Top Source Countries For International Students In The UK

Oxford, one of the most famous universities in the United Kingdom.
Oxford, one of the most famous universities in the United Kingdom.

Higher education in the UK seems quite attractive for students from other countries. An estimated 18% of all higher education students in the UK come from foreign countries. For many years the UK has remained the number-one destination for international students with schools in the UK enrolling 272,835 new international students in the 2013-2014 period; surpassing the US which recorded 270,128 new international students during the same period. The UK is also the global leader in international students with the country boasting of a 13% market share of the estimated 5 million international students around the world. All of the top five source countries for these international students are non-EU member countries, and these are China, India, Nigeria, the US, and Malaysia.

Asian Countries Among Top Sources Of International Students In The UK

China is identified as the UK’s top source country for international students with the Asian country accounting for 19.8% of the UK’s international students. India is another Asian country which is a major source country and accounts for 5.3% of the UK’s total international students. These two countries are a testament of the priority that Asian countries place on education. A common cultural characteristic that has been observed in many Asian countries is that higher education are viewed with great prestige. Asian families and communities have been known to come together and pool resources to support an individual’s pursuit of achieving higher education in foreign countries with the one of most ideal destination being the UK. These international students from Asian countries inject about $4 billion annually into the UK’s GDP through tuition fees. A recent study conducted by researchers from Lingnan University indicated that upon graduation and returning home, international students from Asia find it easy to obtain employment opportunities (about 59% of international students getting jobs three months after graduating). The finding rubbished the common misconception claiming that these students find it hard to get jobs in their respective home countries. Many of the graduates from Asian countries studying in the UK institutions of higher learning return for postgraduate degrees and the institutions provide discounts to returning international students.


The fact that non-EU member countries account for the largest number of international students has led to some criticism of the influx of international students in the UK. Immigration has been a controversial topic in the UK in recent years with the high number of foreigners being linked to numerous social ills ranging from rising levels of unemployment among UK citizens to violent terrorist attacks. Some critics against the increased number of international students see international students as competing for the limited job opportunities in the UK and some politicians have even proposed to add international students in the migrant statistics. Reports have also surfaced that claim that many immigrants settle in the UK while feigning student status and take advantage of the benefits associated with the status, some even ending up with five-figure salaried jobs. However, despite these concerns, the vast majority of the UK citizens welcome international students regardless of their home country and see them as friends, partners, and business clients.

Top Source Countries For International Students In The UK

RankCountryPercentage of all international students
1 China19.8%
2 India5.3%
3 Nigeria4.1%
4 USA3.8%
5 Malaysia3.5%
6 Germany3.4%
7 Hong Kong3.1%

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