report, referring to 2015, sees the UK as the second most popular destination after the US. Three years ago, while its major competitors were experiencing strong growth, the UK was stationary at a +0.5%.

Some things have changed from back then. The US has surpassed the 1m mark, but new enrolments have decreased, for example. China has almost reached half a million students, and so has Canada, according to its student visa statistics.

But the UK is still in second position, and still with a “stagnant” growth – a +6% for EU students and -1% for non-EU students in 2016-17, according to HESA.

Australia’s sustained growth over the past few years is fuelling fears that it could surpass the UK. Simon Marginson, in a recently published paper, argued this may have already happened.

But as IEAA’s Phil Honeywood said warning against such predictions, policy decisions – and political events – can still change the game.

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