Edition 177 - January 2016

UK: New student enrolment numbers disappoint

On 14 January, the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) released its annual report on enrolment and qualifications statistics in the UK higher education. The figures show that between 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 the total number of enrolments at UK institutions decreased by 1% to 2 266 075. HESA attributes this decrease mainly to a 2% decline in undergraduate enrolments and a 6% decrease in part-time enrolments.

The make-up of the student population across the UK by country of origin remained relatively unchanged since the previous academic year. In 2014/2015, UK students still accounted for 81% of all enrolments, EU students made up 5% of the student population and the share of all non-EU students in the higher education system increased from 13% to 14%. However, while the total number of non-EU enrolments across all levels of study in UK institutions increased by 1% from 2013/2014, the number of first-year non-EU students enrolled in the academic year 2014/2015 decreased by 3% compared to the previous year. 

Across the UK, the number of first year enrolments from India fell by 7%, making the US the second largest supplier of non-EU students, while the flow of first year students from China remained unchanged. China remained by far the UK’s largest source country with a 34% share of non-EU first year students enrolled at UK institutions, followed by the US and India, each with a 6% share. The figures also revealed an 8% drop in first year enrolments from Nigeria and a 6% decrease from Malaysia

Although not surprising given the Tory government’s continued ‘crusade’ on international students, the falling non-EU enrolment numbers are a cause for concern for anyone with a stake in the UK’s multi-billion pound higher education exports industry, especially in light of the news that the US, Canada and Australia significantly increased their international student numbers over the previous year. Whether these recent numbers on falling enrolments, along with renewed Scottish calls for allowing non-EU graduates of UK universities to remain in the country, can compel the government to consider the reintroduction of the post study work visa scheme scrapped in 2012 remains to be seen.  

HESA - student enrolment

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