Overseas student applications to UK universities rise againon February 15, 2024 at 1:59 am

- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -
- Advertisement -

A rise in overseas student applications comes despite tougher government rules to help “slash migration”.

A student stands infront of a giant globeImage source, Richard Baker / Getty Images

The number of international students applying to undergraduate courses at UK universities has risen for a second year running.

New data shows 115,730 students from outside the UK applied to start in September, up from 114,910 last year.

And it follows accusations universities have lowered standards to recruit overseas students, who can be charged far more than UK students.

The claims have sparked a review of admissions processes.

‘Highly unpredictable’

The number of international applicants remains below the high of 116,110 before the Covid pandemic.

Numbers fell over the next two years, when international travel was restricted, but have since been recovering.

Universities and Colleges Admissions Services (Ucas) chief executive Dr Jo Saxton said the rise in international-student applications should “not be a cause of concern for prospective domestic students”, because UK applications had also risen in recent years.

Most international students in the UK study postgraduate courses, such as master’s degrees, but they are not reflected in the new Ucas data.

Vivienne Stern, chief executive of Universities UK, which represents 142 higher-education institutions, welcomed the “slight increase” but warned it was only a “partial picture”.

The overall trend was “highly unpredictable”, she said, adding: “Universities are currently facing a challenging international-student recruitment landscape.”

The most a student in the UK will pay for a year of undergraduate tuition is £9,250 – the exact amount depends on where they live.

But international students can pay £38,000 per year for undergraduate courses and £30,000 per year for postgraduate courses.

In England, the tuition-fee cap has risen only once since 2012 – from £9,000 to £9,250 per year – and universities are worried it is not keeping up with inflation.

Oxford University roof

Image source, Getty Images

The Russell Group, which represents 24 prestigious universities, estimates a fall in the value of student loans and government teaching grants means universities are making up for a £2,500 shortfall per domestic undergraduate student.

Data from the Higher Education Statistics Agency, which represents both undergraduate and postgraduate courses, suggests the number of international-student enrolments grew from 469,160 in the 2017-18 academic year to 679,970 in 2021-22.

The increase has been driven by applications for postgraduate degrees, according to University of Oxford migration research, rather than the undergraduate courses studied by many 18-year-olds in the UK.

However, new rules this year aimed at curbing migration mean international students can no longer bring family members with them unless they are on research courses or have government-funded scholarships.

‘Political pressure’

Ms Stern said this, and “ongoing negative rhetoric”, posed a problem for universities.

She has previously stressed universities make a loss on teaching UK students – and on research.

“Income from international students is no longer providing an additionality that allows us to invest over and above what we would be able to do with just domestic sources of income,” she said.

“Instead of being the cherry on the cake, it is becoming the flour.”

A report from the British Council last week suggested the “post-Covid boom” in international-student numbers would end this year, because of “rising political pressure against migration” and the increasing cost of studying in the UK.

Signs of pressure on universities’ finances are already apparent, with job cuts recently announced at several universities, including the University of Aberdeen, which said it was facing serious financial challenges, and Staffordshire University, which cited a “turbulent student recruitment market at home and abroad”.

And strikes over pay and pensions have disrupted university education in recent years.

The government has a target of 600,000 international students per year studying in the UK by 2030 – with a particular focus on:

  • India
  • Nigeria
  • Vietnam
  • Indonesia
  • Saudi Arabia

Education exports “play a vital role in supporting the UK economy”, it says.

A report last year estimated one year group of international students would bring £41.9bn in economic benefits through the course of their time in the UK.

Attracting international students also boosts the UK’s “soft power”, through its reputation and global networking, the government says.

It surpassed its 600,000 target in 2020-21 and 2021-22, according to the most recent data.

Meanwhile, the Ucas data also suggests the number of applicants for nursing has fallen, which the Royal College of Nursing warned could leave the NHS “dangerously understaffed”.

- Advertisement -

Discover

Sponsor

Latest

Andrew Tate: Influencer threatened workers with violence, victim claimson February 3, 2023 at 7:35 pm

The alleged victim claims Andrew Tate forced workers to raise €10,000 a month on social media platforms.Image source, Getty ImagesBy Lucy WilliamsonBBC NewsAn alleged...

Nigeria Benin Bronzes: Buhari declaration ‘blindsides’ museum officialson May 10, 2023 at 2:10 am

Nigeria's president says all Bronzes belong to the Oba of Benin throwing return deals into confusion.Nigeria's president says all Bronzes belong to the Oba...

Highway Code: Watching TV in self-driving cars to be allowedon April 20, 2022 at 2:17 am

Mobile phone use while driving will remain illegal, as changes to the Highway Code are announced.Image source, Getty ImagesPeople using self-driving cars will be...

England boss Gareth Southgate criticises impact of VAR on fans at gameson October 5, 2023 at 10:32 pm

England manager Gareth Southgate points to the VAR experience being negative for match-going fans.England manager Gareth Southgate points to the VAR experience being negative...

The Ashes 2023: Stuart Broad believes Pat Cummins will regret Jonny Bairstow callon July 4, 2023 at 8:42 am

England bowler Stuart Broad says he "would be amazed" if Australia captain Pat Cummins does not regret standing by his side's appeal for Jonny...