Page last updated at 00:11 GMT, Thursday, 24 September 2009 01:11 UK

UK rise in international students

student and teacher
International students are a growing group in the UK's universities

The number of non-European students enrolling on courses at UK universities has almost doubled in less than ten years, a report has found.

The study of trends in higher education by Universities UK found a 48% increase in the number of international students between the year 2000 and 2006.

In 2007/08, 229,640 students came from outside the European Union, compared with 117,290 in 1998/99.

China remained the "most significant" provider of students to the UK.

A total of 19,385 Chinese students enrolled on first degree courses in the UK and 21,990 took up places for post-graduate study.

International students can be a lucrative source of income for UK universities, as students who come from outside the EU have to pay more for courses than their European peers.

The Patterns of Higher Education Institutions in the UK report found that, between 2006/07 and 2007/08, universities saw a 10% rise in their income.

In total, £1.88 bn of UK universities' income came from non-EU students in 2007/08, while government research grants accounted for £1.76 bn.

Report author Professor Geoffrey Crossick said: "The report demonstrates how the diversity of the UK higher education sector has increased over the last 10 years, giving students from a wide range of backgrounds the opportunity to study at and beyond first degree level."

Male and part-time students

The report also found the proportion of male students in higher education has declined.

And while the total number of men at university has increased, women accounted for 75% of the growth in full-time students.

In 2007-08, 54.5% of full-time and 60% of part-time first degree students were women.

"Female students are in the majority at all modes and levels, and it is only among full-time postgraduates (who are dominated by non-UK students) that male students very nearly approach parity," the report said.

The report noted a 3.7% decline in the number of part-time students between 2006-07 and 2007-08.

"This may be a cause for concern, as part-time study plays an increasingly important role in meeting the higher level skills agenda and to lifelong learning.

"Amongst the various factors that explain this decline may be the different systems for student support now available to full-time and part-time students."

The study found the number of UK-based first-year students from ethnic minority groups has increased year on year, with these students now studying at a wider range of institutions.

And the proportion of students from lower social classes going into higher education has continued to grow.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: "There is much to celebrate about higher education in the UK, particularly the work done by staff as overall student numbers continue to increase".

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