Page last updated at 17:50 GMT, Friday, 26 March 2010

Overseas students reach record numbers in the UK

UK universities are proud of their international status

The number of students coming to study in the UK from other parts of the world has hit record levels.

There was a rise of nearly 5% in students from mainland Europe studying at UK universities in 2008/9.

And students from outside Europe grew in number by 9.4%, official figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) show.

Students from outside the EU usually pay higher fees than home students but those from the EU pay the same.

Those from within the EU compete with British students for places, which are capped by the government.

They also qualify for the same student loans.

However, there is no limit on the recruitment of students from outside the EU.

This year has seen a record increase in the number of UK students applying for places at university.

Applications are up by nearly 23% according to the university admissions service Ucas.

2004/5 - 94,000 'other' EU students
2008/9 - 118,000 'other' EU students
2004/5 - 203,000 non-EU students
2008/9 - 251,000 non-EU students

In 2008/9, there were nearly 118,000 students from the EU (outside the UK) - up from 112,000 the previous year.

There was an even bigger surge in students from outside the EU. Numbers rose from nearly 230,000 to 250,000.

The Hesa figures give a breakdown of students in the UK which show that out of a total of nearly 2.4 million students, about 85% were UK students, nearly 5% were from other EU countries and just over 10% were from non-EU countries.

The statistics were released as the British Council gave a warning that UK universities should not use overseas students as "cash cows" as a way of coping with financial difficulties and funding cuts.

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