International applicants to universities in the UK totalled 1,42,925 in 2021, according to UCAS end-of-cycle data, a 5% decrease from 2020 estimates.
The overall number of non-EU and EU students who accepted spots through the application administrator fell to 70,005 in 2020, down from 85,075 in 2020.
Entries from outside the EU led the 1% increase in acceptance, with a 12% increase in applications (1,11,255 people) and a 2% increase in acceptance (54,030). Meanwhile, the picture from EU applicants was drastically different, with 31,670 applications representing a 40% drop and 16,025 acceptances reflecting a 50% drop.
However, UCAS stated that the 1,40,000+ applications from outside the country show that the UK is still a “globally appealing” destination.
“This report provides further evidence that UK education remains attractive to international students, so we welcome its overall findings,” UKCISA chief executive Anne Marie Graham said. “It’s imperative that our visa application system remains flexible, accessible, and competitive to enable students from all regions to come to the UK to study,” she noted.
Altogether, there was a 7% increase in the number of 18-year-olds admitted to institutions, including UK students, with 81 per cent of students getting admission to their preferred university or college.
According to Claire Marchant, chief executive of UCAS, this year marks the return of exams and the second year of what will be a decade of growth in the UK population of 18-year-olds.
“As we are set to hit a million applicants, by 2026, it will be even more important than the higher education admissions system meets the needs of students in this increasingly competitive environment,” Claire continued.
Following a 12 per cent increase in international student applications from outside the EU, the figures revealed that overall acceptance rates declined somewhat. 48.6 per cent of the 111,255 applications were approved, resulting in 54,030 pupils. This compares to a non-EU acceptance rate of 53.5 per cent in 2020 when 52,755 students were accepted.
The rate of 48.6 per cent is the lowest since at least 2012.
It is encouraging to see further increases in the number of overseas students choosing to study in the UK, especially with the revelation of this week’s HESA data, which shows that the UK has achieved its international student recruiting target far earlier than expected, said a spokesperson for Universities UK International.
According to HESA data revealed earlier this week, the UK met its objective of 6,00,000 overseas students ten years early. In 2021, only 31,670 prospective EU students applied to UK universities through the admissions operator, a 40 per cent decrease from the previous year’s data. When it comes to admission rates for those students, the figure from 2020 has been cut in half by 16,025 versus 32,320 in 2020.
Even though the UK certainly remains a popular and friendly study destination for overseas students, the large drop in EU applicants is disheartening. Figures broken down by region revealed that, while most areas of the UK were declining, Scotland suffered by far the most significant decrease in overseas applications in 2021, with a 52 per cent decrease of 20,230 compared to 42,350 in 2020.
The only increases in international student interest were in London and Northern Ireland.
London received 1.7 per cent more applications from outside the UK, with 1,79,000 compared to 1,75,995 in 2020. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, acquired 28 per cent more applications, from 5,750 in 2017 to 7,395 in 2021, despite average figures being lower due to size and the number of providers accessible.
According to the Experience of International Students Connecting to UK Higher Education report, more than half of those located in UK universities from overseas in undergraduate programs were from seven selected countries, with China accounting for two out of every nine of those, correlating with the increase in placements of non-EU candidates.
As per the report, nearly nine out of ten overseas students viewed the UK to be a “good location to study,” but 72 per cent of those polled in the past findings said they wanted “more information about what their year would look like,” and how Covid would influence it.
Considering this, UCAS stated in its 2021 cycle findings that there was a “strong demand for UK higher education amidst a worldwide pandemic.”
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