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Who are international students in the UK?

2 Jun 2016

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The UK has many world-class universities, so it’s not a surprise that international students flock to our shores in their thousands.

The UK has around 18% of international students in its universities, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) and OECD.

Statistics also show that the UK attracts a large proportion of international students globally, with a market share of around 13% in 2011, second only to the US at 16.5%.

Despite the growing figures, international students themselves remain an enigma: while they are presented as a range of stereotypes by the media, it’s rare that we hear about their experiences first hand.

The media heavily reports about their vast wealth – that they are coming from the Middle East, Asia, the US, Russia and India to rent luxury London apartments for £1,000 per week, and are spending tens of thousands on private tuition for exam resits.

We also hear the reports from the poor students struggling to make it because of the living costs or even Daily Mail news that report students who seek student status to ‘illegally work for five figure salaries and claim benefits’.

Students are the largest group of migrants from outside the EU, and because of that they are dragged into political debates, with politicians arguing whether they should be included in statistics on migrant numbers.

Despite the debates a report from the British Future finds that students are among the most popular migrant in the UK, with 59% of the public agreeing that the government shouldn’t cut international student numbers. 


But who really are these students?


Chinese students are the largest group of international students studying in the UK from 2013-15, with 89,540, making up almost a fifth of the total, according to data released by UKCISA.

Indian students were the second largest group, with 18,320 although this represents a continuing drop from the previous year and the year before, coinciding with visa changes.

Around 13,675 came from Germany – the largest number of students from another EU country, despite both France and Ireland being geographically closer. France and Ireland still made it to 3rd and 4th place with more them 10,000 students each.

The number of international students keeps rising each year and not even the rising tuition prices are keeping students away.


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Anethe Carvalho

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