Data from the HESA Student record for 2011/12 shows that 5.3% of the students in the UK were from other EU member countries and 12.1% were from non-EU countries. Bachelors are still popular, but the number of postgraduate students has dropped for the first time in sixteen years.
Threatening a multibillion-pound market
This is not solely an educational concern but also economically. Overseas students are estimated to bring 8 billion pound a year into the economy. A figure expected to rise to almost 17 billion pound per year in 2025, according to the Department for Business, Innovation and Skills.
Although the number of international students increased with 1.5% for non-EU countries and with 1.9% for EU countries, there were some dramatic changes per country. Especially the decline in students from India and Pakistan catches the eye. This decline was almost entirely canceled out by the growth of Chinese students.
Nicola Dandridge, chief executive of Universities UK, said the government’s tough rhetoric on immigration was due to the drop in international students, and “threatening to undermine the multibillion-pound market in foreign students”.
Jo Beall director of education and society at the British council stated to the Guardian: “Playing to a British audience [on immigration] has a huge impact on countries like India and Pakistan which have historical relationships with us, large middle classes that are English speaking and a free, English speaking press. So when these things are said here they get reported over there and it has a very damaging impact on how we are perceived by potential students.”
Romania and Bulgaria on the rise
Among European countries, the decline in Irish and Polish students is most striking. The number of these countries dropped with respectively 10.5% and 14.1 percent. On the other hand more and more students from Romania, Bulgaria and Italy find their way into British Universities, with growth rates well over 20%.