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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. 

Listed data is all free to access on the HESA database First Statistical Release 2015-16 and the Introduction - Students 2015-16
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

In January 2017, 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

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, 2015-16

Level of Study/Domicile Full-time Part-time Total
EU students (non-UK domicile) in HE    
Higher degree (research) 12,005 2,590 14,600
Higher degree (taught) 21,385 5,155 26,540
Postgraduate other 1,825 2,375 4,200
First degree 75,880 1,945 77,825
Other undergraduate 1,315 2,960 4,275
Total non-UK EU 112,410 15,025 127,440
Non-EU students in HE    
Higher degree (research) 29,820 2,710 32,530
Higher degree (taught) 105,970 9,375 115,340
Postgraduate other 3,165 3,350 6,520
First degree 140,115 3,185 143,300
Other undergraduate 6,050 6,830 12,885
Total non-EU 285,120 25,450 310,575
All non-UK domicile in HE    
Higher degree (research) 41,825 5,300 47,130
Higher degree (taught) 127,355 14,530 141,880
Postgraduate other 4,990 5,725 10,720
First degree 215,995 5,130 221,120 
Other undergraduate 7,365 9,790 17,160
Total non-UK 397,530 40,475 438,010

For a map illustrating the above table see HESA Introduction -Students Chart 3 

Source: HESA 'Introduction - Students 2015-16'  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 2015-16

Full time study Higher Degrees (research) Higher Degrees (taught)  Other postgraduate First degree Other undergraduate Percentage by domicile
UK domicile 11,655 36,170 27,190 301,305 39,715 69.3%
non-UK 11,085 94,110 33,540 65,935 6,620 30.7%
Part time study

 

UK domicile 3,580 27,785 33,315 30,880 32,500 89.8%
non-UK 1,015 6,975 2,870 1,700 1,815 10.1%
All students (part time and full time)      
UK domicile 15,235 63,960 60,505 332,185 72,215 73.3%
non-UK domicile 12,105 101,090  9,215  67,635 8,435 26.7%

Note that the figure in bold (101,090) as a percentage of non-UK domicile students obtaining taught Higher Degrees is 61.2%

Source: HESA Introduction - Students 2015-16 Table K


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 2015-16

Total non-UK students (PG and UG, EU and non-EU) %
Female 231,085 52
Male 206,840 47

Source: HESA 'Introduction - Students 2015-16' Table C and Table D


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 2015-16

Subject of study % in subject who are international
Business & administrative studies 37.6%
Engineering and technology 32.5%
Law 26.4%
Architecture, building and planning 25.8%
Mass communications & documentation 23.6%
Mathematical sciences 21.8%
Computer science 19.9%
Social studies 19.3%
Languages 17.9%
Creative arts and design 16.9%
Veterinary Science 16.7%
Medicine and dentistry 16.1%
Physical sciences 16.0%
Agriculture and related subjects 11.8%
Historical and philosophical studies 11.3%
Biological sciences 11%
Subjects allied to medicine 7.5%
Education 6.4%
Combined 6.4%
Total 19.2%

Source: HESA 'Introduction - Students 2015-16' 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 2015-16 Total number of students 2014-15 Total number of students 2013-14
Overseas campus of reporting HEI 25,335 22,750 19,230
Distance, flexible or distributed learning 113,995 120,475 119,700
Other arrangement including collaborative provision 246,110 127,510 116,035
Subtotal - students registered at a UK HEI 277,445 270,740 254,965
Overseas partner organisation 416,066 384,585 374,430
Other arrangement 7,500 8,590 7,280
Subtotal - students studying for an award of a UK HEI (but not registered at a HEI) 458,215 393,175 381,710
Total 701,010 663,915 638,675

Source: HESA 'Introduction - Students 2015-16' Table O


Level and location of study of students studying wholly overseas 2015-16 (top 10 countries)

postgraduate research postgraduate taught  first degree  other undergraduate Total 
Malaysia 465 6,200 67,640 4,545 78,850
China 475 3,130 60,055 900 64,560 
Singapore 110 4,205 45,055 600 49,970
Pakistan 25 485 45,380  755 46,640
Nigeria 150 6,465 28,365 35 35,015
Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China) 300 4,260 24,480  185 29,220
Oman 35 2,205 16,045 655 18,940
Ghana 40 2,335 14,875 120 7,370
Egypt 75 1,335 18,380  45 19,840
Sri Lanka 55 6,220 13,955  680 20,910

Source: HESA 'Introduction - Students' Table P

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