China, India lead race to UK universities

Record numbers of students from both China and India have applied to enrol at UK universities this year, according to data from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS).

Diverse group of students climb stairs in modern university
Year-on-year applications from mainland China rose by 12 per cent to 28,930, while the number from India grew 11 per cent to 8,660. Both totals were most double of 2019 numbers.“It’s a very positive story, given the turbulence of the time,” Des Cutchey, Managing Director of UCAS International, told the PIE website.

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EU enrolment declines

But while non-EU applications continue to rise, the number of EU students wanting to begin studies in the UK this autumn has fallen, although UCAS believes the European market is beginning to stabilise.In all, international applications for 2022 so far stand at 111,410, similar to the figure last year, with non-EU numbers up five per cent to 90,590, while the tally from the EU stands at 20,820, a decline of almost a fifth.“The decline in the EU can be made up for the in the growth of those countries traditionally seen as international markets,” said Mr Cutchey. “What the EU figures are showing is that, after the initial huge amount of decline, though the numbers are falling, there are markets that are stabilising.”

Interest grows in Ireland and Nigeria

The number of applicants from Ireland - whose students pay the same fees as Britons, rather than the much higher international fees - grew by five per cent to 5,100.However, the largest percentage growth was notched up by Nigeria, where applications rose by 47 per cent to 2,380. There was also a 17 per cent rise from students in Canada, bringing the total to 2,450.While the Hong Kong market declined slightly from last year, its 6,010 applicants still made it the third largest in the international table.Singapore and Malaysia have returned to levels seen around five years ago, reaching 3,390 and 3,140 applicants respectively, but the numbers from South Korea, Pakistan and the US have seen declines - in America's case, down almost 1,400 to 5,280.

International student numbers increase to 2026

Clare Marchant, Chief Executive of UCAS, said that robust international demand from students anxious to study in the UK showed "the enduring appeal of our world-class universities".She added: “As we recover from the Covid pandemic and see the increased opening up of international travel, this year was always going to be pivotal for the international student market.“We are expecting, as part of the journey to a projected total of a million applications (from both indigenous and overseas pupils) by 2026, the number of international students to grow by two-thirds."In addition to releasing the figures for undergraduate applications, UCAS has also officially launched its technology-backed international application service for prospective post-graduate students: Myriad by UCAS.“Myriad by UCAS will support the International Education Strategy’s ambitions by providing an excellent user experience for students coming to the UK as well as champion new and emerging markets for universities and colleges’ recruitment activities,” said Ms Marchant.

Read more news and views from David Sapsted.

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