THE number of foreign students from outside the EU studying at Scotland’s universities has risen by more than 11 per cent in the last year, new figures show.
The biggest rise was in the number of students from China, with a 33 per cent rise from 4,680 to 6,145.
Information released by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) showed there had been a 1.7 per cent fall in UK students at Scottish institutions from 2009-10 to 2010-11.
In contrast, the number of students from the rest of Europe and those from outwith the EU has continued to rise.
According to the statistics released yesterday, the number of EU students from outside the UK has grown by more than two per cent, while the rise in non-EU students was 11.2 per cent.
Universities Scotland, the umbrella organisation representing the country’s universities, said that while the figures on foreign students were “encouraging”, changes to the immigration system brought in by the UK Border Agency meant the number of foreign students was likely to fall away again.
Alastair Sim, the organisation’s director, said: “Scotland’s universities are regarded very highly around the world. These figures show a double-digit increase in international students since last year and more than double the increase in England.
“The majority of international students come to Scotland to study shorter courses at postgraduate level which accounts for the sharp increases in just one year.”
“However encouraging these numbers seem, they pre-date changes to immigration brought in by UKBA and so do not take account of the negative impact this might have had on international student applications.”
Robin Parker, president of the National Union of Students in Scotland, said he was “concerned” there had been a drop in the number of UK students.
He said: “These figures show that Scotland remains a top destination for international students, and for good reason. We have a proud tradition of being a welcoming country, with world class education institutions.
“However, we note with concern the number of UK-domiciled students studying in Scotland has dropped. Although it’s important to note that the number of international students places are unconnected to the number of places available for domestic students, we will be closely watching to ensure that the number of students in the UK does not see a further drop.”
Yesterday, a study by the University and College Union (UCU) revealed Scotland has escaped the worst of cuts which have seen the number of courses at UK universities slashed by 27 per cent in the past five years. While courses in England have been cut by 31 per cent, the figure for Scotland is 3 per cent.
A Scottish Government spokesperson said: “While international students make a significant contribution to campus life in Scotland, we have guaranteed places at Scottish universities for Scottish students. UCAS applications for 2012/13 showed that Scotland is bucking the trend with a very positive outlook for Scots-domiciled students applying to Scottish institutions.”