Universities to rely on China for postgraduate growth

6th October 2014

According to our new research released today, the UK will gain 83,000 postgraduate international students over the next ten years, remaining the second most popular destination after the USA. 

Our research - Postgraduate student mobility trends to 2024 - examines current trends in postgraduate mobility between origin and destination countries, and forecasts future trends over the next ten years.

Of the 23 origin countries this research focussed on, China sends the highest number of postgraduate students to the UK, at 49,000 students, followed by India at 16,000 and Nigeria at 12,000. These numbers are set to change over the next ten years. While China will continue to dominate with 85,000 postgraduate enrolments – accounting for 44% of total inbound growth - Nigeria will send the second highest number at 29,000 followed by India at 24,000 and the US at 15,000.

Although numbers are expected to rise over the next decade by 83,000 students, there will be an overall slowdown in annual growth, from 4.1% in 2007 – 2012 to 3.5% growth in 2013-24.

In absolute terms, India is forecast to be the fastest growing source of international postgraduates, with the number of students expected to rise from 88,000 in 2012 to 209,000 in 2024. Significant growth in numbers of international postgraduate students is also expected in several ‘emerging’ origin countries, including Nigeria (+24,000), Saudi Arabia (+16,000), Indonesia (+12,000) and Pakistan (+12,000). 

Professor Rebecca Hughes, British Council Director of Education, commented “All international students make a tremendous academic, cultural and economic contribution to life in the UK, but postgraduate students are particularly important in building our next generation of researchers and contributing to the UK’s global professional networks. 

“In England, three quarters of all full-time taught Masters students are now from overseas and some courses rely for their sustainability on the international student intakes. In science, technology, engineering and mathematics, more than half (52%) of full-time MPhil and PhD students are from overseas.

“Tackling global challenges requires global collaboration and understanding, so it’s very positive to see that the UK attracts, and will attract even more of the most ambitious and brightest young people from around the world to gain postgraduate skills and knowledge here. It will be great to welcome more Nigerian students in particular over the next decade to provide a greater African perspective to the debates and discoveries in our classrooms and laboratories”.