International student statistics: UK higher education

Please note - all statistics listed below are from the publicly available statistics on the Higher Education Statistical Agency (HESA) website.  UKCISA does not gather this data.  You can view the full interactive charts on the HESA website.

Universities UK have written a useful overview of what the latest stats tell us. 

Note: totals differ in the tables below due to rounding within the HESA data.

International (non-UK) students in UK HE in 2016-17

  • 81% of students studying in HE in the UK are from the UK.  6% are from the rest of the EU and 13% are from the rest of the world.
  • The total number of non-UK students studying in the UK in 2016-17 is 442,375
  • 42% of students studying at postgraduate level in the UK are from outside the EU.
  • The number of Chinese students far exceeds any other nationality; almost one third of non-EU students in the UK is from China. This is the only country showing a significant increase in student numbers (14% rise since 2012-13)
  • The next largest number of non-EU students in the UK is from India but the number has declined by 26% since 2012-13.
  • Across the UK:
    • England has the highest number of students from outside the EU (14%)
    • Scotland has the highest number of students from the EU (not including UK) (9%)
    • Wales has had the largest decrease in numbers from students from outside the EU (25% drop since 2013-14)
    • Northern Ireland has seen a 12% decrease in students from outside the EU since 2013-15.

For graphics and commentary on this summary, see the HESA website.  


International students in UK HE by domicile, level and mode,
European Union (EU) (excluding UK) and non-EU, 2016-17

Level of Study/Domicile Full-time Part-time Total
EU students (non-UK domicile) in HE    
Postgraduate (research) 12,450 2,530 14,980
Postgraduate (taught) 23,740 7,580 31,320
First degree 85,165 1,800 86,965
Other undergraduate 1,840 2,530 4,370
Total non-UK EU 123,200 14,800 138,000
Non-EU students in HE    
Postgraduate (research) 29,875 2,535 32,410
Postgraduate (taught) 106,670 11,765 118,435
First degree 146,145 2,980 149,125
Other undergraduate 6,155 6,535 12,690
Total non-EU 288,845 23,815 312,660
All non-UK domicile in HE    
Postgraduate (research) 42,325 5,070 47,395
Postgraduate (taught) 130,415 19,345 149,760
First degree 231,310 4,780 236,090
Other undergraduate 7,995 9,425 17,420
Total non-UK 412,045 38,615 450,660

Source: HESA 'HE student enrolments (including on AP designated courses) by domicile and level of study 2016/17'
Note that 'non-EU' stats include EEA.
For definitions of categories, see HESA website


Higher Education qualifications obtained in 2016-17

Full time study Doctorate(research)

Other Postgraduate 
(research) 

Masters
 (taught) 
Other postgraduate  PGCE First degree Foundation degree  HNC/HND  Other undergraduate
UK domicile 9,620 2,100 37,545 9,340 18,070 313,915 8,240 3,280 26,600
EU (not UK) 2,985 490 16,645 705 420 20,850 115 60 1,515
non-EU 7,195 1,145 79,835 4,305 165 47,855 115 95 4,825
Part time study

 

       
UK domicile 2,930 685 28,085 33,290 785  30,330 5,040 2,810 20,565
EU (not UK) 460 50 1,900 930 5 480 45 10 355
non-EU 450 30 4,140 1,725 5 910 15 40 785
All students (part time and full time)            
UK domicile 2,930 2,785 65,630 42,630 18,855 344,245 13,280 6,090 47,165
EU (not UK) 3,445 540 18,545 1,635 425 21,330 160 70 1870
non-EU 7,645 1,175 83,975 6,030 170 48,765 130 135 5,610

 Data from HESA HE qualifications obtained by level of qualification 2012/13 - 2016/17

For definitions of categories, see HESA website


International student numbers by UK nation 2016-17

Country Total EU students (not incl UK) Total non-EU students Total international students
England 104,875 258,710 363,585
Scotland 21,245 31,045 52,290
Wales 6,235 14,970  21,206
Northern Ireland 2,480 2,810 5,290
UK 134,835 307,540 442,375

Source: HESA Table 11 HE student enrolments by domicile and region of HE provider 2016/17
Note that Total = full time and part time students studying at all levels


Top Ten non-EU sending countries

Country 2016-17  2015-16 2014-15 2013-14
China (PRC)  95,090 91,215 89,540 87,895
Malaysia  16,370 17,405 17,060 16,635
United States of America  17,580 17,115 16,865 16,485
India  16,550 16,745 18,320 19,750
Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region)  16,680 16,745 16,215 14,725
Nigeria  12,665 16,100 17,920 18,020
Saudi Arabia  8,065 8,570 8,595 9,060
Singapore  7,300 7,540 7,295 6,790
Thailand  6,175 6,095 6,240 6,340
Canada  5,915 5,980 6,075 6,350

Source: HESA Figure 11 - Top ten non-European Union countries of domicile in 2016/17 for HE student enrolments 2012/13 and 2016/17


Top EU sending countries

Country 2016-17  2015-16 2014-5 2013-14
Germany  13,735 13,425 13,675 14,060
France  13,560 12,525 11,955 11,500
Italy  13,455 12,135 10,525 9,550
Republic of Ireland  10,070 10,245 10,905 11,490
Greece  10,045 9,790 10,130 10,670
Cyprus
 9,145 9,330 9,745 10,295
Spain  8,820 7,840 7,040 6,585
Romania  8,110 7,200 6,590 6,515
Poland 6,585 5,655 5,245  5,200
Bulgaria 6,585 6,195 6,255  6,355

Source: HESA Figure 10 - Top ten European-Union countries of domicile (excluding the UK) in 2016/17 for HE student enrolments


International student numbers by subject area 2016-17

Subject of study Number of international students
Business & administrative studies 121,675
Engineering and technology 52,545
Social studies 42,170
Creative arts and design 30,220
Law 23.090
Biological Sciences 23,395
Subjects allied to medicine 21,455
Languages 19,515
Computer Science 19,925
Architecture, building and planning 12,875
Physical Sciences 15,450
Medicine and dentistry 10,500
Education 10,445
Mass communications and documentation 11.645
Mathematical Sciences 9,715
Historical and philosophical studies 9,870
Combined 2,770
Agriculture and related subjects 2,225
Veterinary Science 1,264

Source: HESA HE student enrolments by subject of study and domicile 2016/17


Top 20 largest recruiters of international students 2016-17

Institution postgraduate research students postgraduate taught students  undergraduate students (1st degree and 'other UG') Total number of international students
University College London 2,295  5,510 7,925 15,735
The University of Manchester 1,745 4,415 7,345 13,505
The University of Edinburgh 1,805  3,745 5,940 11,490
Coventry University 215  3,060 7,425 10,705
Kings College London 945  3,775 5,275 9,990
Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine 2,100  2,545  4,250 8,900 
University of the Arts, London 55 1995  6,505 8,550
The University of Warwick 780  3,455 4,220 8,455
The University of Oxford 2,785  3,130 2,340 8,255
The University of Glasgow 970  3,175 4,090 8,235
The University of Sheffield 1,270  2,930 4,025 8,225
The University of Birmingham 1,045  3,610 3,550 8,210
City, University of London 225  4,250 3,030 7,560
London School of Economics and Political Science 355  4,750 2,435 7,545
The University of Leeds 1,065  3,425 3,040 7,530
Cardiff University 655  2,780 4,090 7,520
The University of Liverpool 845  1,350 5,295 7,485
The University of Nottingham 1,375  1,910 3,990 7,275
The University of Southampton 1,130  2,895 3,090 7,110
The University of Cambridge 2,815  1,290 2,645 6,750

Source: Figure 6 HESA Student Enrolments by HE provider and domicile 2016/17 
Note that totals include EU and non-EU students and the total figures may slightly vary due to how HESA rounds numbers.


Top 10 countries hosting students studying wholly overseas for a UK qualification 2016-17

Country Total number of students
Malaysia  74,180
China  70,240
Singapore  48,290
Pakistan  43,870
Nigeria 32,925
Hong Kong  27,390
Sri Lanka 24,480
Egypt  21,695
Oman  21,250
United Arab Emirates 17,750
India 17,060 

Source: HESA Chart 5 Transnational students studying wholly overseas for a UK higher education qualification 2016/17


HE student enrolments studying wholly overseas in EU and outside EU 2016/17

 

studying in the EU studying outside the EU  total students studying outside UK for UK degree
Overseas campus of reporting HE provider 965 24,650 25,615
Distance, flexible or distributed learning    22,175 95,020 117,195
Other arrangement including collaborative provision    12,740 133,925 146,665
Total students registered at a UK HE provider    35,880 253,595 289,475 
Overseas partner organisation    41,935 368,780 410,715
Other arrangement 590 7,130 7,720
Total students studying for an award of a UK HE provider    42,525 375,910 418,435 
Total 78,405 629,510 707,915

Source: HESA Figure 12 - HE student enrolments studying wholly overseas by location of provision 2012/13 to 2016/17


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