‘Excessive concentration’ of Chinese students could put universities in financial trouble

Universities have been warned that an “excessive concentration” of Chinese students puts them at risk of a funding crisis, such as the London-Beijing relations sour.

Russell Group universities, including Manchester, Liverpool, Sheffield and Glasgow, have all welcomed more than 5,000 Chinese students in the past academic year.

At University College London, more than 11,000 students, or one in four, come from China.

Lord Johnson of Marylebone, former minister for universities, said universities relied on Chinese students for almost a third of their budget. total tuition income.

An “excessive concentration” of students from particular countries “has the potential to create dependencies that could undermine financial resilience”, he told the Sunday Telegraph.

The warning comes after the government pledged earlier this month do “more to adapt to the growing impact of China”. Demands for a tougher diplomatic stance on China have intensified following the apparent beating of pro-democracy protester by Chinese diplomats in Manchester.

Liz Truss was getting ready to officially designate China as a ‘threat’ to the UK for the first time before he left Downing Street. Conservative Chinese hawks are expected to pressure the next prime minister to follow through on these plans, which would elevate the country from a “systemic competitor”.

Discouraged from studying in UK if labeled a threat

However, academics have warned Chinese students could be discouraged from studying in the UK if the country is branded a threat.

Professor Steve Tsang, director of the China Institute at SOAS University London, said: “I think it is unwise for the UK government to officially declare China a threat, as it will trigger some form of retaliation from the part of Xi [Jinping]ultra-nationalist government which qualifies any government acting in this way as anti-China.

He added: “The Manchester incident and the virtual certainty that the Chinese consul general will not be punished by the Chinese government for carrying out what looks like a joint assault on British soil shows that Xi approves of his diplomats playing their “wolf-warrior” fantasy while serving in the Chinese diplomatic corps.

“It reflects the reality that despite his ‘win-win’ rhetoric, he is committed to a China-first approach in foreign policyand so the risk that he seeks to punish the UK for taking a tough public stance like labeling China a threat, particularly now that we appear to be in political disarray, is very high.

Universities would have a “funding crisis”

Jhe number of Chinese students in British universities rose 50% to 143,820 in the five years to 2020-21, according to data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency. Chinese students made up almost a third of all non-EU international students that year.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute, said some universities would experience a “funding crisis” if Chinese students stopped coming to the UK. “They would have to close courses that cease to be viable and they would do a lot less research, because international student tuition is what subsidizes research.”

Lord Johnson calls for a new duty to be imposed on the Office for Students via the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill, to monitor whether higher education providers are sufficiently diverse in terms of fee income education abroad.

The Office for Students said earlier this year that it had “signalled that an overreliance on tuition fees for international students can create a financial risk for universities and we will continue to review the impact of these industry-wide recruitment patterns”.

A UCL spokesperson said: “Like many other similar UK universities, we continue to make concerted efforts to widen participation and diversify the number of students we enroll from different countries, resulting in an increase of several key markets, including India and the United States, thanks to targeted students. recruitment.”

A spokesperson for Universities UK said the sector was working with the government to ensure universities “have diverse international populations” and are “aware of and mitigate the risks that can arise from international activity”.

They added: “The UK is one of the most popular destinations for international students, thanks to our reputation for excellence. Chinese students are an important – and welcome – part of the international student population. We also believe that by welcoming students, we contribute to better individual relations, whatever happens at the political level.

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