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East Asia leads across the board

Matt Salusbury looks at the results of the Independent Schools Council’s 2015 census and finds that over a third of overseas students boarding in the UK are from China and Hong Kong

Over 27,000 international students attended the Independent Schools Council’s (ISC) 1,267 mostly private-sector year-round boarding schools in the UK last year. Its 2015 census covered schools in ISC’s affiliate member associations across the UK, although the overwhelming majority of schools in the survey are in England, with a cluster of ISC boarding schools in south-east England.

The majority of schools surveyed – 616 of them – were junior (primary); 231 were senior (secondary), and 420 were both junior and senior. Most international boarding-school students have been in the UK for at least a year, and over half of them are in the final two years of secondary school.

A total of 27,221 students at ISC year-round boarding schools – just over 5 per cent of the total student body of a little over half a million – are ‘non-British pupils whose parents live overseas’. The biggest-sending countries are mainland China (over 5,600 boarding school students, which is a fifth of all non-British with parents overseas) and Hong Kong with 4,700 students representing 17 per cent of the total non-British students. Boarder numbers from mainland China have been shooting up in recent years, while Hong Kong’s are flattening out after a decline.

The total for Russian boarding-school students sent to the UK has been increasing since 2011. There are now over 2,700 of these.

The census lumps all EEA countries (EU plus Switzerland, Norway, Luxembourg) together, with the exception of Spain and Germany. ‘Remainder of Europe EEA’ comes in after Germany, with just over 2,000 – 7.8 per cent of the total.

Germany alone is in fifth place, sending just under 2,000 students, followed by Spain with over 1,200. Nigeria sent 1,660 boarders, putting it in seventh place.

In tenth and eleventh place are Thailand and Malaysia. South Korea sends 409 students, just over 1 per cent of the overseas total for students whose parents remain abroad, Japan (341 students sent) and Taiwan are split off from ‘Remainder of Far East’ in the table.

‘Middle East’ sent just under 400 students. Parents in India sent 151 students to UK boarding schools, about the same number as the rest of the sub-continent.

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In addition to international students with parents abroad, there are nearly 17,000 ‘non-British pupils’ with expatriate parents living in the UK, most from other EU countries or the US, but with children of Russian and Indian expatriates also well represented. (It should be noted, though, that around a fifth of the schools surveyed didn’t provide data in this category.) Around four fifths of all the UK’s 1,121 Indian boarding school students have parents living in the country. Children of Nigerian, Korean and Japanese expatriates at UK boarding schools outnumber the children of Russian and Chinese expatriates.

The Gazette also sent a short survey to boarding schools that run summer courses for international students, mostly in general English. Of the six which responded, three said their top nationality was Spanish, one said it was German, and one Russian.

Stonyhurst’s top three nationalities are Spanish, German (overtaking Russian) and Italian. The top three nationalities at Heathfield Summer School for Girls are Spanish, Japanese and Russian. Windermere noted that in 2015 Germany was in first place, followed by China, then Saudi Arabia. In 2014 Russians and Colombians were in second and third place.

At Sherbourne International the top three were German, Russian and Japanese, while it was Russians in first place, then Chinese and Spanish for Concord College’s general English course. Concord’s academic English summer course had Russians as its biggest nationality. Chinese, Italians, Nigerians and Ukrainians were also well represented.

 St Edmunds College summer courses, which include Shakespeare, creative writing and Ielts, recruit from forty countries. Its courses have a maximum 10 per cent quota for each first language, and they reached 10 per cent Mandarin speakers in 2015. It has received students from Bulgaria and Serbia every summer for many years.