Scotland

Number of students in Scotland exceeds 235,000

graduation ceremony Image copyright PA

The number of people in higher education in Scotland exceeded 235,000 last year, as student numbers rose.

New figures reveal there was an 1% increase in both UK and EU students at Scottish institutions in 2015/16.

There was also a 3% rise in the number of international students from non-EU countries, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa).

Experts said it was testament to the "world-class reputation" of Scotland's universities.

The report found that:

  • There were 235,565 enrolments at higher education institutions in Scotland in 2015/16
  • A total of 184,630 students came from the UK, while EU students totalled 20,945
  • 94% of first year undergraduates from Scotland chose to study north of the border
  • The largest number of non-EU undergraduates came from China and their number rose by 2% last year
  • They were closely followed by the Americans - student numbers rose by 8% in 2015/16
  • The largest number of EU student enrolments came from Germany, with numbers increasing by 7%
  • Irish students made up the second largest number of EU undergraduates but their numbers fell by 11%

However Alastair Sim, the director of Universities Scotland, warned that the number of Indian and Nigerian students had also fallen significantly.

'World-class reputation'

The figures were revealed after an all-party parliamentary group at Westminster was told that Indian students were choosing Australia over the UK.

Mr Sim said: "These are welcome figures for Scottish universities from Hesa given the context our universities are currently recruiting in.

"Overall, non-EU student numbers are up 3% to 29,980 with Chinese and American student numbers up 2% and 3% respectively.

Image copyright Thinkstock

"However we are seeing the impact of the Home Office's unhelpful approach to international students with Indian student numbers down and Nigerian student numbers falling significantly.

"Our universities are competing with institutions across the world, many who have ambitious targets and are actively being supported by their governments, who recognise the importance and value of international students.

"The fact that Scottish universities continued to attract international students at a time where the number of university-sponsored study visa applications fell is testament to the hard-earned world-class reputation of Scotland's universities."

'Positive picture'

The report also found that 50% of the degrees awarded by higher education departments in Scotland were in science subjects, compared with 43% for the UK as a whole.

Shirley-Anne Somerville, the minister for further, higher education and science, said she was "delighted" that student numbers were rising.

"Scotland has a world-class higher education system and one that will always be based on the principles of being free, fair and funded," she added.

"These latest Hesa figures show a really positive picture for Scotland's higher education system, we not only have more Scots in higher education but also gaining the qualifications they need to succeed and have worked hard to achieve - it's a great success story.

"It is also extremely heartening to see enrolments in science increase and we must continue to encourage more young people - particularly young women - to choose a career in science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

"We will continue to do all that we can to ensure all of our young people get an equal chance to get a world-class education."

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