Commission Raises Concerns Over Declining International Diversity in UK Universities

United Kingdom Europe Higher Education News International Studies by Erudera News Nov 07, 2023

The United Kingdom

The International Higher Education Commission has raised concerns about a decline in international diversity at universities in the United Kingdom, partly due to the lack of incoming Erasmus+ exchange students.

In its report, the Commission suggests that Internationalisation at home (IaH) should be an integral part of any UK’s higher education strategy in the future, reports.

Internationalization at home (IaH) allows students to acquire international and intercultural skills without the need to travel overseas.

According to the report, the decline in international diversity is also attributed to the continuing decrease in the number of students enrolled in foreign language courses, which it says is another worrying indicator of a potential “hollowing out of “international” capacity and capability on UK campuses.”

Chairman of IHEC and former universities minister Chris Skidmore said the evidence of the past year shows the UK’s international education offer can’t be about recruiting international students. He said campuses should become more international with exchange programs and international curriculums.

“We need to ensure that campuses are international with attractive international based curriculums, exchange programmes and inclusive facilities that ensure international students want to study in the UK because we offer the best courses compared to competitor countries,” Skidmore said.

He went on to say that the UK’s success in attracting international students is an important element in the broader success, such as the financial aspect, because the contribution of international students to the UK’s economy plays an important role across the sector.

“However, a key reason for launching the Commission was a recognition that a simple focus on overseas student numbers and revenue generation would not ensure the financial sustainability of the sector, and there needed to be recognition of the importance of other forms of capital – intellectual and social – and the return on investment they generate for all stakeholders,” Skidmore said.

During the 2021/22 academic year, international students contributed a total of £58 million to the UK economy. In other words, that contribution is equivalent to £560 per member of the resident population.

Among the Commission’s recommendations is further research to better understand the impacts and benefits that internationalization at home brings to create a growing body of resources that will assist in helping staff and students see those benefits.

As of 2021/2022, the total number of international students in the United Kingdom reached 679,970, of which 120,140 were from the European Union countries and 559,825 were non-EU, data from HESA, UCAS, the Home Office, and ONS showed.

The same source reveals that in the year ending June 2023, the UK issued 98,398 Graduate route visas while 498,626 visas were sponsored.

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