UK Universities Paying Out Tens of Millions in Transaction Fees to Receive International Tuition Payments

New research from Western Union reveals the huge financial and human resources cost faced by UK universities receiving payments from international students*

  • Survey among 100 U.K. universities reveals international tuition payments made by credit card incur an average 1.39 percent transaction fee
  • With 438,000 international students in the U.K., the collective bill in credit card fees for universities could be over £80 million a year
  • Moreover, 67 working days may be lost annually per institution to university staff matching, processing and reconciling overseas payments
U.K. universities could be facing over £80 million in credit card transaction charges every year while receiving and processing tuition payments from international students, according to new research* from Western Union, a leader in global money transfer and payments services. In addition to the monetary cost, the survey found that nearly ten and a half hours a week are lost to matching, processing and reconciling payments from international students – the equivalent of 67 working days every year.

Western Union’s research, in which 100 finance and admissions teams at universities across the U.K. were surveyed, shows that nearly half (44 percent) said the charges incurred from payments is the biggest challenge their institution faces when processing international tuition fees. Nearly a third of those surveyed (30 percent) said the time spent and human resources required to process overseas payments was their biggest challenge when receiving international tuition fees.

Today, nearly one fifth (18 percent) of the U.K.’s student population is from overseas, accounting for 12.7 percent of the total higher education income received by U.K. institutions, according to the Higher Education Statistics Agency. With the higher education landscape becoming increasingly globalised, however, universities need to be prepared for an expected increase in international students, with the Institute of International Education predicting that there will be 75 percent more students studying abroad by 2025.

With such anticipated growth in international student populations, universities will likely be faced with more costly transaction charges and an increasingly cumbersome administrative burden. However, one fifth (21 percent) of those surveyed do not feel their institutions are fully prepared to accept payments from international students. Furthermore, despite the growing popularity of e-wallets and alternative payment methods, few respondents (5 percent) cited that their institutions offer these options to students – demonstrating a distinct lack of adoption within the industry.

“Managing payments from international students can be a complex and time-consuming process for U.K. universities,” said Western Union’s President of Global Payments Jean Claude Farah. “This new research shows the real challenge faced by universities and colleges. In addition to the charges they may incur, many also lose valuable staff time matching and processing payments made by a variety of methods depending on the student’s country of origin.”

“With funding and resources an ongoing concern for universities across the U.K. and international students becoming a more significant income stream, having access to an efficient and cost-effective process to accept payments from around the globe has never been more important,” Farah said.

Western Union recently launched its enhanced GlobalPay for Students platform, which has been developed to improve the way universities reconcile, refund and track payments from international students, allowing clients to receive payments from multiple platforms and view all payment activity on one dashboard. The platform is designed to help universities simplify the reconciliation of incoming international payments, which can be a complex and time-consuming process. The mobile-first interface has also been developed with student input to improve the user experience.

  • * Based on 1.39 percent average transaction fee on payment made by credit card.
  • * Calculations based on tuition fee of £13,000 and 438,000 non-U.K. domiciled students in higher education – student numbers from U.K. Council for International Student Affairs.
  • * The study was conducted by OnePoll between 9th June – 22nd June 2017 and polled U.K. adults with finance and admissions responsibilities in universities/higher education institutions. Participants were recruited online and were paid to participate.

The Western Union Company (NYSE: WU) is a leader in global payment services. Together with its Vigo, Orlandi Valuta, Pago Facil and Western Union Business Solutions branded payment services, Western Union provides consumers and businesses with fast, reliable and convenient ways to send and receive money around the world, to send payments and to purchase money orders. As of March 31, 2017, the Western Union, Vigo and Orlandi Valuta branded services were offered through a combined network of over 550,000 agent locations in 200 countries and territories and over 150,000 ATMs and kiosks, and included the capability to send money to billions of accounts. In 2016, The Western Union Company completed 268 million consumer-to-consumer transactions worldwide, moving $80 billion of principal between consumers, and 523 million business payments. For more information, visit www.westernunion.com