Oil price drop fallout could hit UK universities

crane-494257_1280In recent years, UK universities have been able to rely upon a generously funded recruitment well – students backed by government-funded scholarships in oil producing countries, underwritten by 100 dollar a barrel revenues. But the oil price collapse to 60 dollars a barrel may mean this is a stream that is set to run dry. HEFCE data published this week shows that in 2013, Iraq rose to become the third largest contributing country for postgraduate research students in the UK, with 610 entrants, almost double the 2012 intake. Libya rose by 37 per cent to 245 entrants. Increases in government sponsorships account for most of the growth. Deutsche Bank and IMF figures quoted by the BBC show Libya requiring an oil price of 184 dollars a barrel to balance their national budget. Iraq requires 101 dollars a barrel. An oil price recovery to 100 dollar a barrel levels is unlikely inside 5 years, say analysts, with US shale oil producers pumping 4 million barrels a day into the market, and Saudi Arabia unwilling to support cuts in Middle East production. Many consequences are emerging from the oil price drop. It is possible that some of the effects could extend to UK HE. — UK NARIC will be presenting data and analysis on new and alternative prospective markets for student recruitment at our Emerging International Markets seminar event in London on March 13.

Update on Application Trends

The trends highlighted by UK NARIC last year seem to be continuing.

The latest figures from UK NARIC and UK NCP confirm that the trend for increased mobility of citizens from Spain, Portugal, Italy and Greece and that the UK is experiencing an increase in the number of people expressing an interest in coming to the UK to work, practice or study.

UK NARIC Assessments
Country 2009 assmts 2009 rank 2010 assmts 2010 rank 2011 assmts 2011 rank 2012 assmts 2012 rank
Greece 118 46th 148 42nd 146 41st 305 29th
Italy 539 17th 593 18th 647 14th 785 11th
Portugal 210 36th 192 35th 225 34th 361 24th
Spain 541 16th 683 16th 766 12th 1305 6th
UK NCP Enquiries
Country 2009 enqs % of total 2010 enqs % of total 2011 enqs % of total 2012 enqs % of total
Greece  NA  NA 17 3.1% 8 2.9% 36 4.0%
Italy  NA  NA 42 8.6% 46 7.8% 82 10.0%
Portugal  NA  NA 15 3.5% 17 1.4% 33 4.4%
Spain  NA  NA 50 10.2% 81 13.7% 200 24.5%

Figures for 2009 for UK NCP are unavailable.

The data from UK NARIC and UK NCP show that there have been significant increases in assessments and enquiries:

Country UK NARIC% change2009 – 12 UK NCP% change2010 – 12
Greece + 158% + 112%
Italy + 45% + 95%
Portugal + 72% + 120%
Spain + 141% + 300%

The increases experienced by these countries far outstrips the performance of any other countries in the region.

Based on figures from 2009, 2010 and 2011 we have been able to model the demand for UK NARIC assessments in 2013.  The figures below are based on real application figures for the first quarter of 2013:

UK NARIC Assessments
Country Jan 2013 Feb 2013 Mar 2013 Total 2013 Total Projected 2013 Projected v 2012 Real
Greece 37 21 29 87 320 105%
Italy 102 84 95 281 1033 132%
Portugal 27 55 52 134 493 137%
Spain 157 138 191 486 1787 137%


Data from UK NARIC and UK NCP shows that there has been a considerable increase in the number of assessments and enquiries from Greece, Italy, Portugal and Spain.  While this data does not definitely mean that the individuals submitting these requests do actually come to the UK to work, study or practice, there is a definite link between them.

The increases from Spain and Greece have been particularly noticeable and these may well be linked to the economic difficulties that these countries have been experiencing.

Whatever the reason, it does mean that employers, universities, colleges and professional bodies have a wider pool of highly qualified and highly talented individuals available to choose from.


Tim Buttress, June 2013

Application Trends – English Speaking Africa

The 2009 figures from UNESCO showed that there were 3.3 million outwardly mobile students across the world.

The regions with the largest number of mobile students are East Asia and the Pacific, North America and Western Europe, while the regions with the lowest number of mobile students are Latin America and the Caribbean, the Arab States and Sub-Saharan Africa. For each of these six regions, North America and Western Europe are the top destinations. Taking a closer look at the UNESCO figures for English speaking African countries, the UK is second most popular destination; South Africa being the first.

In terms of UK NARIC assessments, the region as a whole also accounts for around 10% of the total number undertaken every year. The number of assessments we have undertaken for applicants from these countries (plus the overall ranking) over the past four years highlights some interesting points:

Country 2008
Botswana 25 97th 11 112th 9 123rd
Cameroon 126 42nd 154 39th 105 43rd 140 42nd
Gambia 7 125th 10 120th
Ghana 591 17th 534 18th 480 17th 250 17th
Kenya 142 40th 161 38th 126 39th 120 145th
Liberia 1 168th 5 141st
Malawi 15 108th 11 112th 9 123rd
Namibia 3 143rd 7 135th
Nigeria 1680 6th 1587 7th 1295 6th 1469 5th
Sierra Leone 52 63rd 52 69th 35 78th 28 92nd
South Africa 2109 5th 1987 4th 1374 5th 1220 8th
Tanzania 26 85th 28 94th 21 95th 30 88th
Uganda 103 46th 123 45th 94 45th 148 40th
Zambia 50 67th 84 52nd 52 56th 47 70th
Zimbabwe 440 20th 443 20th 242 27th 265 30th
Total 5319 5193 3857 3757

The total number of assessments has fallen by nearly 30% over the past four years (5319 in 2008 and 3757 in 2011). In terms of individual assessments, both Nigeria and South Africa have been in the top ten for the whole period. However, whilst numbers from Nigeria have held relatively steady, those from South Africa have declined by nearly 50% in these four years.

It is nonetheless still the case that these two countries account for around 71% of all applications made from this region.

Qualification level of migrants

The table below shows the breakdown of the level of South African and Nigerian qualifications submitted during 2011:

Nigeria South Africa
Qualification level Examples % Examples %
Below Level 3 on the UK Qualifications Framework (QCF) Senior School Certificate, The West African Senior School Certificate, Nigeria Certificate of Education, Advanced Certificate in Secretarial Studies 34% N2 Engineering Studies, N3 Certificate in Engineering Drawing, National Certificate : Business Management 38%
A level and Sub-Degree Equivalents (QCF Levels 3, 4 and 5) Registered Nurse, Diploma in Computer Education, Higher National Diploma in Electrical Electronics 17% National Certificate N5 in Business Management, National Diploma in Industrial Engineering 14%
British Bachelor level Bachelor of Science in Biochemistry, Doctor of Veterinary Medicine (DVM) (1990) 42% Bachelor of Arts, Baccalaureus Legum 40%
Postgraduate Postgraduate Diploma in Education, Master of Science in Mathematics, Doctor of Philosophy 8% Post Graduate Certificate in Education, Bachelor of Veterinary Science, Master of Education, Philosophiae Doctor (Chemistry) 7%

The spread of qualifications from these countries is very interesting; nearly half are above Bachelor level, but a considerable proportion are below Level 3 on the UK QCF, in contrast to the overall average.

Tim Buttress, February 2013

Further Trends from Western Europe

Further to the Application Trends from Western Europe, there are some interesting statistics which highlight the same points from the membership enquiries we receive.

Member Enquiries

Universities and Colleges make up over 66% of UK NARIC’s membership. Whilst the number of enquiries UK NARIC receives from members is significantly lower, it does give a stronger indication of the spread of applications being received.  The following two tables show how enquiries from Western Europe have changed over the past three years:

Country 2008 assmts 2008 rank 2009 assmts 2009 rank 2010 assmts 2010 rank 2011 assmts 2011 rank
Austria 31 74th 33 77th 41 73rd
Belgium 62 43rd 59 47th 69 50th
Denmark 34 72nd 37 69th 38 78th
Finland 42 58th 66 69th 34 80th
France 284 6th 311 6th 399 6th
Germany 278 7th 272 8th 223 11th
Greece 99 25th 105 27th 142 21st
Iceland 5 139th 5 145th 3 167th
Ireland 102 24th 68 41st 95 40th
Italy 158 15th 197 12th 205 14th
Luxembourg 2 167th 4 154th 1 190th
Malta 7 134th 14 106th 15 112th
Netherlands 93 30th 71 39th 98 37th
Norway 37 67th 26 81st 43 72nd
Portugal 84 32nd 87 32nd 134 23rd
Spain 168 14th 150 18th 213 14th
Sweden 43 55th 51 54th 45 69th
Switzerland 91 31st 120 21st 125 27th
UK 956 3rd 896 3rd 936 3rd
Total 2,576 2,572 2,859
Country 2009 2011 % change
Greece 99 142 + 43%
Ireland 102 95 – 7%
Italy 158 205 + 30%
Portugal 84 134 + 60%
Spain 168 213 + 27%
W. Europe Total 2,576 2,859 + 11%

2008 Figures are not currently available.


The membership enquiry and individual application figures from UK NARIC support reports that the economic troubles in certain countries within the Euro-zone mean that well qualified individuals are increasingly coming to the UK to work and / or study.

Those wishing to come to the UK to work, study or practice might find the following pages detailing how UK NARIC can help in Spanish, ItalianFrench, German, Romanian, Polish, Czech, Russian and Turkish useful.  An English version of the page is also available.


Tim Buttress, August 2012 (updated June 2013)

Application Trends from Western Europe

The increasing mobility of the European workforce in recent years can be noticed through an increase in the number of individuals applying to UK NARIC from Western Europe. In 2008, the region accounted for 8.5% of applications; in 2011, the figure had risen to 13.5%. The total number of applications from the region exceeded 5,000, similar to the total from India or Pakistan.

The number of assessments we have undertaken for applicants from these countries (plus the overall ranking) over the past four years highlights some interesting points:

Country 2008
Austria 38 79th 49 71st 54 73rd 40 77th
Belgium 66 56th 87 50th 81 52nd 89 52nd
Denmark 59 59th 69 60th 59 67th 59 63rd
Finland 46 70th 47 72nd 30 91st 23 100th
France 850 11th 941 10th 944 10th 831 11th
Germany 664 15th  705 13th 617 17th 475 19th
Greece 89 49th 118 46th 148 42nd 146 41st
Iceland 3 152nd 4 146th
Ireland 297 26th 356 25th 525 21st 442 22nd
Italy 436 21st 539 17th 593 18th 647 14th
Luxembourg 2 162nd 2 158th
Malta 20 103rd 12 115th 9 123rd
Netherlands 160 39th 154 39th 161 41st 173 37th
Norway 46 70th 46 75th 57 70th 27 94th
Portugal 237 32nd 210 36th 192 35th 225 35th
Spain 474 19th 541 16th 683 16th 766 12th
Sweden 118 43rd 141 41st 183 36th 91 51st
Switzerland 67 55th 80 53rd 64 64th 76 57th
UK 430 21st 701 16th 925 10th
Total 3,647 4,533 5,110 5,050


In 2009, UK NARIC began providing a comparable academic level for some UK professional qualifications, in response to the number of these awards being sent through.

Economic migration

It has been reported that the financial troubles besetting certain European economies have led increasing numbers of highly qualified individuals to seek employment outside of their own countries.  These figures appear to confirm this trend.  Taking a closer look at the number of individuals applying for assessments from those countries that have been hardest hit by the economic downturn better highlights the increases:

Country 2008 2011 % change
Greece 89 146 + 64%
Ireland 297 442 + 48%
Italy 436 647 + 48%
Portugal 237 225 – 5%
Spain 474 766  + 61%
W. Europe Total 3,647 5,050 + 38%

Only Portugal shows a decline while Greece, Ireland, Italy and Spain show significant increases.  By contrast, applications from other major European countries such as France, Germany and Netherlands have remained steady or declined slightly.

Qualification level of migrants

Spain, Italy and Ireland are significant source countries, all of them within the top 25 in the County League table.  They have all seen a significant rise in the number of applications they generate.  A breakdown of the level of qualifications submitted from these countries during 2011 is shown below:

Spain (766) Italy (647) Ireland (442)  Global
Examples % Examples % Examples % %
Below Level 3 on the UK Qualifications Framework (QCF) Título de Graduada en Educación Secundaria, Bachillerato Unificado y Polivalente (BUP) 20% Diploma di Maestro d`Arte, Attestato di Qualifica Professionale – Special- izzazione Estetista 11% Leaving Certificate, Junior Certificate 27% 23%
A level and Sub-Degree Equivalents (QCF Levels 3, 4 and 5) Maestra, Especialidad de Educación Musical, Técnica Superior en Información y Comercial- ización Turística 35% Diploma di Esame di Stato, Diploma di Infermiere Professionale (Nursing) 35% National Diploma in Design in Interior Architecture, Higher Certificate in Engineering 33% 25%
British Bachelor level Título de Licenciado / Título de Ingeniero / Título de Arquitecto 23% Laurea, Laurea in Ingegneria 35% Bachelor of Science, Higher Diploma in Arts 29% 34%
Postgraduate Máster en Físcia Aplicada, Máster Universitario en Profesor/a de Educación Secundaria 2% Diploma di Special- izzazione per L`Insegna-
mento Secondario, Diploma di Specialista in Medicina Interna: Medicina d`Urgenza
17% Master of Science,  Certificate of Membership / Associate of the Institute of Chartered Accountants in Ireland 5% 10%
No comparison available 20% 2% 7% 8%

The distribution of enquiries for the three countries highlights that:

  • Italians coming to the UK are more likely to be postgraduates than the global average
  • Irish applicants are more likely to apply with school or vocational qualifications, and
  • It is not possible to provide a comparison for 20% of Spanish cases because applications were not completed or because qualifications were not recognised by the education authorities in Spain (such as the Técnico Superior en Prevención de Riesgos Laborales).

Tim Buttress, August 2012

Application Trends from North America

In a previous monthly article, a broad overview of UK NARIC applicant data from African countries was provided – the following brief summary explores similar recent trends in enquiry numbers from North and Central America and the Caribbean.

Since 2008, from the region as a whole, UK NARIC have received between 2,000 and 3,000 enquiries annually, roughly 6-8% of the total number undertaken every year.  Below, the number of assessments we have undertaken for applicants from the most popular countries (plus the overall ranking) over the past four years highlights the predominance of US applicants, despite a recent drop in numbers:

Country 2008 assmts 2008 rank 2009 assmts 2009 rank 2010 assmts 2010 rank 2011 assmts 2011 rank
Canada 647 16th 671 14th 735 13th 626 15th
Cuba 34 81st 32 86th 43 79th 35 82nd
Jamaica 245 31st 256 32nd 165 40th 139 43rd
Mexico 87 54th 84 51st 148 43rd 107 47th
Trinidad and Tobago 49 70th 53 74th 45 72nd
USA 1613 7th 1888 6th 1680 6th 1118 9th
Other 39 89 1469
Total 2626 3019 2913 2137

As can be seen, the total number of evaluations has fallen by over 25% over the year or so (2913 in 2010 and 2157 in 2011), a substantial drop and well in excess of the general, global trend.

In terms of specific national profiles, the USA, Canada and Jamaica are the largest source of applications, but – barring Canada – their respective share of the total number of assessments from the region has diminished over the period:

Country 2008 2009 2010 2011
USA 61% 62% 58% 52%
Canada 25% 22% 25% 29%
Jamaica 9% 8% 6% 7%
Other 5% 8% 11% 12%

Qualification level of migrants

Looking at the US, Canada and Jamaica in more detail, it is interesting to note the differing profile of enquirers.

The table below shows the breakdown of the level of qualifications submitted from these three countries during 2011:

USA (1118) Canada (626) Jamaica (139) Global
Qualification level Examples % Examples % Examples % %
Below Level 3 on the UK Qualifications Framework (QCF) High School Graduation Diploma, Diploma in Network Engineering 18% Grade 11 Secondary School Diploma (general level), Diplôme d`Etudes Secondaires (DES) (Secondary School Diploma) 2% Jamaica School Certificate, National Vocational Qualification of Jamaica – Level I in Data Operations 33% 23%
A level and Sub-Degree Equivalents (QCF Levels 3, 4 and 5) Associate Degree in Arts, Associate in Science (Nursing) 8% High School Graduation Diploma, Diploma of Technology (Medical Laboratory Science) 37% Certificate in Secondary Teacher Education, General Certificate of Education (Advanced Level) 30% 25%
British Bachelor level Bachelor of Art 41% Bachelor of Education (Junior / Intermediate) 52% Bachelor of Education 26% 34%
Postgraduate CFA Level III Examination, Master of Arts in Teaching 21% Maître en Administration des Affaires (MBA) 3% Diploma in Business Administration 4% 10%
No comparison available 12% 6% 7% 8%

Whilst the sample sizes vary significantly, it is nonetheless clear that Jamaican applicants in 2011 have tended to hold lower level qualifications, both than their North American counterparts and the global average.

In contrast to the 30% of Jamaican applicants that hold a Bachelor or postgraduate qualification, the equivalent proportion for Canada is 55%, with the vast majority of these applicants being first degree holders. An even higher percentage of US applicants hold at least a Bachelor degree, although it is interesting to note that 21% specifically hold a postgraduate award.

Tim Buttress, June 2012

Are Africa and Middle East the new areas of growth for UK?

Latest figures from UK NARIC (2011 vs. 2010) highlight that there has been a reduction in the usage of service related to Southern Asia , while there has been an increase for Africa and the Middle East.

Using data on page views of UK NARIC online databases, enquiries from members and individual assessments, a noticeable drop in numbers from South Asian countries has been identified.  This region has seen a drop in all three areas while Africa and the Middle East have experienced increases.

Other significant changes include a large increase in the proportion of individual assessments from the EU, while the other regions have remained steady.

“These are really interesting statistics,” commented Tim Buttress, Deputy Director, Policy and Communication, “we’re looking to illustrate in more depth how our customers are using our products and we can use this information to see where any changes are occurring.  We’ve seen a small overall reduction in the number of individuals using our service, but that is to be expected with the immigration changes.  On the other hand, our databases are being used more heavily and members are also submitting more enquiries.”

“Southern Asia has traditionally been a central market for us and we still receive a lot of enquiries from this region, but in 2011 we did notice a slight downturn in numbers.  Africa and the Middle East exhibited steady growth across all areas of our service, while on the individual assessment side applications from the EU grew significantly, in fact they are now comparable with the number we receive from Southern Asia.”

If you would like more information about the information included in this blog, please get in touch!


Tim Buttress, March 2012