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UK school leavers not losing out to int’l students – A-level results 2023

Some 79% of UK school leavers have gained a place at their chosen university or college, while the total number of international students accepted has dropped by 2% as this year’s A-level results are released.

Some 79% of UK students have been accepted into their first-choice institution. Photo: iStock

The top three countries with placed applicants are China, India and Hong Kong

It follows concerns that domestic students could be overlooked by universities, especially Russell Group institutions, in favour of international applicants who pay higher tuition fees.

“We just do not see that,” said UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant, speaking on BBC Radio 4’s Today program.

“In fact, international placed applicants at this point look a couple of percentage points down on last year.

“Obviously that picture will change as we go through the rest of clearing, which runs all the way through to mid-October, but we’re just not seeing some of that story play out.”

In total, 51,210 international students have been accepted via UCAS, which handles undergraduate admission for UK universities, compared to 52,440 last year (-2.3%).

The top three countries with placed applicants are China (11,630 acceptances in 2023 vs 13,180 in 2022), India (4,780 vs 4,050) and Hong Kong (3,050 vs 3,420).

Viviene Stern, CEO of Universities UK, said it was notable that international students numbers were similar to last year and down from 2019 “knocking down the narrative that domestic students are in some way losing out”.

UK education secretary Gillian Keegan also rejected these claims, pointing out that most international students are applying at postgraduate level and that undergraduate proportions have remained “pretty steady”.

Marchant had previously suggested that the 13% of placed students being international was unlikely to “change hugely” in 2023.

“International education is something we’re really good at”

Keegan added that the country welcomes international students who “offer a great deal” to home students.

“International education is something we’re really good at in this country, it’s one of our biggest exports.

“I think it’s close to making about £30 billion for our economy and it’s also a real part of our global influence and soft power.

“But it’s largely taking place at postgraduate level in terms of the numbers of students.”

The 79% domestic acceptance rate is down on 2022 figures, when 81% of UK students earned places at their first choice institutions, but up on 2019 data, when 74% did so.

This is the first year since 2019 that students in England have not benefitted from grade-inflation as a response to the pandemic.

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