University Claims of Attracting ‘Brightest and Best’ Students Challenged

September 18, 2012

Claims by the UK education establishment that UK universities attract 'the brightest and best' international students have been shown to be greatly exaggerated by a new study out today which reveals that in fact the vast majority attend institutions that are not considered to be in the top tier of learning in Britain.

The study, from think tank Migration Watch UK finds that only one in twenty of non-EU students who come to the UK go to one of our top ten universities.  The wider Russell group of 24 universities takes one in eight.

This means nearly 90% of foreign students go to one of the roughly 100 lesser-known universities or to a college of some kind.

The report also highlights a surge in non-EU postgraduate students at universities well down the league table. For example, Cardiff Metropolitan, number 92 out of 122 according to the 2012 Sunday Times University League Table, has 3,660 non-EU postgraduates (72% of their total number of postgraduates), which is more non-EU postgraduates than study at Oxford.

This surge could well have been partly due to a scheme that allowed virtually free access to the British labour market after only one year of study.  Since April 2012, graduates have had to find a graduate level job paying at least £20,000 a year if they wished to stay on.

The number of non-EU students has trebled in the last decade and the sector wishes to see them double in future years.  Students already account for 60% of the inflow of migrants and there are still no exit checks so there is no way of knowing how many have actually left.

A YouGov poll commissioned by Migration watch UK and published on 17 September found that 70 % of the public wish to see a limit on the number of foreign students admitted to Britain.

Commenting, Sir Andrew Green, Chairman of Migration Watch UK said 'This report lifts the lid on what is really happening in the university sector.  Non-EU students are being recruited to prop up the finances of less well known universities.  It is time that the strong public interest in immigration control was properly balanced against the self-serving pleading of the universities lobby in the UK which is in denial about the potential impact of foreign students on net migration.'

Notes to Editors:

1. The Sunday Times list is at:

2. The recent opinion poll is at:

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