The first decline in the number of international students at English universities for almost three decades is revealed in research published today.
Figures show a dramatic 25 per cent slump in the number of full-time EU undergraduates, which experts put down to the introduction of the new fees system with charges of up to £9,000 a year. The numbers are down from 23,440 to 17,890.
Students from EU countries are on an equal footing with UK students, and therefore have to pay the fees whilst not having the same entitlement to loans. University courses in other European countries are also cheaper than the UK, says the report.
In addition, the percentage of international postgraduate students in English universities has declined by one percent between 2010/2011 (1,000 students) with a dramatic fall in enrolments from India and Pakistan, which is only partially offset by a rise from China.
Meanwhile, the new fees system has led to a reduction in the number of UK students to postgraduate courses, who now account for only 26 per cent of all enrolments, with the Chinese breathing down their necks at 23 per cent of all students, according to the research from the Higher Education Funding Council for England.
University sources put the decline in UK enrolment down to the new fees system, with would-be applicants being put off further study because of the debts they have already accrued from their undergraduate courses.
On overseas enrolments, both undergraduate and postgraduate courses report a decline in enrolments from India and Pakistan, where complaints about tighter restrictions on visa to the UK to study have been most vociferous.
The research show Indian enrolments at postgraduate level are down 7,000 (51 per cent) while Pakistan has fallen by 1,400 (49 per cent). Chinese enrolments are up 8,300 (44 per cent).
The report shows that the number of international students enrolling on undergraduate courses is still rising - thus partially offsetting the decline in EU recruitment - and adds that the potential for income to universities “is expected to remain strong”.
However, it warns: “There is a risk that future growth will not materialise at the level forecast and any reduction could have a major impact on institutions’ financial positions.”
University sources, though, predict the effect on other higher education institutions elsewhere in the UK is likely to be less marked - as they do not operate under the same fees regime.
“These new figures are hardly surprising and confirm what we have been saying all along,” said Daniel Stevens, international students’ officer of the National Union of Students. “Many international students feel unwelcome in the UK as a result of the Government’s hostile and overzealous [immigration] policies.”