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British universities lure Indian students

While Indian students continue to come to the UK, there has been a big drop in the number of Chinese students coming to study.

india Updated: Feb 25, 2006 19:42 IST

British universities have been trying to lure international students from India and China, but while Indian students continue to come to the UK, there has been a big drop in the number of Chinese students coming to study in Britain.

The trend is being seen as a permanent reverse to decade-long growth, according to an education expert and senior vice-chancellors.

In fact now China is trying to encourage Indian students to study in China.

Last year Tianjin University launched a recruitment drive in India. It is a cause for concern here as India is increasingly a target for British universities.

David Graddol, a language expert who has written reports for the British Council on trends in international education, believes that the growth in the number of Chinese students has stopped because of a huge expansion in the quantity and quality of Chinese higher education.

"Businessmen in Beijing and Shanghai have told me that as far as they are concerned, the sort of students who go to Britain are 'thick rich kids' who can't get into good Chinese universities," the told FT.

Universities UK, the body that represents the higher education sector, had blamed the fall in students from China, on increased competition from the US, as well as tough new visa rules.

But Professor Michael Sterling, vice-chancellor of Birmingham University and chairman of the Russell Group of top research universities, said the change is permanent. The "Chinese bubble has now burst", particularly for those institutions that did not enjoy reputations for excellence."

Early in the boom, Chinese students assumed all universities were of equal standing and quality," said Prof Sterling. "Now they have realised that British universities are actually very diverse and are becoming more selective."

Changxin Wu, the president of the Chinese Students and Scholars Association in the UK, said Chinese students were put off by the cost of living, changes to the visa fee system and the sense that they were not getting value for money.

"There is also a feeling that the quality of UK degrees has not kept up with the huge increase in cost," he said.

Last week, figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service showed a 13.6 per cent fall to 2,766 in Chinese students applying for undergraduate degrees, although these are early figures and may change. In 2005, the final figures slumped 35 per cent.

This week, John Prescott, the deputy prime minister, travelled to China to open Nottingham University's £40m Ningbo campus. Both Bill Rammell, the universities minister and Boris Johnson, his Conservative shadow, are planning to travel to China in April.

Johnson said that he hoped to promote the "fantastic advantages of studying in the UK", as well as learn about the competitive threat that was posed by China. He also said that British universities could not compete internationally unless they received more funding.

First Published: Feb 25, 2006 19:42 IST