International student demand for UK degrees ‘set to soar’

Ucas also forecasts continued dominance of China among overseas applicants  

May 26, 2022
Parked British Airways Airplanes at Gatwick Airport due to COVID19, a mix of Airbus A320s and Airbus A319s.
Source: iStock

The number of international students applying to undergraduate courses at UK universities through Ucas is set to rise by almost half by 2026, the admissions body has forecast.

In a report on the factors driving international application demand, Ucas predicts volume will increase by 46 per cent to 208,500 over the next few years “despite concerns that Covid would dampen demand for overseas study”.

The admissions body said it was forecasting that the 2026 application cycle could see 1 million applicants overall, about 27 per cent more than in 2021 and double those seen in 2006.

Around 55 per cent of this rise would be related to the expanding cohort, and application rates, of 18-year-olds in the UK, but international students would make up around 35 per cent of the extra demand.

It is also predicting that China will continue to be a key market, with applicant numbers from the country forecast to exceed 50,000 in 2026; about 31,000 Chinese nationals applied through Ucas in 2021.

“This will see the UK remain heavily dependent on Chinese applicants, which, as Ucas has previously commented, heightens the need for diversification to maintain the sustainability of the UK’s international recruitment market,” the report – Where Next? What influences the choices international students make? – states.

As well as forecasts on international applicants, the report also has results from a survey completed by more than 1,200 students planning to study internationally.

Among the findings, it found that more than one in 10 prospective students consider studying abroad before their 11th birthday and more than three-quarters make their final decision about their destination country while at secondary school.

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