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Source: (2) The hidden gem of international student recruitment: UK boarding schools | LinkedIn

Having attended a (state) boarding school, taught in a boarding school and now working with many boarding schools, I sometimes take it for granted that everyone else knows lots about them. But recently, in conversations with colleagues working at global universities, it’s occurred to me that maybe that’s not the case. When approaching admissions staff and recruiters from universities all over the world, it’s been common to hear something along the lines of “But British students don’t leave the UK for university.” While that is changing (see here and here and here), there is a different comeback – if you come to the UK, don’t expect only to meet and recruit local students.

The Independent Schools Council (ISC) annual census states the following: “There are currently 26,195 non-British pupils whose parents live overseas, which represents 4.7% of the total ISC pupil population in 2023.” Of these, 51% are in the last two years of their schooling, and are almost always boarding. Some 639 Independent School Council member schools are student visa sponsors, showing the breadth of international students at UK schools. As well as this, there are 36,513 non-British students attending UK schools whose parents live in the UK – dual or other nationals who might also be attracted to an international university education.

So, which countries are represented the most? Here’s the top 10:

1.      China: 10,375

2.      Hong Kong: 7,677

3.      “Remainer of Europe (EEA)”: 5,297

4.      USA: 4,759

5.      Germany: 3,139

6.      France: 2,980

7.      Spain: 2,765

8.      Ukraine: 2,055

9.      India: 2,028

10.   “Rest of Africa”: 1,953

11.   Russia: 1,812

12.   Italy: 1,793

13.   Middle East: 1,555

14.   Nigeria, 1,553

15.   “Remainder of Europe (non-EEA)”: 1,518

Now, for many of these students, to stay in the UK for university would mean paying the international tuition fee – many thousands more than the GBP 9,250 charged at many UK universities. For these students, the cost of a university education is already factored into their future plans.

And UK universities know this, with many now targeting what they call “UKI students” – students in the UK who are international. A recent HELOA presentation described them as “low-hanging fruit.” These students are already global consumers of education, with the financial means to pay high tuition fees, and have likely taken a globally recognised qualification and experienced an English-speaking classroom.

University representatives may look at historical data which shows that “they did not recruit many or any British students” on previous recruitment trips or tell me that they didn’t see any need to have a first recruitment trip in the UK as they heard that British students stayed local, and they would be right about the majority. However, more students are going abroad, and dynamics are in play, which will increase this further. However, the UK boarding school sector is a different story – it is your one-stop shop for high-quality, well-educated, diverse students who will enrich your campus lives.

Want to know more? Come and join us this Autumn to visit many amazing boarding schools and see for yourself. The school-based staff and students are eager to learn more about their international options, too, which is why our events, university efforts, and school objectives are all met through such efforts.

We hope to be part of your journey, support university recruitment efforts, and build greater awareness of the wonderful international options available to schools, students, and their families.