London calling: half of foreign applicants target capital

International students nearly twice as likely as domestic applicants to apply to campuses in the city

February 20, 2020
London cityscape

Foreign students are nearly twice as likely to apply to at least one university in London as UK-domiciled applicants, according to Ucas data.

A report published by the admissions service on 20 February says that 54.1 per cent of applicants from the European Union and beyond applied to at least one provider in the capital in 2019, compared to 27.8 per cent of domestic students.

The data confirm the appeal of living in London to international learners, which has led many provincial universities to open campuses in the city in recent years.

However, academics have warned that London outposts often have less-qualified teachers and poorer facilities than many universities’ main campuses.

The Ucas data show that non-UK applicants were also much more likely to apply to at least one Scottish provider than domestic students (30 per cent versus 15.2 per cent), with Scotland being particularly popular among EU applicants, of whom 35.5 per cent applied – a finding which is unsurprising given that they can access courses north of the border free of tuition fees at the moment.

The Ucas data add that 72.8 per cent of non-UK applicants applied to at least one highly selective university in 2019, compared to 49.2 per cent of UK applicants. Part of this is attributable to Chinese students, who account for 15.3 per cent of non-UK applicants: 87.1 per cent of them applied to at least one “high tariff” provider. Other Asian students showed a similar preference for elite institutions, with Singapore (93.5 per cent), Malaysia (89.8 per cent), Hong Kong (85.2 per cent) and Thailand (83 per cent) having large proportions of applicants submitting applications.

Inside the EU, several countries, such as Portugal (69.7 per cent), Lithuania (67.8 per cent) and Romania (61.4 per cent) have higher proportions of applicants applying to lower tariff providers compared to the UK (61 per cent).

The research confirms non-UK students’ preference for science, technology, engineering and mathematics courses. In mathematical sciences, for example, 34.2 per cent of applicants last year were from outside the UK, compared to only 5.2 per cent of applicants for education courses.

And while it reiterates the importance of the Chinese and Indian markets, it highlights several emerging markets that have recorded large year-on-year increases in applicant numbers, including Ghana (up 25.5 per cent to 520), South Africa (up 17.1 per cent to 685) and Kuwait (up 26.9 per cent to 1,280).

Clare Marchant, Ucas’ chief executive, said that the “draw of studying in the capital is clear” in the analysis.

“Campuses and communities across the country benefit enormously from both the academic and cultural contributions of students choosing the UK to pursue their studies,” she said.

Register to continue

Why register?

  • Registration is free and only takes a moment
  • Once registered, you can read 3 articles a month
  • Sign up for our newsletter
Please Login or Register to read this article.

Related articles