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Report highlights foreign students' importance to UK universities

22 September 2011 | last updated: 11 December 2015

UCU says coalition's student visa reforms could hit universities' finances

The number of foreign students studying at UK universities has rocketed over the past five years, according to statistics released today.
UCU warned that changes to student visas risked making the UK a less popular destination for foreign students, which, based on today's figures, would be bad news for UK universities as they struggled to adjust to huge government funding cuts.
The number of non-UK domicile students studying at UK universities at undergraduate level has shot up by 27.2% from 158,300 to 201,405 and the number studying a postgraduate qualification has increased by 37.4% from 148,740 to 204,400, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
During that same period of time (2005/06 to 2009/10) the number of UK-domicile undergraduate students studying in Wales fell by 8.1%, by 6.2% in Northern Ireland and by 0.8% in Scotland, although the number in England increased by 7%. See the full statistics.
UCU general secretary, Sally Hunt, said: 'This report highlights the importance of foreign students to UK universities and the economy. The government might think soundbites around immigration play well to a domestic audience, but they risk doing real harm to our universities. 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.'
Earlier this week a report (.pdf) by chartered accountants, Grant Thornton, warned that the three biggest challenges universities face are changes to student visa regulations, the dramatic drop in government funding and coping with the new fees regime.