The Russell Group has awarded a fifth of places at its 24 institutions across the UK to overseas students, it has emerged. This year’s A-level results left many pupils scrambling for places at universities through clearing due to a drop in top marks. The Conservative-led government’s bid to tackle grade inflation resulted in exams marked harder this year, leaving many school-leavers disappointed in their results.
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Exams were held this year for the first time before the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, with pupils graduating in the last two years graded by their teachers.
With so many people vying for university places this year, the competition was fierce – but international students seem to have had an edge.
The Russell Group, which represents 24 of the UK’s most prestigious universities, said that a fifth of its places had gone to students from overseas.
It is unclear how this compares to previous years, but it will likely add fuel to the fire for those who argue that international students are taking up too many places.
There are also concerns that the high fees charged by some universities are preventing bright students from poorer backgrounds from getting a place.
Universities minister Michelle Donelan has said that the government is “working hard” to ensure that university is “accessible to all”.
But with intense competition for places, it seems that more needs to be done to level the playing field.
According to the Russell Group, most international students come from China, India, Malaysia and the US.
The group’s director general, Dr Tim Bradshaw, said its universities were “fully committed to ensuring a level playing field”.
But he added that they were “operating in a global market” and needed to be able to attract the best students from around the world.
The news comes as the government is under pressure to raise tuition fees in England to £9,250 per year – a move that would make universities even more reliant on income from overseas students.
With the cost of university already deterring many bright students from lower-income backgrounds, the government must do more to ensure that university is accessible to all.
Otherwise, we risk creating a two-tier system where the rich can buy their way into the best universities while the rest are left behind.
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