Number of International Students in the UK Rises

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According to a report by The Higher Education Statistics Agency, (HESA) the number of international students enrolling into universities is back on the rise after a Brexit dip.

HESA, a body made up of experts in UK higher education published its findings in which they charted the number and origin of international students enrolled in British Higher Education (HE). In the 2018/19 period, the number of students coming from abroad, including the EU, was over 458,000. 

Germany, Italy and France were the European countries which provided the most students, approximately 13-14,000 from each.

The presence of Chinese students dwarfs the numbers coming in from Europe. The HESA report stated that the flow of students from China to the UK increased by 34% in the last five years. Unsurprisingly, they are the biggest nationality of foreign students. 

Besides China, most overseas students are from India, United States, Hong Kong and Malaysia. 43% of non-EU students are studying a full-time postgraduate course, in comparison to the 10% who are completing their full-time undergraduate studies.  

There is no doubt that the influx of Chinese students is a significant boost to higher education institutions’ income, they contribute 10%. However, there is a worry over Chinese students’ potential influence on the freedom of expression within campus, after a report issued last year by MPs. 

The rise in international students comes after a dip between 2015 and 2017 due to the outcome of the Brexit referendum in June 2016. 

International students are worried about Brexit and how this will affect their settlement status. For example, in September the government launched a plan of a work visa for those graduating from summer 2021 onwards. This visa would grant some students the opportunity to freely work in the UK for a period of up to two years. However, it has been met with wide discontent from those completing their studies before 2021. 

In fact, Jessica Martins, a Brazilian citizen studying her Master’s at University of Leeds, said to The Guardian that:

“the extension should also be available for people who are currently here.” 

Most recently, the Government declared that a new fast-track visa will be available from next month “to send a message that the UK is open to the most talented minds in the world”, a message reiterated by Prime Minister Boris Johnson.

This visa will be used to attract the top scientists and researchers to come here, as EU researchers are a big part of the British scientific community. However, it is also argued by members of this sector that the system is not inclusive, as it would focus on the ‘most talented’ without taking into account the individuals who are starting their career and may not have the same expertise.