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International student statistics: UK higher education

These pages are updated from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).  HESA gathers data for all publicly funded Higher Education Institutions and the University of Buckingham.  The data also includes stats on Higher Education (HE) level courses which are delivered at Further Education (FE)Colleges. 

The first data for 15/16 was released on 12 January 2017 and our pages have been updated.  Some tables will be updated in the second release in February - check the date below each table to see what year the data relates to.

For information about the data for 15/16 see the links below:

Summary of data from HESA  (see Charts 4, 7 and 8)
You can access data this year on the new HESA app.

For responses to the 15/16 data see:
Times Higher Education 12/01/17
UUK Blog 12/01/17
PIE News 12/01/17

Chief Executive, Dominic Scott commented:

‘These figures for  2015/16 (which always come out reliably but frustratingly late) appear largely to confirm what other sources (such as informal reports and Home Office visa figures)  have been saying for some time.  That compared with many other countries our non EU recruitment is virtually stagnant – with first year arrivals decreasing, countries like India nosediving but fortunately China keeping the totals as high as they are. 

Whilst they accord with official Home Office statistics (as HESA note), ministers often attempt to give a far more positive figure by merely quoting the number of visa applicants to Russell Group universities which they say are on the increase.  But all this shows – and without doubt as a direct result of visa restrictions – the picture for the whole of the UK HE sector is far from rosy and certainly not the time for the government to consider the sort of further measures suggested in October by the Home Secretary’

Sections

Please note - the data based on the first release from HESA on 12/01/17 has been updated.  The remainder will be updated with the next release in February 2017. 

Note: totals differ in the tables below due to rounding within the HESA data.

International (non-UK) students in UK HE in 2015-16

  • 81% of students studying in HE in the UK are from the UK.  6% are from the rest of the EU and 14% are from the rest of the world
  • 46% of students studying at postgraduate level in the UK are from outside the EU.
  • The number of Chinese students far exceeds any other nationality at 91,215. This is the only country showing a significant increase in student numbers.
  • The number of Indian students coming to the UK to study continues to fall (44% decrease in the last five years).
  • Across the UK:
    • England has the highest number of students from outside the EU (14%)
    • Scotland has the highest number of students from the EU (not including UK) (9%)
    • Wales has had the largest decrease in numbers from students from outside the EU (11% drop since 2014-15)
    • Northern Ireland has seen a 7% decrease in students from outside the EU since 2014-15.

International students in UK HE by domicile, level and mode,
European Union (EU) (excluding UK) and non-EU, 2014-15

Level of Study/Domicile Full-time Part-time Total
EU students (non-UK domicile) in HE    
Higher degree (research) 11,580 2,705 14,280
Higher degree (taught) 22,130 5,515 27,640
Postgraduate other 1,790 2,520 4,305
First degree 71,190 2,270 73,465
Other undergraduate 1,235 3,645 4,885
Total non-UK EU 107,925 16,655 124,575
Non-EU students in HE    
Higher degree (research) 29,565 2,850 32,415
Higher degree (taught) 108,875 10,285 119,160
Postgraduate other 3,145 3,570 6,690
First degree 135,695 3,625 139,320
Other undergraduate 6,750 7,670 14,425
Total non-EU 284,010 28,000 312,010
All non-UK domicile in HE    
Higher degree (research) 41,145 5,550 46,695
Higher degree (taught) 131,000 15,800 146,800
Postgraduate other 4,905  6,090 10,995
First degree 206,890 5,895 212,785 
Other undergraduate 7,990 11,320 19,305
Total non-UK 391,935 44,655 436,585

Source: HESA 'Students in Higher Education 2014-15' Table C (postgraduate numbers) and Table D (undergraduate numbers)
Note that 'non-EU' stats include EEA.
For definitions of categories, see HESA website


Higher Education qualifications obtained in 2014-15

Full time study Higher Degrees (research and taught) Other postgraduate First degree Other undergraduate
UK domicile 45,525 28,205 293,535 42,285
EU students (not incl UK) 20,090 1,270 9,420 1,635
non-EU 85,750 4,870 45,390 5,350
Part time study        
UK domicile 31,285 33,135 34,385 36,315
EU students (not incl UK) 2,595 880 630  730
non-EU 5,895 2,010 2,205 1,505

Source: HESA 'Students in Higher Education 2014-15' Table 17


International student numbers by UK nation and English regions 2015-16

Country Total EU students (not incl UK) Total non-EU students Total international students % of student population who are international
England 98,460 261,275 359,735 19%
Scotland 20,945 29,980 50,925 22%
Wales 5,460  16,730  22,190 17%
Northern Ireland 2,570 5,160 5,160 9%
UK 127,440  310,570 438,010 19%

Source: HESA First Statistical Release 242 (2015-16) Table 1a and Chart 4.
Note that Total = full time and part time students


Sex of international students 2014-15

Total non-UK students (EU and non-EU) %
Female 159,325 51
Male 152,655 49

Source: HESA 'Students in Higher Education 2014-15' Table B


Top Ten non-EU sending countries

Country 2015-16 2014-15 2013-14
China (PRC) 91,215 89,540 87,895
Malaysia 17,405 17,060 16,635
United States of America 17,115 16,865 16,485
India 16,745 18,320 19,750
Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region) 16,745 16,215 14,725
Nigeria 16,100 17,920 18,020
Saudi Arabia 8,570 8,595 9,060
Singapore 7,540 7,295 6,790
Thailand 6,095 6,240 6,340
Canada 5,980 6,075 6,350

Source: HESA First Statistical Release 242 (2015-16) Table 9


Top EU sending countries

Country 2015-16 2014-5 2013-14
Germany 13,425 13,675 14,060
France 12,525 11,955 11,500
Italy 12,135 10,525 9,550
Republic of Ireland 10,245 10,905 11,490
Greece 9,790 10,130 10,670
Cyprus
9,330 9,745 10,295
Spain 7,840 7,040 6,585
Romania 7,200 6,590 6,515
Bulgaria 6,195 6,255  6,355
Poland 5,655 5,245  5,200

Source: HESA First Statistical Release 242 (2015-16) Table 8


International student numbers by subject area 2014-15

Subject of study % in subject who are international
Business & administrative studies 38.4%
Engineering and technology 33.1%
Law 26.3%
Architecture, building and planning 25.4%
Mass communications & documentation 23.0%
Mathematical sciences 21.6%
Computer science 20.4%
Social studies 19.8%
Veterinary science 18.9%
Languages 17.7%
Creative arts and design 16.2%
Medicine and dentistry 16.0%
Physical sciences 15.8%
Agriculture and related subjects 12.4%
Historical and philosophical studies 10.9%
Biological sciences 10.8%
Subjects allied to medicine 7.7%
Education 6.1%
Combined 6.0%
Total 18.9%

Source: HESA 'Students in Higher Education 2014-15' Table F


Top 20 largest recruiters of international students 2015-16

Institution postgraduate students undergraduate students  Total number of international students
University College London 7,860 7,115 14,975
The University of Manchester 5,950 6,970 12,920
The University of Edinburgh 5,085 5,695 10,780
Coventry University 3,540 6,175 9,715
Kings College London 4,115 4,785 8,900
The University of Sheffield 4,595 3,930 8,525
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine 4,550 3,970 8,520
University of the Arts, London 2,035 6,425 8,460
The University of Warwick 4,520 3,920 8,440
The University of Oxford 5,760 2,300 8,060
The University of Glasgow 3,845 3,790 7,635
The University of Birmingham 4,670 2,945 7,615
City, University of London 4,320 3,180 7,500
The University of Liverpool 2,075 5,235 7,310
University of Nottingham 3,170 4,070 7,240
The University of Southampton 4,050 3,175 7,225
Cardiff University 3,285 3,825 7,110
London School of Economics and Political Science 4,635 2,280 6,915
The University of Leeds 3,825 2,760 6,585
Newcastle University 3,145 3,415 6,560

Source: HESA First Statistical Release 242 (2015-16) Table 3.
Note that totals include EU and non-EU students, full-time and part-time study.


Students studying wholly overseas for a UK qualification

 

Type of provision Total number of students 24-15 Total number of students 2013-14 Total number of students 2012-13
Overseas campus of reporting HEI 22,750 19,230 17,525
Distance, flexible or distributed learning 120,475 119,700 123,635
Other arrangement including collaborative provision 127,510 116,035 103,795
Subtotal - students registered at a UK HEI 270,740 254,965 244,955
Overseas partner organisation 384,585 374,430 353,375
Other arrangement 8,590 7,280 600
Subtotal - students studying for an award of a UK HEI (but not registered at a HEI) 393,175 381,710 353,975
Total 663,915 638,675 707,350

Source: HESA 'Students in Higher Education 2014-15' Table O


Level and location of study of students studying wholly overseas 2014-15 (top 10 countries)

postgraduate research postgraduate taught  first degree  other undergraduate Total 
Malaysia 445 6,195 6,8040 3,885 78,565
China 415 3,445 51,490 995 56,340 
Singapore 120 4,390 42,995 1,010 48,520
Pakistan 30 490 41,315  690 42,525
Nigeria 200 6,690 25,480 40  32,410
Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China) 270 4,400 24,790  245 29,705
Oman 35 1,735 16,210 555 18,530
Ghana 35 2,395 14,330 165 16,920
Egypt 65 1,270 15,190  45 16,570
Sri Lanka 10 4,940 10,955  635 16,545

Source: HESA 'Students in Higher Education 2014-15' Table P

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