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UK: non-EU UCAS applications up 14%, EU drops

UK universities have seen an increase in applications and corresponding offers compared to last year, but the overall number of international student applicants has declined, new data from UCAS has shown.

Student numbers applications have increased at UK unis despite a dip in EU applications. Photo: Pexels

"EU student applications (excluding UK students) were 28,400 in 2021 compared with 49,650 in 2020"

As of 30 June 2021, the final date to apply to up to five courses simultaneously, a total of 682,010 applicants (+4% on 2020) made 2,955,990 applications (+6%), resulting in 1,998,690 offers (+3%) made by universities and colleges. 

“Universities are ready to welcome more students onto courses this autumn and have worked hard to be flexible”

By comparison there were a total of 652,790 applicants in 2020 and 636,960 in 2019. While there was an increase in applications overall, the number of international student applicants was down from 138,770 in 2020 to 130,390 in 2021. 

This was down to a sharp decrease in students from the EU. However the number of non-EU students actually increased. 

“Today’s numbers show the clear demand for undergraduate study and apprenticeships is growing, rising significantly during the pandemic,” said UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant. 

“Universities are ready to welcome more students onto courses this autumn and have worked hard to be flexible, enabling students to progress to their next level of study.”

The UCAS data showed that EU student applications dropped significantly. EU student applications (excluding UK students) were 28,400 in 2021 compared with 49,650 in 2020 and 50,650 in 2019. 

Number of EU student application. Source: UCAS

On the other hand non-EU student application numbers increased – from 89,130 in 2020 to 102,000 in 2021. 

Number of non-EU student application. Source: UCAS

Overall there was a decrease in international student applications from 138,770 in 2020 to 130,390 in 2021. In 2019 international student applications were 131,990 and in 2018 there were 125,510. 

Despite the slight drop in application numbers for international students, the number of UK students increased from 514,020 in 2020 to 551,620 2021, bringing the total number for the year up to 682,010.

“It is positive to see continued strong demand for quality higher education, which will help provide undergraduates with high-level skills and opportunities that will be crucial both to their individual success and the needs of the economy as we emerge from the pandemic,” said Hollie Chandler, head of policy (higher education) at the Russell Group

“The increase in offers by higher tariff providers to UK 18 year olds, including those from the most deprived areas, reflects our universities’ commitment to be as fair and flexible as possible to ensure students are not disadvantaged in their applications by the changes in the awarding of A-levels and equivalent qualifications this year.”

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