Record number of foreign students due at universities

The number of international students at Welsh universities is expected to reach a record high this year.

Despite a freeze on UK undergraduates, up to 20% more international students are set to enrol this autumn.

The Welsh Assembly Government wants universities to take on more foreign students in order to boost finances.

About 12,000 international students enrolled in Welsh universities last year, contributing more than £150m to the Welsh economy.

Data released by the Higher Education Statistics Authority shows the number of places for overseas students has grown three times more than for domestic students over the last five years.

Sandra Elliott, Director of International Relations at Cardiff University, said attracting foreign students was vital.

"It's a steady income stream and it allows some flexibility in the university finance," she said.

"The revenue they bring in is important to the university but it's much more than about the revenue.

"Having international students in the classroom means that all students at the university get that international perspective."

It is hoped the fees from international students can help boost the finances of universities hit by cutbacks in public spending.

And despite having to pay considerably higher fees than domestic students, the number of overseas students is set to grow again this year.

Forecasting increase

Cardiff University and Glyndwr University are forecasting a 10% increase while Swansea Metropolitan University is expecting to welcome an additional 18%.

Lin Lin, who travelled from China to study for an MSc in international economics at Cardiff University, said she was not put off by the price.

"The tuition fee I paid is much higher than local students and even higher than if I took a Masters Degree in China," she said.

"But I have compared the benefits and the cost and I think it's worth it."

Businesses are also benefiting from the spike in overseas students, who are estimated to have spent about £60m in Wales last year.

Peter Talbot, who runs the Upper Bangor Post Office, said their trade accounted for 20% of his takings.

"On a daily basis international students come in - it's for international mail mostly," he said.

"This business would survive without the students but it would be more difficult."

The anticipated increase in overseas student numbers is in stark contrast to the problems faced by domestic students in gaining a university place.

About 200,000 missed out this summer, more than ever before, and some Welsh universities even reduced the number of places on offer.

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