Exclusive: British students outnumbered by foreign ones on postgraduate courses

Major study warns of future crisis if universities equip UK’s economic rivals with skills they need to compete against Britain

Foreign students have outnumbered their UK counterparts in postgraduate education at British universities for the past five years, it is revealed today.

A major study warns of a future crisis if universities equip the UK’s economic rivals with the skills they need to compete against Britain, which will suffer from a dearth of highly skilled professionals.

International student numbers have grown by 90 per cent in the past decade while the number of home-grown students has fallen by 12 per cent in the past three years.

Academics are worried that home take-up could plunge even further in 2016 when students saddled with debts from £9,000-a-year degree courses decide they cannot afford to opt for further study. In addition, figures show poorer UK students are becoming less and less likely to apply because of a lack of financial support; 17 per cent of all UK recruits have been privately educated, meaning they are 25 per cent more likely to apply for postgraduate courses than those from state schools.

The report was put together by the 1994 group of universities, which represents institutions including Essex, Sussex, and the University of London’s Birkbeck and Goldsmiths’ Colleges.

“If candidates from modest backgrounds are effectively frozen out of postgraduate study, then this means that the best jobs and enhanced career opportunities will remain the preserve of the better off,” it warns.

The report acknowledges that “on the face of it the sector looks relatively healthy” with student numbers rising by 42 per cent over the last decade.

However, it argues this masks the fact that the increase is largely down to overseas students whose numbers have shot up by 90 per cent.

By contrast, the number of UK students has risen by just 23 per cent in the same period – and fell over the past three years.

Figures show that by far the largest group of overseas students are from China – 36,290 – with India in second place with 19,495.

This compares to 149,000 from the UK in 2011-12.

“In 2002 there were four UK taught postgraduate students for every three from overseas,” it says.

“Since 2008, they have been outnumbered every year.

“Since the majority of these students will eventually return to their home countries, taking their newly gained skills, knowledge and expertise with them, this trend has consequences for the UK’s global competitiveness.”

The report goes on to warn that the number of UK students funded for their courses has dwindled in recent years – with the number receiving help from a research council halving over the past decade to just 825 in 2011-12.

Most 21 to 24-year-olds, it adds “would never have had the opportunity to accumulate sufficient savings to fund themselves through a postgraduate course”.

Today’s report is echoed by the findings of research commissioned by the Government which indicates a deficit of fewer highly skilled students coming forward – which could leave the UK without the expertise to combat growing threats such as that of cyber attacks against UK security systems.

The study for the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills by the consultants Pierre Audoin said it received anecdotal evidence that courses were dependent on foreign students.

In a foreword to the publication, the Universities minister David Willetts says UK postgraduate education has a reputation for excellence across the world and has seen “unprecedented” growth in the past decade. He added the Government was investing £75m in helping universities attract and support less advantaged students.

Case study: The overseas student

Fangyan Mei is studying Media and Journalism at Newcastle University 

"I've chosen to study a postgraduate course in the UK because I needed the extra degree and training to become more competitive in such a saturated job market. In China, my home country, the press has changed greatly over the last few years.

"After completing my undergraduate degree in China studying Television and Broadcasting, I became a full time journalist writing for a newspaper. I worked hard, earned a decent salary and became the chief journalist of my newspaper. This gave me a good reputation amongst the press of Zhejiang province and one of my articles was awarded the second prize in the Zhejiang Good News Award.

"Since then I have found it difficult to develop my skills and despite being highly regarded in my field, I struggled to keep my job. I was confused, upset and worried. Despite job offers from several other companies, one a medical group and the other a digital media company which was owned by the government, I was not prepared to change career such is my passion for journalism. The only way to get a job was to have further training, so I decided to study in the UK.

"The largest expense is the tuition fee which is £13,870, despite getting a discount from Newcastle University. On top of this and the cost of living, I’ve paid for IELTS tests, my visa, aeroplane tickets and other equipment. All of this has been funded by myself, saving up over the last three years whilst working full time. My family are helping me financially in emergencies, however I hope I will not have to use their money. I will try to find a job in the UK, in the media and PR industries, however if this fails I will return to China to try and find another job as a journalist."

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Extras
indybest
Arts and Entertainment
Judi Dench appeared at the Hay Festival to perform excerpts from Shakespearean plays
tvJudi Dench and Hugh Bonneville join Benedict Cumberbatch in BBC Shakespeare adaptations
Arts and Entertainment
Exhibition at the Centre Pompidou in Metz - 23 May 2012
art
Sport
Is this how Mario Balotelli will cruise into Liverpool?
football
News
Ronahi Serhat, a PKK fighter, in the Qandil Mountains in Iraqi Kurdistan
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Alfred Molina, left, and John Lithgow in a scene from 'Love Is Strange'
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Student

Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost, Data Mining

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Junior Quant Analyst - C++, Boost...

Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Support, Help desk)

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Service Desk Analyst- Desktop Support, Helpdesk, ITIL

£20000 - £27000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Service Desk Analyst- (Desktop Su...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

10 best men's skincare products

Face it: 10 best men's skincare products

Oscar Quine cleanses, tones and moisturises to find skin-savers blokes will be proud to display on the bathroom shelf
Middle East crisis: We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

We know all too much about the cruelty of Isis – but all too little about who they are

Now Obama has seen the next US reporter to be threatened with beheading, will he blink, asks Robert Fisk
Neanderthals lived alongside humans for centuries, latest study shows

Final resting place of our Neanderthal neighbours revealed

Bones dated to 40,000 years ago show species may have died out in Belgium species co-existed
Scottish independence: The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

The new Scots who hold fate of the UK in their hands

Scotland’s immigrants are as passionate about the future of their adopted nation as anyone else
Britain's ugliest buildings: Which monstrosities should be nominated for the Dead Prize?

Blight club: Britain's ugliest buildings

Following the architect Cameron Sinclair's introduction of the Dead Prize, an award for ugly buildings, John Rentoul reflects on some of the biggest blots on the UK landscape
eBay's enduring appeal: Online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce retailer

eBay's enduring appeal

The online auction site is still the UK's most popular e-commerce site
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey: ‘lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird’

'Lack of ethnic minority and black faces on TV is weird'

Culture Minister Ed Vaizey calls for immediate action to address the problem
Artist Olafur Eliasson's latest large-scale works are inspired by the paintings of JMW Turner

Magic circles: Artist Olafur Eliasson

Eliasson's works will go alongside a new exhibition of JMW Turner at Tate Britain. He tells Jay Merrick why the paintings of his hero are ripe for reinvention
Josephine Dickinson: 'A cochlear implant helped me to discover a new world of sound'

Josephine Dickinson: 'How I discovered a new world of sound'

After going deaf as a child, musician and poet Josephine Dickinson made do with a hearing aid for five decades. Then she had a cochlear implant - and everything changed
Greggs Google fail: Was the bakery's response to its logo mishap a stroke of marketing genius?

Greggs gives lesson in crisis management

After a mishap with their logo, high street staple Greggs went viral this week. But, as Simon Usborne discovers, their social media response was anything but half baked
Matthew McConaughey has been singing the praises of bumbags (shame he doesn't know how to wear one)

Matthew McConaughey sings the praises of bumbags

Shame he doesn't know how to wear one. Harriet Walker explains the dos and don'ts of fanny packs
7 best quadcopters and drones

Flying fun: 7 best quadcopters and drones

From state of the art devices with stabilised cameras to mini gadgets that can soar around the home, we take some flying objects for a spin
Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

Joey Barton: ‘I’ve been guilty of getting a bit irate’

The midfielder returned to the Premier League after two years last weekend. The controversial character had much to discuss after his first game back
Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

Andy Murray: I quit while I’m ahead too often

British No 1 knows his consistency as well as his fitness needs working on as he prepares for the US Open after a ‘very, very up and down’ year
Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan