Research article

A Question of Degrees

London enjoys an unrivalled reputation as a global centre of education.

London is one of the world’s most important centres of education. It is host to the largest number of highest-ranking universities in the world and more than 360,000 higher education students. London also offers world-class primary and secondary education, with quality state schools and private institutions, along with international schools.

Figure 10

FIGURE 10Times World University Rankings

Source: Times World University Rankings

Primary and Secondary Education

Private primary schools and prep schools in London are especially highly regarded and act as feeder institutions for some of the country’s best private schools. Some of these schools are now effectively drawing from a global catchment. The Good Schools Guide recently published a London edition, for the first time in its 28-year history, in response to demand from overseas parents.

Since 2007, private school pupil numbers in Greater London have increased by 7%, the highest rate of growth in any UK region, according to the Independent Schools Council. At the national level, 8.5% of pupils at private schools are from outside the UK (a third of whom have parents living in the UK). Those from China and Hong Kong account for 26% of all foreign pupils.

Higher Education

London is also home to some of the world’s most highly regarded universities (Figure 10), along with medical schools, business schools, arts and performing arts institutions and music colleges. Some 27% of higher education students in London hail from outside the UK. The capital accounts for 17% of the total UK student population, but 23% of the country’s foreign student population.

Figure 11

FIGURE 11Student composition of London Universities

Source: HESA

Students at the city’s universities, meanwhile, must balance the opportunities a London education offers against its high living costs. Student living and accommodation costs in London are as expensive as those in New York and Sydney (around $2,000 per month), but double the cost of Amsterdam, Berlin and Milan. Happily, once tuition fees are factored in, London is cheaper to foreign students than US and Australian competition (Figure 12).

Figure 12

FIGURE 12Student cost of living

Source: Savills World Research                                                         *Assumes foreign studentin purpose built student accommodation

With 70,000 purpose built student beds in the capital (40,000 university managed and 30,000 privately managed), the sector houses just 20% of London’s 367,000 full-time students. Many recent developments have targeted premium rents, with pricing comparable to studio and one-bed apartments in the open market.

London enjoys an unrivalled reputation as a global centre of higher education. This esteemed standing will continue to see it attract students from around the globe. However, in order to avoid it becoming the preserve of the wealthy more must be done to expand student housing into lower value markets and compete against an already stretched HMO sector.

London accounts for 17 of the UK student population

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