British Universities Get Good News ; Long-Term Growth Seen in Numbers of Foreign Graduate Students

By Schuetze, Christopher F | International New York Times, October 20, 2014 | Go to article overview

British Universities Get Good News ; Long-Term Growth Seen in Numbers of Foreign Graduate Students


Schuetze, Christopher F, International New York Times


A study released this month says that by 2024, Britain will add 83,000 foreign graduate students to the nearly quarterly million in 2013.

Amid fears that bureaucracy and high costs could diminish Britain's stature as a leading destination for international students, a new study foresees long-term, steady growth in the ability of British universities to attract foreign graduate students, especially from China.

The study, released by the British Council this month, predicts that by 2024 Britain will add 83,000 international graduate students to the 223,745 it hosted in 2013.

Of those, 44 percent will come from China, which currently accounts for about 22 percent of international graduate students in Britain.

But the report, "Postgraduate Student Mobility Trends to 2024," also raised some concerns. At an estimated yearly growth of 3.5 percent from 2013 to 2024, Britain's power to attract foreign graduate students will have weakened compared to the five years leading up to 2012, when British universities registered 4.1 percent growth in that sector.

The figures also suggest a growing reliance on China, which, though currently the biggest provider of international postgraduate students, is expected to send fewer students as its population ages.

"The U.K. can't just sit up and look at its historical position in this market," said Jo Attwooll, the senior policy manger at Universities UK, an association that represents the country's universities. "There is a growing amount of competition from other countries."

The day the study was released, a recruitment film was being shot on the campus of University of Derby, a mid-sized university in central England. The university boasts small class sizes and good connections with several global companies, like Rolls-Royce, Bombardier and Toyota, which have offices in and around the town of Derby. It has an excellent employability rate for graduates.

"You can't expect people in China to know about Derby," said Nick Slade, the university's director of international development.

Which is one of the reasons why the recruitment video features, among other international students, a Chinese student who describes her experience at Derby in Mandarin. Like other promotional material, the video will be posted on the university's Chinese website.

"The actual students speak English well enough to read the English site, but it may be that their parents want to read the Chinese," said Mr. Slade.

Mr. Slade said competition for international students has become so strong among smaller, midlevel universities in Britain that Derby, which has about 1,000 international students, has pulled out all the stops, including pickup service from the airport; a buddy system to ease transition; and getting the local police constable to set up a registration desk at the school so that foreign students no longer have to make the trek to the police station to register. …

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