Charley Rogers reports;
In decades gone by, the view of a university in the United Kingdom was one of UK students gathering together, with tutors and lecturers also from the UK, to learn and develop within their country of origin.
The landscape of university education today is very different. Although the majority of students in the UK are from the UK domicile, the number of international students has risen dramatically, even since the 1990s. In the 2015/16 academic year, 20% of students here were from outside the UK, with 6% coming from the EU, and 14% from countries outside of the EUî„…. During the 1990s, between 40,000 and 90,000 long-term migrants came to the UK to study, and by 2010, this figure had risen to a peak of 238,000î„‡.
One of the universities that is truly embracing its international population, and reaping the benefits for their local area, is Newcastle University. With campuses in London, Malaysia and Singapore, the University is a hub of international learning and development, and adds £1.1bn to the economy in the UK.
In a report from Regeneris and Urban Foresight, focusing on the 2014/15 academic year, the number of international students at Newcastle is totalled at over 6,600, with representatives from 120 different countries. This makes Newcastle the university with the 19th largest international student population in the UK, with one in every 66 international students in the country studying there.
Along with this impressive international contingent comes formidable spending power. In 2014/15, the report shows that outside of the university campus, Newcastle University students spent approximately £240m in the North East, and visits from students’ friends and family garnered an extra £17m for the area, supporting 290 jobs in Newcastle itself, and 430 jobs in the wider region.
As well as financial advantages, Newcastle also benefits from the University’s cultural additions to the city. The Great North Museum is owned by the University, and is home to an extensive natural history and archaeology collection. The University also has a world-class school of art and culture including the Hatton Gallery, which is currently closed for a £3.8m redevelopment, and is set to reopen in the autumn of this year. The Hatton Gallery houses a selection of paintings ranging from the 14th century to contemporary pieces from all over the world, and is also home to Kurt Schwitters’ self-confessed ‘greatest’ work, the Merz Barn Wall. A refugee from Germany, Schwitters’ art has inspired a project at the gallery entitled Home and Belonging. This project, with participation from over 100 individuals, is an exploration of the process of settlement and cultural acclimatisation for refugees and asylum seekers that have come to settle in the North East of England. Home and Belonging includes a series of short films that ‘shine the spotlight on some of the participants’ stories’. This focus on the contribution of international expats to Newcastle and the surrounding areas also solidifies the University’s worldwide relevance.
In addition to this important cultural contribution to the local area, the Great North Museum and the Hatton Gallery welcomed over 837,000 visitors over the 2014/15 academic year.
In order to ensure the longevity of their impact on both local and international platforms, a university’s most valuable asset is, of course, its graduates. Newcastle University is home to an award-winning Careers Service, and has been honoured with the ‘Best University Employability Strategy’ award from TARGETjobs. Newcastle also places a strong focus on student entrepreneurship, and provides support grants, business mentors and dedicated premises. A commitment to equality and diversity is also at the heart of Newcastle’s recruitment, and they are the lead partner for the North East Rising Aspiration Partnership, which is a collaboration between five North East universities to ensure ‘every young person has the opportunity to make informed decisions about Higher Education’.
Their graduates also enhance the surrounding areas, with 41% of Newcastle graduates working in the North East in 2014/15, 84% of whom were in graduate-level positions. Among this number, around 9% of all international graduates remain in the area (around 17% of undergraduates, and 8% of postgraduates)î„ˆ.
With the recent triggering of Article 50, and the UK’s exit from the EU, many UK universities are in a state of uncertainty as regards their research and international collaboration. Newcastle’s research remains “focused on addressing some of society’s most pressing issues,” and is planned in a way as to have “maximum impact on the city, the region, [and] the world.”
A representative from Newcastle University commented that the institution remains “unwavering in [their] continuation of substantial numbers of Europeans and international staff and students in [their] academic community,” and that there is full support for, and value of, the contribution of all staff and students. As well as including an international outlook in its mission statement, the university is putting words into action by providing financial support to help staff and their dependents to secure the right to permanently live and work in the UK. There will be an interest-free loan up to the sum of £10k available to cover costs for applications for British Citizenship or Indefinite Leave to Remain, and the university will cover the application fee for Permanent Residency. The loan is fully flexible, and can be used to cover any costs that occur, and there is no time restriction on when staff can apply for the loan.
A View to the Future
Newcastle is, of course, keen to enhance its already strong standing among students both at home and abroad. In the last International Student Barometer survey, they gained a 94% student satisfaction rating, and came in within the top 10 in the Times Higher Education Student Experience Survey for 2017. But resting on their laurels they are not. A new research centre, partnered with the Emerson Cavitation Tunnel is due to open in June this year, closely followed by Science Central in August 2017. Science Central is the largest regeneration project of its kind in the UK, costing a whopping £350m, and housing a £40m National Innovation for Ageing, a £30m National Institute for Smart Data Innovation, and a £20m National Centre for Energy Systems Integration. The development will also be home to the University’s School of Computing Science, which currently has students and staff numbering 1,395.
Moving into 2018, the University is continuing its improvements, with the £75.5m Park View Student Village due to open its doors to 1,300 future students, and an ongoing commitment from the University to “continue to deliver outstanding student experience and excellent environment for [their] students’ learning, teaching and research, as well as their personal and professional development.”
So whether coming from the UK or abroad, students are sure to have a warm welcome and a wonderful experience at Newcastle, whilst being able to contribute their own individual offering to the ever-growing city.