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UK warned not to take appeal for international students ‘for granted.
This situation arises amidst uncertainty stemming from the Covid pandemic and adjustments in tuition fees for EU students post-Brexit, both of which have adversely impacted the enrollment of international students at British universities.
Back in 2018-2019, the UK hosted 496,000 international students, constituting approximately 20% of all higher education students. However, the UK’s departure from the EU has had a severe impact on the recruitment of EU students, as stated in the report by the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi) and Universities UK International (UUKi).
The most recent figures from UCAS reveal a significant drop of over 50% in the acceptance of EU students into undergraduate degree programs this year.
The Hepi and UUKi report underscores that the UK should not take its position as an attractive destination for international students for granted. It further notes that one year’s intake of international students contributes a net economic benefit of £25.9 billion to the UK economy, distributed across the country.
The report highlights the economic advantages for different regions from the 2018-2019 intake, such as £290 million for Sheffield Central, £261 million for Nottingham South, and £243 million for Holborn and St Pancras in London.
Nick Hillman, Hepi’s director, affirms that this report confirms that higher education is one of the UK’s most significant export sectors. He also stresses that international students bring not only financial benefits but also enrich the educational landscape by fostering diversity and vibrancy on campuses.
While acknowledging a gradual shift in the government’s stance towards international students, Mr. Hillman emphasizes that the current sharp decline in EU student numbers highlights the necessity of not assuming future success.
This year, the number of EU students admitted to undergraduate programs is 56% lower than the previous year, while non-EU international students have increased by 5%, according to the latest UCAS data.
Vivienne Stern, the director of UUKi, emphasizes the growing awareness of the social and cultural benefits of international students, while also underlining their substantial financial importance to communities across the UK, especially in terms of economic recovery and the leveling-up agenda. She underscores the need to put in strenuous efforts to regain the UK’s status as a preferred destination for students from various countries.
A spokesperson from the Department for Education (DfE) acknowledges the vital role of international students in the higher education sector and the importance of an active global education agenda, especially in the context of post-pandemic recovery. The DfE has published an updated International Education Strategy, containing specific commitments to enhance the international student experience.
Furthermore, the government has opened up opportunities for young people through the Turing Scheme, with a commitment to enabling students from the UK, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, to benefit from studying and working abroad, thereby enjoying exciting and enriching experiences.