In a new report from Universities UK, it has been revealed that a record 125,000 students from the European Union were awarded places at higher education institutions in Britain last year – 35,000 more than ten years ago. The total number of students – both undergraduates and postgraduates – in the UK has increased by 28 per cent over the last decade to
just under 2.5 million. The report provides statistics from over 130 institutions of higher education across Britain.
As EU students contribute towards the maximum number of university places, they are in direct competition with UK students. Despite the increasing number of British students applying for university places every year, the percentage increase of those going to university is less than that of EU students, with a 20 per cent increase in British students and a 40 per cent increase in EU students over ten years. In addition, EU students are entitled to the same government subsidised loan as UK students, causing concern as figures show the
amount of money owed by European graduates increased from £42m in 2008 to £167m just a year later. However, EU students still only account for 5 per cent of the total student body and many students from the UK are able to enjoy easy access to enriching exchange programmes due to our friendly relations with the rest of Europe.
The report also revealed that the largest rise in admissions came from foreign students outside of the EU who do not count towards the cap on places and can be charged much higher tuition fees – in some cases eight times as much as students from the EU and the UK. Approximately 280,760 international students were admitted to universities in the UK last year, which is more than double the number ten years ago. At Royal Holloway in the 2009/10 academic year, 20% of our students came from outside of the EU, but contributed £22,096,000 in tuition fees, which is more than the £21,882,000 contributed by UK and EU students combined. Royal Holloway is not unique in this respect; many British universities are increasingly relying on the tuition fees from overseas students to make up the deficit in higher education budgets. As university fees in the UK increase and the international university market becomes more competitive, British universities risk losing their global status for academic excellence.