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1 in 5 international students in UK universities are from China – report

Chinese students - boon or bane to the UK? Source: AFP/Ben Stansall

Chinese students continue to form the majority of international students in UK universities, a new report by Universities UK International (UUKi) has found.

There were 95,090 Chinese students studying in the UK higher education sector during the 2016-17 academic year, up by 4.2 percent compared to the year before, according to data from the country’s Higher Education Statistics Agency.

Comparatively, the country that sends the second largest group of students is the US with 17,580, representing less than one-fifth of the Chinese cohort. This is followed by Hong Kong (16,680), India (16,550) and Malaysia (16,370) – all of which saw a decreased figure from the previous academic year.

From the EU, Germany sent the largest group of students over with 13,735 students, followed by France (13,560) and Spain (8,820).

Interestingly, all three countries saw an increase in the number of citizens studying in UK universities compared to the year before. This contradicts fears that the UK’s Brexit vote would spook students from EU nations to study in other countries where they would not face fees usually imposed on non-EU learners, which tend to be significantly higher.

“While leaving the European Union will have an impact on the UK higher education sector, the extent of this remains to be seen – and the extensive, invaluable international networks of our universities will be fundamental to ensuring the UK remains open to the world,” UUKi Director Vivienne Stern wrote in the report.

Do UK universities have too many business students?

If the countries of origin show a less diverse international student cohort in the UK, the types of subjects they enrol in indicate even lesser variety.

More than one in four international students (27 percent) are enrolled in business and administrative studies – this represents a group several times larger than the one enrolled in the second and third favourite fields of study, ie. Engineering and technology studies; and social studies.

And while the UK government has over the years made the country a more “hostile environment” for international students, the report found that a significant majority (78 percent; close to four out of five) of undergraduate students believing that studying alongside international peers prepares them for working in a global environment.

Students say international students offer them a better worldview, more awareness about cultural sensitivities as well as helping them develop a global network.

Close to three-quarter (73 percent) of the British public register the same positive sentiment, according to the report, which found that this majority would like to see the same number or more international students coming to study in the UK.

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