Education & Family

Overseas students 'to increase in UK universities'

University graduates
Image caption The UK should take advantage of the globalisation of higher education, says the British Council

The number of overseas students in UK universities will rise by a further 10% this decade, says a study for the British Council.

Only Australia is set to have a bigger increase in overseas students.

It forecasts that India rather than China will send the most students in this lucrative global market.

Jo Beall, the British Council director of education, says the "next 10 years will be critical" if the UK is to take advantage.

Speaking ahead of the British Council's Going Global conference, Dr Beall says there is a "decade of opportunity" for the UK to benefit from an increasingly-mobile international student population.

Shifting power

"In an increasingly connected and inter-dependent world, a willingness and ability to collaborate internationally and to respond to changing trends are vital," said Dr Beall.

By the end of the last decade there were 3.5m students studying overseas - and even though the rate of increase will slow, the overall number is expected to continue to rise.

Setting out global trends in higher education until 2020, the British Council study forecasts an increasing importance for Asian countries, challenging the longstanding domination of the United States.

By 2020, China will have almost twice as many students as the United States.

But the British Council predicts that it will be India rather than China that will be key player for sending students overseas.

Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency show that currently China is by the far the biggest provider of overseas students to the UK -with 67,000 students in the UK, compared with 39,000 from India.

The figures from 2011 show that about 12% of students at UK universities are from overseas - which is categorised as being outside the European Union.

In terms of the potential market for higher education, the British Council highlights that by 2020, just four countries will account for more than half of the world's 18 to 22 year olds - India, China, the United States and Indonesia.

The British Council says that the biggest single expansion in overseas students is likely to be Australia, which it predicts will be teaching an extra 50,000 by 2020.

But it says that the UK could be the second-biggest in terms of increasing overseas student numbers, predicting a rise of 30,000.

The British Council also highlights how university research has become internationalised - with more than a third of research now involving international collaborations.

The forecasts are issued in advance of this week's Going Global conference in London, examining university globalisation, which will bring together 1,300 higher education leaders from around the world.

Related Internet links

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external Internet sites