High uni fees: Overseas students face deterrent over coming to UK
Aug 24: The high level of fees charged by Scottish and other UK
universities to overseas students damages the economy because it acts as a
deterrent to larger numbers of learners coming to the country, according to new
A paper by the independent Higher Education Policy Institute
(HEPI) highlighted the fact that overseas students bring enormous economic
benefits to the country where they study, amounting to a net cash benefit of
£18,000 a year.
HEPI argues that a lower fee for overseas students . . .
or one subsidised by the British taxpayer . . . would encourage more to come to
Britain, providing a significant boost to the economy.
The report comes
at a time when Scottish universities are increasingly courting the international
market with numbers from outside the EU more than doubling over the past six
years, to 2606 last year.
These students pay full fees at a market rate .
. . money which is in addition to that coming from the public purse to fund the
education of UK students . . . which allows universities greater flexibility in
the courses they teach and the research they pursue.
Recent figures show
that overseas students contribute £360m each year to the Scottish economy and it
has been shown that every three contribute one full-time equivalent job to the
The HEPI paper argues that it would be better for the overall
economy if they paid less in fees. "For non-EU students there is a problem as
fees are set by universities in whose interest it is to maximise their income
from fees, which they consequently set at a level that may deter large numbers
of students from attending," it states. "From the perspective of the national
interest a lower fee might be preferable if that would attract more students. A
lower fee might be in the wider national interest but would be against the
interest of individual universities.
"In the circumstances it would be in
the national interest for the taxpayer to subsidise non-EU international
students, as is the case with EU students, to maximise the number who attend our
universities and provide the greatest benefit to the country as a whole, looking
beyond the narrow interests of universities."
The paper points out that
in Germany, where foreign students attend virtually free of charge, the
government spends more than £1bn a year to support the cost of educating the
250,000 international students the country has, but is willing to do so because
of the wider benefits these students bring. However, Universities Scotland,
which represents university principals, said the object of bringing overseas
students to Scotland was not simply about the numbers arriving.
universities would agree that you don't want to expand the proportion of
overseas students indefinitely . . . it is not a matter of bringing in as many
as possible, but getting those that will enhance the performance of the
university, " said a spokesman.
"Most people agree that you don't want
universities to develop the characteristic of an airport terminal where there is
no cultural identity because it is just a fairly random mix of students from
around the world." He said it would be better to use any subsidy to target
countries where there were talented students who wanted to study in Scotland,
but couldn't afford the fees.
HEPI warned the stream of overseas students
could not be relied upon in the future. "Although numbers have been increasing
impressively there should be no presumption that this will continue," it states.
"As other countries begin to use English as the language of instruction . . .
and as better information becomes available that enables students to compare the
value they receive for their money, then it is quite possible that UK
universities will begin to struggle to maintain numbers while charging the sort
of prices that are charged at present." andrew denholm for the herald