Stagnant year for UK independent schools

The number of international students at UK independent secondary schools decreased slightly in the last year, with rises from China and Hong Kong masking falls from most other key markets, according to figures released by the Independent Schools' Council (ISC) last week.

The annual ISC census, conducted in January each year, gathers data from all 1,301 ISC member schools, and shows there were 27,281 international students (classified as non-British students with parents overseas) this year, a 1.4 per cent decline compared with the previous year.


International students represented 5.2 per cent of all students in member UK independent schools, which reached a record total population of 522,879 this year. ISC said the international student ratio has stayed fairly consistent since it began tracking in 1982.


China remained the largest source country with 6,662 students, a six per cent increase, while Hong Kong grew by 2.3 per cent to 4,731 students.


However, the remainder of the top ten individually listed source markets decreased in the latest census, including third-placed Russia, down 16.8 per cent to 1,938;  Germany, which decreased by 6.1 per cent to 1,827; and Spain, which declined by 10.7 per cent to 1,252.


Although the value of the pound sterling dropped after the UK's referendum vote to leave the European Union, this would appear to have come too late to impact on secondary enrolments for the 2017/18 academic year.


Fifty-five per cent of the international students enrolled at ISC schools were in the sixth form (years 12 and 13), the authors of the census said, with 43 per cent in years 7-to-11 and the remainder below that level. More than nine out of ten international students were boarders, ISC said.


The nationality and age group findings of the ISC census echo the results of StudyTravel Magazine's most recent survey of UK independent secondary schools, which also showed that 64 per cent of international students at the profiled institutions were recruited via agents.


For the first time in 2017, more students are being educated at overseas branch campuses of British independent schools than in the UK. There were 31,773 students at 59 overseas campuses in the current census, compared with 27,619 pupils at 46 campuses last year.


ISC also lists the number of non-British pupils with parents living in the UK, which totalled 23,192 in the latest census.


ISC said that among its 1,301 member schools, 698 currently hold Tier 4 sponsor status, meaning they are able to recruit non-EU students.



By Matthew Knott

News Editor