Page last updated at 23:00 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 00:00 UK

Foreigners 'prop up' universities

One in 10 UK students now comes from a non-EU country

The UK's universities are increasingly being propped up by income from foreign students, a report shows.

The Universities UK report said that since 2000-01 university income had grown by more than 50%. The largest share came from international students.

Their numbers have doubled in the past decade and their fees now amount to 1.7bn - a rise of 58% since 2002-03.

The report said that as global competition for students increases, such growth may not be sustained.

The eighth Patterns of Higher Education Institutions in the UK report looks at trends in the university sector over the past 10 years.

'Diverse income'

It found that enrolments of students from non-EU countries had increased by 105%.

International fees were now a bigger source of income for most universities than research grants, it added.

And in 2006-07, there was a greater growth in students from other EU countries than from within the UK, with EU enrolments rising by more than 6% and UK entries remaining static.

In the same year, one in 10 students in the UK came from a non-EU country, compared with one in 20 coming from an EU country.

However, about 88% of students were still from the UK.

China is the country that provides the most foreign students to the UK across most levels of study.

In 2006-07, 18,410 Chinese students were doing first degrees, while some 21,620 were doing taught post-graduate courses.

We once again see that female students are in the majority at all modes and levels
UUK report

India also features strongly among post-graduate students, as does the United States.

And the number of universities with higher numbers of international students has also increased.

In 2001-02, just three had more than 5,000 students from outside the UK. By 2006-07 this had risen to 14.

Professor Geoffrey Crossick, chairman of UUK's long-term strategy group, said the report provided evidence of the "increasingly diverse income portfolio that universities are developing as part of a wider strategy to reduce its dependence on public funding".

Female majority

Higher Education minister Bill Rammell said: "Public funding alone for higher education, including support for students, has increased over 23% in real terms since 1997/98 and we are pleased that universities are increasingly able to diversify and benefit from other funding streams.

"This report also makes clear that this country remains a popular destination for international students. It underlines the status of England as a gold standard study destination maintaining its world class reputation."

The report also confirmed the growing trend of more women going to university than men.

"We once again see that female students are in the majority at all modes and levels," the report said.

"The proportion of male students enrolled in higher education institutions has declined by at least three percentage points - and in some cases considerably more over the 10-year period."

Focusing on subjects, the researchers found that enrolment in education studies has almost trebled in 10 years, from 27,339 students in 1997-98 to 87,210 in 2006-07.

In the same time-frame, the number of media studies students rose by 296%, drama and dance students by 120% and social work students by 117%.

In addition, the numbers of students on anatomy, physiology and pathology courses rose by 212% from 5,431 to 16,930.

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