UK: Rise in foreign students, fall in part-timers

Latest figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency on student enrolment show an 8% increase in demand for full time postgraduate degrees among non-EU students and 2% for students from the European Union. The British Council commented: "While this is an excellent indicator of the quality and reputation of UK research and postgraduate courses, it also signifies that international students are increasingly coming to the UK to study shorter courses."

The council said that parallel to this, there had been a significant drop in enrolments of UK students, 2% in full-time postgraduate numbers and 3% in part-time students. This indicated a growing reliance on recruitment from overseas at postgraduate level.

The council added: "We cannot therefore afford to be complacent - particularly in the current environment - which is why the British Council is encouraging universities to build on this success in a sustainable way by focusing more on creating long-term, mutually beneficial partnerships with overseas institutions, and less on pure recruitment activities."

The university think-tank million+, whose 28 member institutions include the former polytechnics, is concerned at the 3% drop in part-time enrolments of undergraduate students in England.

Professor Les Ebdon, chair of million+ and vice-chancellor of the University of Bedfordshire, said the decline was a direct effect of the government's decision to exclude part-time students from the loan and grant support package that was made available to full-time students to help them cope with the introduction of variable fees.

Ebdon said universities had warned ministers from the start that this was unfair. The fact that they have been proved correct could be of little comfort to the government which has already had to freeze additional student numbers.

"It is even more illogical to retain a policy of charging part-time students upfront fees at a time of recession and rising unemployment. We now need a serious and urgent increase in higher education funding to ensure that additional student numbers are funded and that part-time study at university is free at the point of enrolment."

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