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Last Updated: Tuesday, 27 March 2007, 11:12 GMT 12:12 UK
Overseas students 'one in seven'
Entrance to university
The global market in overseas students has doubled in a decade
The number of overseas students studying at UK universities has risen to 330,000 - one in seven of the total.

This annual increase of 3.7% was driven by a surge in students coming to the UK from India - up by more than 15%.

China still sends the most students - 51,000 - but this represents a decrease on the previous year.

Overseas students have become a lucrative source of earnings - contributing an estimated 10bn each year to the UK economy.

The figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, for the academic year 2005-2006, show that the number of students from overseas countries is continuing to rise.

Class sizes

The total number of all students enrolled in higher education in the UK is more than 2.3 million - and more than 330,000 of these are now from overseas countries.

There were also separate figures published showing the gap between male and female students from the UK. While 48% of young women are now entering university, among men the entry rate is only 38% - which meant that more 20,000 more women are entering higher education.

United States
Hong Kong

The university staff union, the UCU, warned that the growth in student numbers needed to be matched by increased investment in higher education.

"Class sizes are extremely high and staff are being forced to provide even more for less. The overlooked pastoral work of particular staff, often over and above their normal duties, is crucial to helping foreign students," said the union's general secretary, Sally Hunt.

The latest overseas total of 330,000 reflects a particular increase in students coming to the UK from India, Germany, France and Nigeria. This year's 15% increase in students from India follows an increase of 14% the previous year - with India now the second-biggest exporter of students to the UK.

Despite a fall of almost 4%, China remains the country with the single-largest number of students. Hong Kong students, who are counted separately, fell sharply - down to 9,000.

The pursuit of overseas students has become big business - with UK universities competing with higher education institutions in countries such as the United States and Australia.

Recruiting fairs are held in Asian countries to promote interest in UK universities - and campuses of UK universities have opened in countries such as China and Malaysia.

A report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) last autumn showed that the global market in overseas students had more than doubled in a decade.

And there are forecasts from the British Council that the number of overseas students coming to the UK could triple.

The Prime Minister Tony Blair launched an initiative last year which aimed to recruit an additional 100,000 overseas students to Britain in the next five years - with particular efforts to appeal to students from India.

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