Education & Family

Overseas student numbers rise in the UK

Official stamps a passport
Image caption Universities around the world compete for overseas students

The number of overseas students coming to the UK has risen dramatically in the past five years.

Numbers increased by 32% in the five years to 2010, data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) show.

There was an 6% increase in number of home students in the UK over the same time.

Last year, there were just over 400,000 overseas students studying at universities in the UK.

At undergraduate level, the five years to 2010 saw a 5% rise in home students from the UK attending UK universities and a 27% increase in overseas students.

At postgraduate level, UK student numbers rose by nearly 9%, while those of overseas students increased by 37%.

Universities compete to attract students from overseas, who can bring valuable financial contributions as well as added status to an institution.

Students from other European Union countries have to pay whatever fees are charged to local students in England, Wales and Northern Ireland.

In Scotland, where Scottish students do not pay fees, EU students from outside of the UK do not pay fees, while students from other parts of the UK do.

Students from outside of the EU are charged a range of fees - with no upper limit.

'Closed for business'

University academics say the research shows the importance of foreign students to the UK.

The coalition government, in its drive to reduce immigration, is tightening controls on student visas.

Sally Hunt, the general secretary of the University and College Union said: "This report highlights the importance of foreign students to UK universities and the economy.

"Our universities are consistently enriched by the students and academics that come to this country to study, carry out research and share their knowledge.

"Politicians must be very careful not to restrict academic access or make ill-judged comments that give the impression UK universities are closed for business."

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