The University of St Andrews has told The Saint that they will not increase the number of international students at the university as a measure to boost vital funding. This comes at a time when university bosses across the country have called for tuition fees to be raised closer to the figure that foreign students pay. It will cost 2023 international entrants of the University of St Andrews £28,190 a year for the duration of their study.
The Saint contacted the University following an article published in The Times which describes how universities have been forced to increase the number of foreign students because the £9,250 paid by UK students is not enough to run a university.
UK tuition fees have been frozen for a decade and some universities have turned towards attractive international fees as a vital financial supplement. £9,250 will be worth around £6,000 in real terms by 2025 due to inflation, according to Sir David Bell, vice-chancellor at the University of Sunderland. At the top universities, enrolment of international students is said to be higher than British students.
The Saint contacted the University of St Andrews to find out how it fit into the landscape of The Times article. We asked if an increase in the number of foreign students was on the horizon.
A University spokesperson told The Saint, “One of the great strengths of our university is the mix of nationalities, cultures, and world views across our student body, and we have no plans to change that balance, or increase the numbers of students in St Andrews.”
Between 2008 and 2021, the total number of students at the University increased from 6,800 to 10,425. In a push to facilitate increased research output, the postgraduate population doubled during this time from 1,050 to 2,164. It is true that a charm of the University is in the engagement between nationalities and cultures – the University, along with the London universities, has one of the highest percentages of international students in the UK at 39.7%, according to data gathered by The Complete University Guide.
The University spokesperson continued, “Contrary to the impression given in The Times article, no Scottish student ever loses out to an overseas student. Places for Scottish students at Scottish universities are fixed and ring-fenced.”
They explained, “Universities are told by the Scottish Government exactly how many Scottish students they can admit, and universities are fined if they go over or under the figure they are given.”
In the academic year 2021 to 2022, there were 2,734 funded places for Scottish students at St Andrews and an additional 354 controlled student places for those studying medicine. These figures, amongst the numbers of funded places for each Scottish university, are published by the Scottish Funding Council — the public body in charge of the allocation of funding at higher education institutions in Scotland.
The University told The Saint, “The issue of the fees paid by the Scottish Government presents a challenge to all universities, as these frequently don’t cover the actual cost of teaching. That is why Universities Scotland, the umbrella body for all Scottish universities, is in dialogue with the Scottish Government about the need to ensure Scotland’s Higher Education sector is properly supported moving forward.”
Principal Sally Mapstone, who also serves as Convener of Universities Scotland, has criticised cuts to Scottish research funding. Writing in The Herald, following cuts of over £1 million to major research-intensive universities, Sally Mapstone said, “it perversely undermines one of our nation’s key assets.”
Without changes to funding towards universities, the financial incentive and appeal of international fees is likely to mean that some universities will continue to increase their recruitment of international students.
Image: Marios Diakourtis