Gordon Slaven, the British Council’s Director of Higher Education, commented:
“These latest figures show that international [non-EU] students have never been so crucial to UK higher education. A year on year decrease of British students (by two per cent) and EU students (by one per cent) means that the one per cent growth of students coming from around the world is essential for the sustainability and continued excellence of our universities. Furthermore, at post-graduate level we have grown even more dependent on overseas students, as they now represent the majority [non-EU =46%; EU = 12%; UK = 42%] of full time students taking those courses.
“However, given that international students make such a vital academic, cultural and economic contribution to the UK, it is alarming that the UK’s one per cent growth is so small, when compared to our competitors. In the same period, [2013/14 – 2014/15] the USA saw ten per cent growth, Australia had eight per cent, Canada 11 per cent and Germany saw a seven per cent year on year growth of new international students. There is now a clear trend of the UK’s global market share declining compared with other countries, and we need to take urgent steps to address, and stem this decline. Other countries are currently gaining at the UK’s expense and the government and sector must work together to ensure that our world class higher education system remains attractive and accessible to every ambitious young person in the world.”