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HEFCE closed at the end of March 2018. The information on this website is historical and is no longer maintained.

Many of HEFCE's functions will be continued by the Office for Students, the new regulator of higher education in England, and Research England, the new council within UK Research and Innovation.

The HEFCE domain - - will continue to function until September 2018. At this point we will close the site entirely and all its information will only be available from the National Web Archive.


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International (non-EU) students

International students from outside the European Union (EU) made up approximately 60 per cent of all full-time entrants to taught masters programmes. This proportion has increased slightly over the past decade, but a stronger trend is the change in where those students come from, which has included an increasing dependence on Chinese students.

Key facts

26 per cent of international students on taught PG courses are Chinese

34 per cent are from other non-EU countries

The share of students on taught masters who come from China increased from 12 to 26 per cent between 2007-08 and 2015-16, while the share from other international (non-EU) countries declined from 42 to 34 per cent over the same period.

In part this reflects strong growth in the number of Chinese students, of whom there were 32,500 who started taught masters programmes in 2015-16. This means that there are currently similar numbers of Chinese and UK masters students, although increased participation of UK students as a result of the postgraduate loan system is likely to change this.

However, there have been large falls in the number of entrants from some other key international markets. The number of Indian entrants to taught postgraduate degrees fell by 11 per cent to 4,800 in 2015-16 compared to the previous year, while the number of Nigerian entrants fell by 20 per cent to 3,500. The latter means that the United States became the third largest market for taught postgraduate students in 2015-16, with Nigeria now the fourth largest.

For postgraduate research degrees, there was a decline of 7.3 per cent (700 students) in entrants from non-EU countries in 2015-16 compared with the previous year. Overall, and unlike on taught masters programmes, research students are most likely to be from the UK. In 2015-16, 56 per cent of entrants to postgraduate research degrees were from the UK, 14 per cent were from elsewhere in the EU and 30 per cent were from non-EU countries. These proportions have been broadly unchanged over the past decade.

Page last updated 2 March 2017