Rise in international students to add to overcrowding

By Euan McTear and Karen Oakley

The overcrowding issue at Glasgow University is set to worsen over the next few years, with the University to continue increasing its intake of international students.

Reporting to the Senate in June 2013, Prof Neal Juster, Vice Principal Strategy and Resources, presented his forecasts for international student fee income. It is expected that tuition fee income from international students would rise incrementally from £52.2m in 2012-2013 to £80m in 2016-17- an increase of £27.8m and 53% in total.

When Glasgow Guardian questioned the University about these figures, the University confirmed that the fees received from overseas students are hoped to increase to the figure of £80 million and that this was likely to be achieved through a mix of tuition fee increases for international students as well as an increase in the number of international students being enroled. At this stage, however, it is not known which strategy the University will pursue since decisions on fees and student intake is made on an annual basis.

The University stated: “Whilst we would hope to increase our numbers of international students in coming years, it is impossible at this stage to say by how much as this – along with the fee structure – is reviewed on an annual basis.”

The increase in fees received from overseas students is needed to account for the increases in salary costs of 1% this year and 2% in each subsequent year.

The numbers of international students have already increased significantly in recent years. This was planned in response to a Scottish government budget cut of 12% for higher education in 2010. At the time, the University looked to increase the number of international students by 1,000 over the coming years to make up for the real-terms funding cuts and the increases over the past four years have seen them come close to reaching that target.

The numbers of undergraduate international students in 2009-2010 was 945 and rose to 996 for the academic year 2010-2011, the year in which the Scottish government cuts were announced. The following autumn saw an increase of 16% to 1,189 international undergraduates in 2011-12. The numbers then increased even more significantly to 1,439 in 2012-13 – an increase of 21% before a similar increase of 20% to 1,721 international students for this year 2013-14.

These increases have coincided with an overall increase in the student population of 7% between 2008-09 to 2012-13 with numbers rising from 15, 877 to 17, 018.

One of the major issues on campus this year has been overpopulation on campus with many students voicing their concerns.

Màiri Keir, a fourth year Gaelic student, said: “The University will have to be careful that they don’t let campus get too overcrowded – everyone needs to use facilities such as the library and everyone deserves the opportunity to use those facilities.”

Sitting in aisles and standing in lectures has even been reported in several pre-honours courses this year. One Chemistry student said: “At the beginning of term, I along with others had to stand in some lectures. Some became fed up and left 20 minutes into the lecture. The lack of seating has only eased as attendance has decreased.”

Responding to claims that the campus is overpopulated, a spokesperson for the University said: “A great deal of detailed planning takes place to ensure that our students get the very best from their time here. This includes consideration of the staff-student ratio, teaching space and living accommodation. The University has recently invested very heavily in infrastructure, IT and student facilities and will continue to do so.”

Overcrowding has become an issue in the upcoming rector elections as well, with one of the candidates, Kelvin Holdsworth, putting campus overcrowding as one of the main issues on his manifesto.

The number of international students does not affect how many Scottish and EU students the university can take in. This number is determined separately and is made based on the funding received from the Scottish Funding Council (SFC).


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