Overcoming Challenges for International Student Recruitment
The United Kingdom is the second most popular destination for international students, with four UK universities in the world’s top ten. In 2014-15 international students made up 19% of all students registered at UK universities. International students generate more than £25 billion for the UK economy and provide a significant boost to regional areas. In addition, the contribution of international students to the diversity of Higher Education and to British soft power are also of great significance (Universities UK, 2017).
Until 2011 the number of international students was increasingly growing by 3-4% on an annual basis. However, the introduction of legislative changes on the student visa system, overhauling the student visa route, coupled with the decision of the UK to leave the European Union, has led to a dramatic fall in the international student applications in the last five years. According to Hobson’s International Student Survey 2016, 36% of prospective international EU and non EU students felt that Brexit had made them less likely to choose the UK for their studies, with the country seeming less welcoming ranking as the main factor according to 59% of the respondents. As recent data from UCAS indicates, the number of EU applicant figures decreased by 7% to 42,070 in 2017, the first decrease in nearly a decade.
Moreover, the commitment of the Government to reduce net migration to 100,000 per year, a figure that includes international students, is posing an additional hurdle to attracting overseas students. This was emphatically highlighted in the Education Select Committee’s Exiting the EU: challenges and opportunities for higher education (April 2017) which recommended the removal of international students from the net target, and identified rising numbers opting for competitor countries like Australia, Canada and Germany.