While the UK has been attracting a large number of international students across different levels of education over the past few years, new research has highlighted that the same cannot be said for the international doctoral student numbers, an area other countries like Canada and Germany have been excelling.
A UUKi Global demand for UK Postgraduate Research Degrees report highlighted that the incoming international doctoral students in the UK saw a rise of 2.7% of the 2013 numbers, whereas both Canada and Germany have experienced a 22.9% and 62.5% jump in numbers, respectively, since 2013.
Janet Ilieva, Founder and Director of Education Insight and co-author of the report with UUKi, stated that international students significantly contribute to UK research, bringing in valuable connections while strengthening inter-university research collaborations. She continued stating that the report highlighted a reduced attractiveness in the UK.
In addition to the drop in numbers, countries like the UK and France have seen a dip of 2% and 2.5% respectively in market share, meanwhile, the market share of Germany rose to 4%. The Pie News further reported that the UK has been suffering in regards to non-EU and EU postgraduate research enrolments.
According to Pie News, in 2014, the postgraduate research entrants were calculated to be around 4,275, which had further declined by 22.3% in 2020/21. In terms of non-EU entrants, the biggest dip in numbers was seen between 2015/16 and 2016/17. During the 2020/21 recovery period, the numbers did not improve, with just 10,755 enrolments as compared to 10,910 enrolments in 2013/14
Peter Mason, the Head of Global Research and Innovation at UUKi, stated that the country is facing an uncertain operating environment for universities to recruit international PGR students, which is likely to have a negative impact on universities' ability to maintain the current levels of doctoral students.”
Mason suggested the UK government increase their R&D funding levels and UK universities utilise their “TNE partnerships to create new collaborative international PGR study opportunities and generate potential markets”, in a bid to combat these challenges. In addition to these suggestions, the report added that a “well-funded research ecosystem” allowing for flexible resources to support PGR recruitment, should be developed.
A bid trend set in the 2020/21 report highlighted that a big portion of the international postgraduate research entrants in 2020/21 were Chinese students, growing over 20% since 2019, totalling around 3,800 students. This significant increase in Chinese students also led to a considerable rise “in the number of ‘self-funded entrants’ in 2020/21”.
However, while the report highlighted several declines across trends, the demand for UK TNE (Transnational Education) at the postgraduate level has been steadily increasing. According to the report, the “TNE postgraduate research degree numbers” has been at an all-time high at 7,500 in 2020/21 - an 18.1% rise from 2019/20. This compared to the TNE postgraduate research numbers in Germany have been down by 11.3% over the past 4 years.
Another recommendation highlighted by the reports suggests better articulation of the importance and role that international postgraduate research students hold in terms of UK science and innovation, in addition to the UK’s economy.
Source: The Pie News
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