Some of Britain’s leading universities struggling with a funding crunch in the face of Brexit are expected to increasingly turn to recruiting more overseas students, who pay much higher fees than locals.
China and India are expected to be at the forefront of this overseas student influx, with university chiefs expecting their figures to surpass that of British students across UK campuses.
Anton Muscatelli, vice-chancellor of Glasgow University and chairman of the Russell Group, which represents the UK’s 24 leading institutions, told The Sunday Times that leading universities were now likely to try to recruit many more overseas students – particularly from China and India – to offset a series of financial challenges.
Muscatelli, who is considering increasing the proportion of Glasgow’s European Union (EU) and overseas students to up to half the total, said, “Many universities will try to do this because it will be the only way to respond to a sudden fall in income”.
According to the report, the UK’s higher education sector faces “a triple whammy” as if the UK leaves the EU without a deal, university leaders say it would be “catastrophic”, with the UK cut out of £1.3 billion of EU research funding and a collapse in EU student numbers.
In addition, an imminent government review is expected to recommend lowering the fees universities can charge undergraduates from the UK to £6,500 a year.
Professor Michael Arthur, president of University College London, said it might have to boost EU and overseas students to 50 per cent and cut its proportion of UK students in the face of deep uncertainty about the sector’s financial future.
Exeter University is already seeking to boost overseas student numbers by up to seven per cent.
Steve Smith, its vice-chancellor, said universities made money on overseas students but only broke even on UK students. In London, foreign students already outnumber British ones at the London School of Economics, where almost two-thirds are from abroad, and at Imperial College.
Professor Alan Smithers, of Buckingham University, told the newspaper that British students may feel increasingly uncomfortable at universities dominated by Chinese and Indian students.
He also warned that the government would face pressure for migration rules to be changed to allow overseas students to work after they finished their degrees.
“That would impact on the job prospects of British students,” said Smithers.
At top universities, overseas students pay more than £30,000 a year for a five-year medical degree, nearly four times as much as UK students whose fees are capped at 9,250 pounds.