Business and medicine popular among Asian students

The latest figures have shown the preferred choices for students in higher education
The latest figures have shown the preferred choices for students in higher education


THE most popular subjects studied by Asian students in the UK are related to business and medicine, data last week revealed.

New analysis of statistics by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) showed figures relating to the subjects chosen by UK-based students, sorted by their ethnicity.

In the academic year 2017-18, out of 48,550 Asian students, 9,470 studied business and administrative studies; while 8,460 chose subjects allied to medicine, data showed.

Across all levels of qualification, including undergraduates and post graduates, only 20 Asian students studied veterinary sciences (Eastern Eye has previously reported on how few Asian vets there are in the UK).

Agriculture and related subjects were the second least studied by Asian students, with data showing only 85 individuals enrolled in the subjects.

In the academic year 2016-17, data showed similarities – again, the most popular subjects taken by Asians were related to business and medicine.

Lord Karan Bilimoria, an Indian-origin businessman and chair of the Cambridge Judge Business School Advisory Board, believes the choice behind certain degrees can differ between India and the UK.

In India, he said, an individual can be influenced and directed towards degrees such as commerce, engineering and medicine because they are seen as “a pathway”.

Lord Karan Bilimoria says there is a difference in attitude towards subjects chosen to be studied between India and the UK

“In the UK, however, the attitude is different,” he said. “People are encouraged to study subjects at a degree level that they are passionate about, they enjoy and are interested in.”

His eldest son, for instance, studied theology at Cambridge University. Although he has no intention of pursuing a career as a priest, it was a subject he was passionate about.

“It is a great training of the mind and now my son is doing one year at the business school and will have a joint degree,” he said. “It is a well rounded education and it will be more
effective, having the theology as well as the management related studies.”

The peer, who is the president of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, suggested business studies is most popular with students, as the subject is considered useful.

The University of Birmingham, of which Bilimoria is chancellor, recently opened a campus in Dubai. Among the subjects on offer are business studies and computer studies.

“We know those are the subjects that are more popular from students in that region,” he said.

The table also concluded that out of 345,635 first degrees awarded to UK domiciled students in the most recent academic year, 23 per cent were awarded to black and minority ethnic students, including 11 per cent to Asian ethnicity students; six per cent to black students and five per cent to mixed and other ethnicity students.

Data shows the number of BAME university undergraduates has risen from 377,220 in 2014/15 to nearly 437,000 last year

These proportions varied across subjects, with 60 per cent of ophthalmic degrees (related to medicine) awarded to Asian ethnicity students, and 23 per cent of social policy degrees
achieved by black students.

Additional data showed other popular subjects taken by Asian students included social studies (4,330); biological sciences (4,185); education (4,165); law (3,095) and engineering and technology (2,940).

The least popular included mass communications and documentation (595); historical and philosophical studies (745); architecture, building and planning (1060) and languages (1,155).

The latest figures – according to a separate study – show that the number of BAME university undergraduates rose from 377,220 in 2014/15 to nearly 437,000 last year.

Bilimoria described the figures as “excellent news” although he was not surprised. The peer, who is also the founding chairman of the UK India Business Council, believed the increasing
numbers were a “manifestation of the wonderful aspirational country that Britain has become”.

“When I came here in the 80s, there was a glass ceiling for people from an ethnic minority background,” he said.

“[But the UK] has evolved, where it is so much more multicultural and has opportunities for all for us.”