Figures published today by HESA show that while non-EU student numbers in UK higher education institutions rose by 3% in 2013/14 compared to the previous year, the growth has been eclipsed by plummeting Indian and Pakistani numbers and stagnant EU numbers.
Despite being the second largest non-EU source country, Indian student numbers in UK higher education institutions fell by 12% and Pakistani numbers by 7%.
“Our competitor countries such as the USA and Australia, have shown much more significant increases”
Gordon Slaven, the British Council’s Director of Higher Education has described the falling Indian and Pakistani numbers as “a worrying trend”.
Slaven has called for the UK to take a more “proactive and united approach” to attracting international students at the risk of losing its overall world market share.
“While the UK sector can be pleased that the overall numbers have increased, our competitor countries such as the USA and Australia have shown much more significant increases,” he said.
However, Vivienne Stern, Director at UK Higher Education International Unit told The PIE News that despite the dwindling Indian numbers there may be light at the end of the tunnel if UK and Indian governments continue to collaborate.
“The new Indian government provides a great opportunity for the UK and India to work together more closely and most importantly to get the message across that, despite the rhetoric, you can get a visa to study in the UK, and to stay and work afterwards,” she said.
Meanwhile China, the largest non-EU source country, saw a 5% increase making Chinese enrolments in UK higher education institutions outnumber the rest of the EU put together (bar the UK) last year.
Elsewhere the most positive non-EU country growth was seen in Malaysian and Hong Kong numbers, up 11% and 13% respectively.
Dominic Scott, CEO of UKCISA told The PIE News that the results are overall positive but also throw out some concerns for the sector’s future.
“It shows that the UK is still a magnet which is great considering all of the recent visa restrictions and rule changes and UK institutions have clearly worked hard and successfully to overcome negative perceptions,” he said.
“The key question is just how much stronger the growth might have been, without all the rule changes and what options we can look at for the future,” Scott added.
Despite being the second largest non-EU source country, Indian student numbers fell by 12% and Pakistani numbers fell by 7%
Post-study work regulations have also been identified as a growing concern for Scotland where key international markets China, India and Nigeria all fell by 2%, 12% and 9% in Scottish HE institutions.
“Scottish universities need action from government to improve its post-study work offer,” said Universities Scotland’s Director, Alastair Sim.”We are our losing out in key markets as our competitors take steps to attract more international student talent.”
Scott commented that Scotland’s marginal 1% increase in non-EU numbers shows “we still have a long way to go to perform as well as we should and could.”
Nicola Dandridge, CEO of Universities UK echoed Scott’s sentiment: “There is growing demand for quality higher education around the world, so the UK should be capitalising on this, rather than seeing the stagnation of the last few years,” she said.
Among EU countries, there was no change in overall numbers. The largest cohorts came from Germany and France, despite respective decreases of 3% and 2%. Notable increases were seen in Italian numbers, up 20% and Polish numbers, up 10%.