If you think the new government cap on tuition fees for international student recruitment is a bit steep, be grateful you’re not one of the influx of international students arriving here for the start of the upcoming academic year. Yes, 9,000 is a sizeable chunk of money – especially on an annual basis – but if, say, you’d arrived ready to study humanities at UCL, you’d be facing a bill of 14,000 a year. A science course there would set you back 16,250 a year. And if you were starting a medical course, you’d better have 27,500 saved up for each year you’re at UCL.
As for the price of accommodation within reasonable commuting distance, the word “fair” isn’t exactly applicable, not in and around London. So perhaps our international student might look outside London for that degree. At Bristol, maybe, where property rental prices are somewhat lower than those in the nation’s capital. As are uni courses. Well, at least the University of Bristol charge international students 250 less to study humanities than UCL do. On the other hand, when it evolves to a science course, it’s more expensive in Bristol than it would be at UCL. Only by five hundred pounds, which, regarding London accommodation prices, wouldn’t keep our student sheltered for very long. If, however, our student were to be looking for a medical course at Bristol, that would be another 3,500 a year to pop into the educational piggybank because medical courses there cost 31,000. A year.
That’s just for the average international university student. For international postgraduate students, though, things can be very different indeed. That’s because universities are free to charge them up to double the price a British national would pay for a postgraduate course. International students, you see, are large business indeed, whether they come here to study humanities, science or medicine. So the more of them arriving on these shores, the better off universities – and the country as a whole – will be, financially speaking. In 2010, the number of international higher education students from outside the UK rose 6.2% above the previous year’s total, to 298,110. Many of those additional students came from China and India. The number of Chinese students increased 43% in two years to 2011, up to 67,235. The number of Indian students rose to 39,090, a 14.7% increase. And in that same period, the number of Saudi Arabian students nearly doubled, to 10,270.
And it’s not surprising – after the United States, the UK is the second most popular destination for international students. British universities claimed 9.9% of the global market share in 2009, with earnings of 7.9 billion. That total, suggests the schools’ lobbying group, could double by the year 2025. But the government’s proposed changes to the UK visa system could dissuade international students from considering Britain a viable educational destination. This, says Professor Eric Thomas, President of Universities UK and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Bristol, could result in each British university losing between 5-7million each year.
But still, they come: universities are expecting record numbers of international students next year, despite rises in tuition fees for UK students which, no doubt, will be matched by a proportionate increase in costs for those coming from abroad. But this increase in tuition fees for UK students will prompt many of them to reconsider applying for a university place on the mainland. For some years now, British students have been leaving the country, to be welcomed by American universities and in the four years between 2007 and 2011, that number rose by 6% to a record total of 8,947. Other countries are now putting much more effort into their international student recruitment programs, meaning that like the UK and the US, they too realize international students are, indeed, colossal business.