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Fall of international engineering students at UK universities

Fall in number of international engineering students at UK universities

Published: 21/11/2016

Engineering departments in non-Russell Group universities are reporting widespread falls in the number of students coming from outside the EU, according to a survey by the Engineering Professors’ Council (EPC). The findings reveal that, while most Russell Group universities have seen increases in international students, other UK engineering departments have experienced significant losses.

The Early Enrolments Survey, which provides an early snapshot of numbers of new engineering students before official figures are published, is conducted annually by the EPC, the body representing engineering in UK higher education. The 2016 survey includes data from 56 different universities and 100 departments and faculties, of which 43 are in Russell Group universities, across various engineering disciplines such as mechanical, electrical and civil engineering.

For undergraduate courses, the majority of engineering departments in Russell Group universities recorded gains in non-EU students, with a quarter reporting increases of over 10%. Out of 40 departments, just three recorded falls.

In other universities over 35% experienced a drop in the number of non-EU students, compared to just seven out of a total of 55 reporting an increase. Nine universities recorded a decrease of over 10%.
According to the report, falls in international students might be attributed to concerns over Brexit. Some departments have reported international students expressing concerns over whether the UK is still a welcoming destination for them. The trend may also reflect increased competition from universities in other countries.

Traditionally, engineering courses have been among the UK’s most attractive courses for international students. Non-EU students pay higher tuition fees than UK and EU students and so are critical to the economic model of engineering departments, where the cost of running courses tends to exceed the fees received from UK students.

Professor Stephanie Haywood, President of the EPC, said: “It’s encouraging that our elite universities are continuing to attract international students, but these figures are extremely troubling for the wider diversity of our higher education system.
“Attracting the brightest and best young engineers from all over the world has long been key to British strengths in innovation and industry. If the UK is a less welcoming place, we will face a cost.”