UK higher education at a glance
The UUKi report gives a glowing account of UK higher education. Source: Shutterstock

Choosing to pursue your degree in the UK may be one of the best investments you’ll make, if a recent report by Universities UK International (UUKi) is anything to go by.

Titled International Facts and Figures 2019, the report found that many students reported feeling satisfied with their UK qualification while one in five staff at UK higher education institutions are international, which is said to be integral to the success of teaching and research in the UK. 

“UK higher education is a global success story,” said UUKi Director Vivienne Stern in the report. “Our universities are world-renowned for their quality, diversity and impact and internationalisation is central to this success.” 

The UUKi report presents a snapshot of the international dimensions of UK higher education. This includes research collaborations, student mobility, international academic and non-academic staff living and working in the UK, among other things.

The UK is a popular study destination among Asian international students

Where do international students come from? Source: UUKi report

The UK was the second most popular destination in the world for international students in 2016. 

There were 458,490 international students studying in UK higher education institutions in 2017-2018, accounting for 19.6 percent of the UK’s total student population. A total of 14 percent of all undergraduates and 35.8 percent of all postgraduates were international.

In 2017-2018, the top five sending countries for international students were China, India, the US, Hong Kong and Malaysia. Researchers note that Chinese students at UK higher education institutions made up 23.2 percent of all international students, while the top sending countries within the EU were Italy, France and Germany. 

Despite that, the UK’s growth rate has been “consistently low”, dropping from 0.5 percent in 2015 to 0.3 percent in 2016. 

Conversely, their competitors have enjoyed better growth rates. The number of international students choosing Australia, Canada, the US and Germany grew by 13.9 percent, 10.4 percent, 7.1 percent and 6.9 percent respectively from 2015 to 2016.

Sluggish growth rates aside, UK higher education is still highly valued by students. 

UUKi research found that a whopping 90 percent of international graduates were satisfied with the learning experience at their university, while 80 percent were satisfied or very satisfied with the support provided during their time in the UK and 82 percent believe their UK degree was worth the financial investment.

What do international students study? Source: UUKi report

Top 5 popular areas of study (both undergraduate and postgraduate) in 2017-2018:

  • Business and administrative studies 
  • Engineering and technology 
  • Social studies
  • Creative arts and design
  • Biological sciences

International staff

An overview of UK higher education institutions’ staff. Source: UUKi report

In 2017–2018, 87,615 international staff worked at UK higher education institutions (i.e. one in five staff were international), an increase of 25.3 percent since 2013–14. Almost 60 percent of international staff came from the EU.

International research

“The UK punches above its weight as a research nation: with only 0.9 percent of the world’s population, it produced 15.2 percent of the world’s most highly cited articles in 2015,” notes the report.

“The UK’s higher education institutions’ global partnerships and collaborations make a vital contribution to the excellence and impact of its research base.

“The share of internationally co-authored publications in the UK reached 55.2 percent in 2018, and the proportion of UK research funding from overseas sources has also increased. In 2017–18, 23 percent of total UK research funding came from international and/or EU sources,” it said.

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