Roundup: China most important market for British universities: APPG report

LONDON, Nov. 6 (Xinhua) — British politicians have put the state of international students in Britain under the microscope, revealing China is the most important market for universities in Britain.

The result was revealed by a report from the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on Tuesday.

The APPG International Students set out to examine the challenges and opportunities of hosting international students in Britain. Their lengthy report is geared to influencing the British government policy to create a sustainable future for international students in Britain, particular after the country’s exit from the European Union (EU).

The MP’s inquiry was driven by the need to take a broader look at the place of international students in Britain part of the government’s intention to develop a new, post-Brexit immigration system.

The report showed that the Chinese mainland is the most important overseas market for higher education study in Britain. In 2016/17, students from Malaysia and China’s Hong Kong Special Administrative Region were the second and third most numerous groups respectively. From within the EU, Germany is the largest sending country.

At English language schools, students from China, Italy, and Saudi Arabia accounted for the majority of student weeks in 2017. The Independent Schools Council 2018 census notes that China accounted for the majority of international students at independent schools as of January 2018, followed by students from European countries.

The study also revealed that Britain is the second most popular destination for international study after the United States.

Findings showed that international students make up over half of postgraduate students at UK universities in the following subject areas: Business (63 percent), Engineering (60 percent) and Mathematics (58 percent).

“However, whilst the number of international students in the UK has increased for some parts of the education sector in previous years, this has been at a markedly reduced pace when compared with its competitors, namely the USA, Australia and Canada,” said the report.

Compared with its competitors, Britain’s international student market share has been in decline since 2011, with international student numbers in further and private education decreasing drastically in this decade.

Latest Higher Education Statistics Authority Data show that 72 British universities have lost over 43,000 international students over the past five years. These students would have supported around 24,000 jobs and brought 920 million pounds of positive economic impact to those universities and their local economies.

The report calls on the government to remove students from targets to reduce net-migration to successfully facilitate increasing numbers.

The Chartered Association of Business Schools told the inquiry: “The setting of targets for numbers of international students admitted to the UK and the associated inclusion of international students within the net migration target incorrectly implies that international students are driving immigration and are a burden to society. International students should be removed from these targets as it would send a clear message that the UK welcomes international students.”

The politicians heard evidence from the Bright Futures project at the University of Edinburgh which revealed the impact of internationalization on international students, with a focus on Chinese students, the largest national grouping of international students in the UK.

Chinese students in the study arrived with an expectation of internationalization, with over 80 percent choosing the UK in order to meet people from different backgrounds and enhance their career prospects, the report said.

Evidence also showed international students participating in volunteering activities in local communities at higher levels than home students. Universities Scotland told how volunteer Chinese students at the University of Edinburgh spend sessions in an East Lothian primary school supporting the class teacher in introducing Chinese cultural activities and language. Mandarin is now being introduced into two secondary schools in the county and the model is being adopted by other local authorities across Scotland.

In its conclusions the group said reports show the significant benefits international students bring to the education sector.

“What is clear from the evidence received by the Inquiry Committee is that the impact of international students is not felt in isolation by educational institutions, communities, regions and nations or on UK trade, research and soft power,” the report added.

The politicians say a key indicator of success would be a steady increase in the number of overseas students coming to Britain.

“For far too long the drive to reduce net migration has trumped the growth of our world class education system. Our campuses, local economies and global standing have suffered as a result,” the report warned.

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