The UKâ€™s slight growth in international student recruitment over the past year overshadows a â€œglobal underperformanceâ€_x009d_ when compared with other countries, an analysis has warned
March 3, 2015 A British Council report, which analyses Higher Education Statistics Agency figures and Home Office data on student visa issuances, finds that the UKâ€™s market share of international students will continue to decline in 2014-15 amid continued US domination, as it has for the past three years.
â€œThe good news for UK higher education is that the number of new international enrolments grew in 2013-14 for the first time in three years,â€_x009d_ the report says. â€œThe bad news is that the UK continues to lose out to rival host destination countries, particularly Australia and the US.â€_x009d_
There was an increase of 4.6 per cent in the number of new international students enrolling in the UK in 2013-14 compared with the previous year â€“ a total of 272,835.
The UKâ€™s overall competitiveness may have â€œsimply returned to its long-term equilibriumâ€_x009d_, the report speculates, pointing out that the rapid growth seen from 2009 to 2011 was â€œultimately unsustainableâ€_x009d_. If this is indeed the case, a recent three-year decline in market share is â€œa course correction rather than a sign of lagging competitivenessâ€_x009d_, it adds.
Australia has shown strong growth in its new international enrolments over the past two years. The country reversed a three-year recruitment decline in 2013, registered a modest increase of 2.6 per cent and saw a 12.3 per cent rise the following year. However, this recovery means the country has only just returned to its 2009 recruitment levels.
According to Jeremy Chan, the British Councilâ€™s head of research and consultancy in East Asia and author of the report, despite this surge it is the US sector that offers â€œthe greatest source of competition for the UK sector over the long termâ€_x009d_. The US has outpaced all other major markets by a considerable margin since 2009, the report says.
â€œThat the UK higher education sector returned to growth in 2013-14 is cause for cautious optimism,â€_x009d_ Mr Chan concludes, â€œbut it remains unclear whether this growth was a result of favourable policy changes in the UK offer or simply the result of a rising tide lifting all boatsâ€_x009d_.
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