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Courses under threat from South East Asian student exodus

ENGINEERING DEPARTMENTS at British universities look set to close courses and shed staff next year as a result of the South East Asian currency crisis.

The British Council the UKs promoter of education and culture overseas claimed this week that Asias continuing economic problems will have a severe impact on Britains ability to recruit overseas students.

British Councils head of Education Counselling Service Alan Barnes said the crisis would reduce university revenues and lead to project cancellations and staff losses. He added: When institutions have less money it is not hard to see that there will be implications for British students.

Barnes said that a significant downturn in the number of student admissions from Malaysia, Indonesia, South Korea and Thailand is expected for 1998. Figures for university applications from Malaysia were down 30% in December, and the number of students leaving for the UK in January and February fell 50% from last year.

Chairman of the Engineering Professors Council Barry Plum confirmed that the impact on engineering departments will depend on their reliance on overseas students But he claimed that taught postgraduate courses are likely to be hit hardest.

University heads were expected to meet today at a British Council conference to decide how to respond to the crisis. Already over 30 universities have pledged to offer financial aid to South East Asian students.

Chairman of the Association of Civil Engineering Departments Professor David Bonner, who is head of civil engineering at Hertfordshire University, said some of the 60 South East Asian students in his department had already left. The university has set up a hardship fund and a scholarship scheme for next year which will reduce fees by 30%.

Leeds University has also put together a 240,000 financial package for tuition fees and scholarships. Head of the universitys International Office David Baker said: Civil engineering is likely to be hit worse than other departments as there is such a high proportion of South East Asian students. It has 82 students from the area currently enrolled on civils courses, providing 17% of the departments 3.89M annual turnover.

Newcastle University agreed on Monday to establish a 250,000 hardship fund for its 293 South East Asian students, a third of which belong to the engineering faculty. Nottingham and Sheffield universities and the University of Manchester Institute of Science & Technology are also among those offering financial aid. Coventry University plans to offer deferred payment of fees and a fixed course price at enrolment to offset any further currency devaluation.

At Imperial College South East Asian students have resorted to raising a petition.

Matthew Jones

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