• UK will gain 83,000 postgraduate (PG) international students over the next ten years, to remain second most popular destination for PG international students after the USA.
• UK will see a slight drop in overall international PG growth, projected at 3.5% to 2013-2024 compared to 4.1% in 2007-12.
• UK projected to gain most of its growth from China – 44%. The number of Indian PG students in the UK will increase, but at a slower rate. Nine per cent of the UK’s inbound PG growth to 2024 will be from India, whereas Indian students will represent 54 per cent of inbound PG growth for the US.
• Nigerian PG students will overtake Indian PGs in the UK: Of the 23 origin countries addressed in this research, China sends the highest number of PGs to the UK (49,000 students) followed by India (16,000) and Nigeria (12,000). This will change over the next decade, however, and while China will continue to dominate enrolments with 85,000 PGs, Nigeria will send the second highest number of PGs (29,000), followed by India (24,000) and the US (15,000).
The UK is projected to gain an additional 83,000 postgraduate (PG) international students by 2024, according to a major new piece of forecasting research by the British Council.
The study Postgraduate student mobility to 2024 examines current trends in PG mobility between key origin and destination countries, and will forecast student flows through the next decade.
The UK will remain the world’s second largest host of PG students, seeing a growth of 83,000 PG students between 2013-24. The UK is projected to have 241,000 international PG students in 2024, compared to 159,000 in 2012. But that will be a slight slowdown in annual growth, 3.5% growth in 2013-24 compared to 4.1% from, 2007-12.
The research, based on available demographic and economic data up to 2012, suggests an increasing reliance on Chinese and Indian postgraduate students to take up courses in the six main ‘destination’ countries for postgraduates: Australia, Canada, Germany, Japan, the UK and USA. China will remain the largest source of international PG students by 2024, with a forecasted annual average growth of 3.4 per cent, and with total outbound postgraduates to the selected destination countries increasing from 227,000 in 2012 to 338,000 in 2024.
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 PG students is also expected in several ‘emerging’ origin countries, including Nigeria (+24,000), Saudi Arabia (+16,000), Indonesia (+12,000) and Pakistan (+12,000). Alongside India and China, these countries will present important opportunities for inbound growth for host countries.
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” Prof Hughes added.
The report’s author, Zainab Malik, Director of Research for British Council Education Intelligence, said: “We knew China and India would be a big part of the story, but were surprised at the level of dependence on these origin countries. Considering the numerous factors that can affect international student mobility, diversifying postgraduate recruitment strategies may not only help lessen that dependence but also broaden and deepen global skills and knowledge exchange.”
By 2024, the UK is forecast to become largely dependent on Chinese inbound postgraduates, which is expected to account for 44% of total inbound postgraduate growth. In the US, this dependence will be slightly less, with 33% of inbound postgraduate growth attributed to Chinese students. Although this figure still shows reliance on China will remain high, by 2024 the US will be more heavily dependent on students from India, who are expected to account for 54% of inbound postgraduate growth.