A growing number of British universities are becoming increasingly reliant on fee income from Chinese students, prompting concerns among senior leaders, analysis suggests.
Chinese students now represent more than 10 per cent of all revenue at a number of universities across the UK, an analysis by trade magazine Times Higher Education (THE) has found.
It comes after figures revealed that one-third of all non-EU students at British campuses are now from China. The UK is the number-one overseas destination among Chinese students.
At least one in 10 students at 13 British universities are from China, the THE analysis showed, and nearly one-fifth (17 per cent) of all students were from China at Liverpool University.
On master’s courses, half of all full-time postgraduate students were from China, the figures showed.
Across the sector, fees for Chinese students are worth around £1.7bn – which is 5 per cent of all revenue.
The analysis comes after MPs warned that papers have been confiscated and events cancelled at British universities as a result of interference from Chinese officials.
A Foreign Affairs Committee report said the battle to recruit more students and increase funding among universities should not outweigh “serious risks” to academic freedom.
Martine Garland, who interviewed senior leaders for a doctoral thesis on financial diversification in UK universities, told THE that the reliance on China was a worry that had cropped up during her research.
Dr Garland, a lecturer in marketing at the University of Gloucestershire, said there were concerns that students from China might stop coming to the UK, which would have a negative impact on finances, while other universities were worried about the experience international students were getting.
Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute (Hepi), said he believed British institutions were now too reliant on China.
“I don’t think fewer Chinese students should come here … it’s [just] regrettable that they are such a high proportion of the total,” Mr Hillman told THE.
He added there was always a risk that changes in geopolitics could affect flows from one country.
Figures from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (Hesa) last week revealed that the number of Chinese students at UK universities has soared by 34 per cent in the last five years.
Since 2014-15, the number of Chinese students in the UK has grown from 89,540 to 120,385.
The recent protests in Hong Kong have created tensions among student groups on some UK campuses.
In October, there were reports that Sheffield students supporting the pro-democracy protests in Hong Kong clashed with other students backing the Chinese government.