Cosmopolitan campuses, the solution to a financial problem

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The Independent Online

Oxford University is not alone in seeking to boost its overseas intake at the expense of home-grown students.

Oxford University is not alone in seeking to boost its overseas intake at the expense of home-grown students.

A study for the British Council has estimated that the number of international students could rise from 270,000 to about 400,000 by the end of the decade. Several of the country's elite Russell group of universities - the 19 top research establishments - have already embarked on major recruitment exercises overseas. They cite the same reason as Oxford - saying that the income from £3,000-a-year top-up fees will be insufficient.

The position is different, however, at Cambridge. The university wants to build three new colleges and increase its student population from 16,000 to 21,000 by 2025. Obviously, it, too, has an eye to the overseas market but - by increasing student numbers - it may still have space for home students. Other universities such as York, Durham, Kent and Bath, have set out proposals to expand their campuses. But few can afford plans on the Cambridge scale.

The financial squeeze that universities will still face even after 2006, when top-up fees come into force, will make it hard for Tony Blair to reach his goal of getting 50 per cent of young people into universities.

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