Record numbers of foreign pupils at UK schools

The Telegraph, 16.05.15, leading boarding schools are recruiting record numbers of foreign pupils, with China, Hong Kong and Russia the biggest overseas groups. HMC members Keith Budge, headmaster of Bedales School, Andrew Halls, headmaster of King's College School, Wimbledon and Anthony Seldon, Master of Wellington College are quoted. Tony Little, headmaster of Eton College and Repton School and Brighton College are referenced.

Leading boarding schools are recruiting record numbers of foreign pupils, with students from China now by far the biggest single overseas group.

Figures published by the Independent School Council show that one new pupil in every five now comes from abroad. Now a Telegraph survey has discovered that some of the country's most famous boarding schools, including Eton College and Wellington College, attract 15 per cent of their students from foreign countries.

Other examples of foreign recruitment include:

– Repton School, in Derbyshire, which has seen an increase in overseas students from 5.3 per cent of the total student population last year to 7.2 per cent this year.

– Brighton College, where 9.7 per cent of students are from overseas: 5.5 per cent come from Hong Kong, with others coming from countries including Russia, Bulgaria, China and Oman.

– Bedales, in Hampshire, where the number of Chinese students has risen from 10 to 16 in the past year and the overall proportion of foreign students has risen from 2.6 per cent to 3.6 per cent.

The Independent Schools Council figures, which come from more than 1,200 of the country’s leading private schools, show that 20.9 per cent of all non-British pupils whose parents live overseas now come from China; 17.6 per cent come from Hong Kong; 10.3 per cent from Russia; 7.1 per cent from Germany, 4.7 per cent from Spain and 4.3 per cent from Nigeria.

In total there are more than 27,200 foreign pupils whose parents live overseas at British private schools, and a further 16,800 foreign students with parents living in the UK. However, the figures have not previously been broken down to show the numbers of foreign students at individual schools.

Concerns have been raised that the growth in non-UK students may undermine the British feel of schools. However, some heads are actively seeking out the global market, claiming it will offer their pupils a broad perspective of different parts of the world.

Anthony Seldon, the outgoing headmaster of Wellington College, said schools should not place caps or quotas on the number of international students, but cautioned against too many pupils coming from individual countries.

He said: "It's very good for boarding schools to have children from abroad and they should have a good cross section because you don't want to have too many children from any one country.

"I think 15 per cent from one country would compromise the British feel much more than 40 per cent from a whole range of different nationalities. We should be looking at diversity."

Keith Budge, headmaster of Bedales Schools, which counts television presenter Kirsty Allsop and singer Lily Allen among its alumni, said the recruitment of international students helped develop “global awareness” among pupils.

“Although the proportion of international students has increased over the past few years, they are a small but important element of the Bedales boarding community, bringing different perspectives which we very much value,” he said.

“We are one of the first UK schools to appoint a Head of Global Awareness and have developed exchanges and links in Africa, China, the US and India; also more Bedales students are looking at overseas’ universities alongside the UK.”

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