Russell Group response to The Times article on international student fee income

25 March 2024

Commenting on reporting in The Times on 24 March 2024, regarding the proportion of universities' fee income that comes from international students, Dr Tim Bradshaw, Chief Executive of the Russell Group said:

"International students are an important part of our university communities, enriching the learning environment for all. The fee income from international students is reinvested into high-quality teaching and research to benefit all students – covering the shortfall in the Government funding system for UK students. However, with shortfalls growing, this leaves the sector vulnerable to shocks.

"Indeed, early data suggests that changes to UK government policies, including the ban on postgraduate taught students bringing dependants, are already having an impact on international student numbers. These changes need time to bed in and any further restrictions on student immigration, such as to the Graduate Route, could significantly destabilise the sector, and result in less spending in local communities, fewer opportunities for domestic students and less UK research.

"This is why we need a joined-up approach from Government to support the financial resilience of the sector, ensure the UK remains an attractive destination for international study and research, and commit to a long-term sustainable HE funding approach that is fair, affordable and protects a vital pipeline of skills."


Notes to editors

On HESA data:

  1. The latest HESA data shows that intakes of domestic undergraduate students at Russell Group universities grew faster than international students between 2016-17 and 2021-22. (See our briefing on international students and fair admissions)
  2. According to the latest HESA open data from 2021/22, income from international fees represents 23% of total income across Russell Group universities. International and domestic student fees combined make up 39% of total income at Russell Group universities. This compares to 63% of total income at non-Russell Group universities.
  3. There are a number of factors that contribute to the change in fee income proportions over time, including the post-Brexit change in fee status of EU students from home to international, the long-term freeze in domestic tuition fees at undergraduate level, as well as caps on domestic places in Scotland and Northern Ireland.

On domestic teaching funding shortfalls:

  1. The Russell Group estimates that English universities supplemented the cost of undergraduate education by an average of £2,500 per student per year in 2022/23. Without a change in government policy and with fees capped at £9,250 per year, we conservatively project this to increase to £5,000 per student per year by 2029/30.

On international students:

  1. The MAC estimates the ban on PGT dependants could see a fall of 120,000 in main applicants and family members.


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