Universities UK has responded to the latest data on students from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA).
The figures show that, between 2014/15 and 2015/16, there was a 1% increase (to 2,280,830) in the overall number of students in UK higher education. The statistics showed also a decrease of 5% in the number of part-time students since 2014/15 and a drop of 1% in the number of new international (non-EU) student enrolments.
Responding to the figures, Nicola Dandridge, Chief Executive of Universities UK, said: "The overall growth in student numbers is good news and highlights the continued demand for UK university degrees. The continued decline in numbers studying part-time, however, is a cause for concern, as is the flat-lining in international student (non-EU) numbers.
"While the total number of international students [non-EU] in the UK showed no growth during this period, we saw a further decline [-1%] in the number of new international students enrolling. This continues a worrying decline in the number of new international enrolments over recent years.
"While demand from Chinese students remains exceptionally strong, we have seen a further and worrying decline in student numbers from countries such as India [-9%] and Nigeria [-10%]. Numbers from India have almost halved since 2011. Malaysia and the United States have now overtaken India in the table of countries providing students to the UK. In comparison, the number of Indian students enrolling in the USA during the same period increased by 25%.
"The UK could be doing much better than this. The UK has the potential to be one of the world's fastest growing destinations for international students, building on its current status as the second most popular destination for international students [after the US]. The UK benefits enormously, economically and academically, from international students.
"If the UK wants to remain a top destination for international students and academics, it needs a new approach to immigration that is proportionate and welcoming for talented people from across the world. This will be even more important as the UK looks to enhance its place in the world post-Brexit."
1. This latest student data from HESA – Higher education student enrolments and qualifications obtained at higher education providers in the United Kingdom 2015/16 – is available from the HESA website.
2. According to the latest Open Doors Report released recently by the Institute of International Education (IIE), the number of international students at U.S. colleges and universities surpassed one million for the first time during the 2015/16 academic year – an increase of 7% from the previous year to a new high of nearly 1,044,000. For more information, see the data on the Institute of International Education website.