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Last Updated: Thursday, 10 January 2008, 17:18 GMT
Rise in foreign students in UK
UK entries remained static
The number of foreign students enrolling at British universities rose by more than 6% last year, while UK entries remained static in number.

And there were wide variations across the UK, which academics are blaming on "top-up" tuition fees.

The number of people enrolling at UK universities rose by 1% overall from 2005/6 to 2006/7, new figures show.

Ministers say an "anticipated" decrease due to variable fees has been reversed and UK institutions are world class.

There was no rise in UK students from 2005/6 to 2006/7, while there was a 6% increase among other EU students and a 7% rise in non-EU students, according to figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).

Among first year undergraduates, there was a 2% fall in UK residents, and rises of 5% and 12% among EU and non-EU students respectively, adding up to no real change in the overall total, which was 1,057,900 in the academic year 2006/7.

Within that total, part-time first year enrolments were up by 2% on the previous year, while full-time first year enrolments fell by 1%.

'World class'

In total, enrolments in all years of higher education in the UK was 2.36 million in 2006/7 - an increase of 1% from 2005/6.

Higher Education Minister Bill Rammell said: “The significant increase in entrants from non-EU countries, up 10%, clearly demonstrates that that the UK remains an extremely popular destination for international students.

"Our higher education system is world class, and offers very high quality provision."

There were marked regional variations within the UK, which university and college lecturers say are due to the introduction of top-up tuition fees in England and Northern Ireland.

In England, there was a 2% fall in the number of full-time first year enrolments between 2005/6 and 2006/7. Variable fees were introduced there in the autumn of 2006.

In Northern Ireland, there was a 9% fall, while both Wales and Scotland showed increases of 4% and 3% respectively.

Top-up fees

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "It is hardly surprising that the number of enrolments at universities where top-up fees are being charged has fallen, or that enrolments have increased at institutions in countries not charging them.

"Access to a university education must be based on a student's aptitude and willingness to learn, not what they are willing, or able, to pay."

Bill Rammell said: "The figures show the small anticipated decrease in entrants in 2006/07 following the introduction of variable fees, but that was strongly reversed in 2007/08 with a record number of acceptances, up 6% on 2006/07.

"From 2008, more students than ever before will be entitled to a full or partial non-repayable maintenance grant. "This means 100,000 extra students a year will benefit from some level of grant support while they study, when the new system is fully implemented."

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