The news comes as The Office for National Statistics reports the highest-ever figure for UK net migration, hitting 504,000 in the year to June.
Compared with Q3 2021 when the UK received 237,563 visa and extension applications that featured Confirmation of acceptance for study, authorities saw close to 80,000 more in the latest quarter where data is available for 2022.
Not including extension applications, the UK received 462,660 applications with CAS in the year to Q3 2022, compared with the 356,559 study visa applications it received in the year to Q3 2021.
Across types of institution, Q3 saw non-Russell Group applicants rise from 104,653 in 2021 to 161,635 in 2022, and for Russell Group institutions applications rose from 104,456 to 116,355.
Overall in the year up to Q3 2022, 146,473 visa applicants used CAS from Russell Group institutions, only marginally higher than the 145,947 in the year up to Q3 the previous year.
Non-Russell Group CAS use saw a big jump, from 179,176 in the year to Q3 2021, to 272,357 in the year to Q3 2022.
Tertiary, further education and college providers increased from 5,872 in Q3 2021 to 9,591 in the latest quarter for 2022, independent school remained stable, from 8,929 to 8,954, and English language schools rose from 2,997 to 4,854 in Q3 2022.
Other quarters over the past year have also seen rises, compared with the previous year.
[Click top right to make graph full screen]
“The UK has witnessed phenomenal interest and growth in international students in recent years, which is testament to the reputation and strength of our higher education sector, as well as the role of government and the sector working together to achieve the aims set out in the International Education Strategy,” a Universities UK spokesperson said.
They added that any like for like comparisons between years “should be treated with caution as these statistics cannot account for changes in travel patterns following the pandemic”.
Along with generating revenues that are invested in “world-leading education and research sectors and boosting economic growth in all regions of the country”, international students bring a range of cultural, social and economic benefits to the UK, a Russell Group spokesperson added.
The latest data “captures the first cohort of Graduate route applicants and shows strong interest in the new visa which is broadly in line with what the government had forecast/ expected”, UUK added.
In Q3 2022, 17,275 graduate route visas were granted, up from 12,213 in Q3 2021.
“The increase in those switching to the graduate route is welcome news that shows efforts to attract students from across the world are beginning to pay dividends,” Russell Group explained in a statement to The PIE.
“It is important that the government continues to review the graduate route”
“The global market for international students is highly competitive. It is important that the government continues to review the graduate route to ensure it is internationally competitive and works with university networks and the British Council’s Study UK campaign to promote it in key markets prioritised in the UK’s International Education Strategy like India and Nigeria.”
According to the ONS, increasing arrivals of international students are driving “record levels” of long-term immigration to the UK.
“Migration from non-EU countries, specifically students, is driving this rise [in record levels of long-term immigration],” director of the Centre for International Migration within the ONS, Jay Lindop, said in a statement.
“With the lifting of travel restrictions in 2021, more students arrived in the UK after studying remotely during the coronavirus pandemic.”
It is “too early to say whether this trend will continue”, the ONS stated.
However, a range of other reasons, including people arriving for humanitarian protections and family reasons, have also resulted in large increases, Lindop added.
The graduate visa route, launched in June 2021, “may also” have influenced the increase in those arriving to study in the UK.
“The introduction of the Graduate route has also played a key role in bringing the UK in line with our international competitors and helping make the country a more attractive study destination,” UUK noted.
The ONS noted that research has shown “students are typically a very mobile population”, pointing to previously released analysis that found 61% of non-EU students left at the end of their study visa in the academic year ending 2019.
“More students arrived in the UK after studying remotely during the coronavirus pandemic”
“The majority of the remaining 39% of students obtained additional visas or received visa extensions and are likely to have left in subsequent years,” it added.
The Higher Education Statistics Agency, which became part of Jisc earlier this year, has also published data for 56 higher education providers in England whose financial year-end dates fell between August 1, 2021 and December 31, 2021.
It found that 78% of the institutions’ £719 million in 2021/22 income came from tuition fees. The overall total was an increase of 1% on the previous year.
Three providers saw upwards of £30 million in tuition fees from non-EU students in the 2021/22 academic year, the data showed.
Of the £108m BPP University received in tuition fees for the academic year, £42m came from non-EU students, while non-EU students’ tuition made up £40m of Study Group’s total £106m tuition fee income. The remaining £65m in tuition came from its FE course fees.
CEG UFP, in turn, saw all of its £34m tuition come from non-EU students.
Analysis by consultancy dataHE has found that the combination of high inflation, lack of government support and not increasing tuition fees has piled pressure on university finances, as reported by Times Higher Education.