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UK: The state and shape of international higher education, 2019

The newly released publication by Universities UK International (UUKi) – International Facts and Figures 2019 – gives the most recent overview of the state of development of UK’s international higher education sector, across a number of key dimensions, such as:

  • International students;
  • International academic and non-academic staff living and working in the UK;
  • Outward student mobility;
  • Transnational Education offer (TNE);
  • International research collaborations and funding; and
  • Regional collaboration and profiles, namely on Africa, Asia, Australasia, Europe, Middle East, North America, and South America.

Source: UUKi – International Facts and Figures 2019

When it comes to international degree-seeking students, the report shows that in the 2017/18 academic year, the UK remained the second most often destination of international students world-wide, after the United States (US). The UK hosted in this reference year 458 490 international students, representing 19.6% of the total student population. However, UK’s international student growth rate has remained very low, dropping from 0.5% in 2015 to 0.3% in 2016. This is so particularly in comparison to UK’s main competitors – Australia, Canada, the US and Germany that saw growth rates of 13.9%, 10.4%, 7.1% and 6.9% respectively, in the same period.

The top five countries of origin on international students in the UK were China (106 530), India (19 750), the US (18 885), Hong Kong (16 350) and Malaysia (14 970), with Chinese students accounting for 23.2% of all international students at UK higher education institutions. The top three EU countries of origin were Italy (13 985), France (13 660) and Germany (13 545). In the same year, the international student numbers were highest in business and administration studies (126 955), engineering and technology (52 635) and social studies (42 785).

The net economic impact of the 2015/16 cohort of international students in the UK over the course of their studies is estimated at around GBP 20.3 billion.

In 2017/18, 87 615 international staff worked at UK higher education institutions (i.e. 20% of all staff members), an increase by 25.3% compared to 2013/14. Almost 60% of international staff came from the EU. And around 75% of the international staff were academics, with 42% of these holding both research and teaching contracts.

As for outgoing mobility, 7.8% of UK undergraduate students worked, studied or volunteered abroad as part of their degree in 2017/18. The top three destinations of mobile students who graduated in 2016/17 were France, Spain, and the US, these countries receiving collectively 36% of all UK mobile students.

Furthermore, the UK is the world leader in transnational education, with 139 UK universities in 2017/18 delivering some form of TNE, and enrolling 693 695, i.e. 1.5 times as many students as the international students studying in the UK. The TNE students were located in 225 countries and territories around the world.

In international research, the UK also produced 15.2% of the world’s most highly cited articles in 2015, being 3rd in the world after the US and China. The share of internationally co-authored publications in the UK reached 55.2% in 2018, and the proportion of UK research funding from overseas sources has also increased, with 23% of the total UK research funding coming from international and/or EU sources.

Link to the Report here