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UK HE: slowdown in overseas numbers, but increased reliance on fees

The Higher Education Funding Council for England today released the financial results for the sector from 2012-2013 which show a slowing down of growth in the numbers of international students but an increase in the amount of institutions relying on overseas fees for income.

The number of institutions reporting that overseas fees account for 20% of total income has risen from four to 14 in five years.

Fee income from overseas students increase 7.8% on the previous year however international student numbers grew by only 1.2%

Fee income from overseas students was £215 million in 2012-2013, a 7.8% increase on the previous year. However, international student numbers grew by only 1.2% compared to 4.6% in 2011-2012 and 4.8% in 2010-2011. The report warns that the slow down could “make plans for income growth more difficult to achieve”.

The report warns that the slow down could “make plans for income growth more difficult to achieve”

The report also shows that the number of institutions relying on international students for income is growing, with 14 institutions saying overseas fees make up 20% of total income compared with 10 last year and four in 2008-2009.

Universities in the UK have seen a reduction in funding made available through recurrent grants in recent years, pushing them to secure a higher number of students paying higher tuition fees.

This funding model has come under scrutiny by leaders in the sector and recently the Higher Education Commission (HEC), an independent body of senior leaders in UK education, business and the three major political parties, launched a nine-month inquiry into the financial sustainability of higher education in England.

The inquiry co-chair Lord Norton, Professor of Government at the University of Hull, said that the failure of UK poiticians to engage with this issue makes the inquiry “even more timely and important”. “The absence of a higher education bill has left a worrying hole at the heart of parliamentary debate over the future of higher education in England,” he added.

The inquiry will produce a set of recommendations for a funding model that will secure the long-term financial sustainability of higher education

The inquiry will produce a set of recommendations for a funding model that will secure the long-term financial sustainability of higher education

The inquiry will investigate factors including international and domestic student fee levels and the roles of government, higher education institutions and employers in the financial sustainability of the tertiary sector.

The HEC will look at more diverse sources of funding for HE including “commercial research, spin-out businesses, endowment and alumni giving, investment through partnerships with the private sector or other commercial sources,” according to HEC member Jon Wakeford.

An independent body has launched a nine-month inquiry into the financial sustainability of higher education in England.

The inquiry follows major changes to the framework of HE in England in recent years, including increasing graduate contributions and a reduction in government funding of teaching; the emergence of new education providers; and the relaxation of controls on student admissions numbers.

“Now is an excellent time to consider what impact these changes are having on the financial sustainability of higher education providers and to assess the scope for changes and improvements,” co-chair Ruth Thompson, former Director General of Higher Education at the Department for Innovation, Universities & Skills said. A formal call for evidence will be issued in mid-March. The inquiry will then provide clear recommendations to reform the current financial systems set to be published before Christmas.

A previous report from the HEC called for more regulation in the sector to protect students and the UK’s reputation as a study destination as well as including consolidating the HEFCE with other regulation agencies to form one overarching authority, the Council for Higher Education.

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