CAS-to-visa issuance rates also have sped up by more than 8% compared to last year, according to the data from student onboarding platform Enroly.
Data analysis showed 73% of UK clients had “launched their intake on CAS shield” at least five months before their courses begin. In September 2022, just 14% were launching in such a time frame.
Across the platform’s 100,000 or so international offers, visa issuances were up 62% on 2022 numbers, while CAS issuances were up 11.4% and deposits paid also increased by 11.7%.
“It’s interesting to see the numbers demonstrate a brighter outlook overall at this stage of the intake,” noted Jeff Williams, CEO and co-founder of Enroly.
In 2023, it was found that Enroly’s partnerships with over a quarter of UK universities have led to it becoming the biggest data lake for international admissions benchmarking in the country.
While the latest figures look encouraging overall, two outliers paint a slightly concerning picture.
India’s deposits were up by just over 4%, but the worrying figure comes through with CAS issuances having dropped from 2022 figures by 8.4%.
“International recruitment teams are dealing with very high levels of fraud from high-risk regions like India,” Shivani Bhalla, head of international student recruitment at Brunel University London, told The PIE. “It’s another piece of the puzzle that needs to be resolved sooner than later.”
Nigeria’s figures differ from the overall picture even more. Not only were its deposit payments down 4.2%, but CAS issuance dropped by over 15%.
Some 170% more students who are on the Enroly platform from Nigeria are in the “closed/lost” stages, which indicate that they either abandoned or postponed their search for study on the platform.
Enroly itself predicted that this could lead to higher deferral and even withdrawal numbers among Nigerian students in the coming year.
“It’s interesting to see the numbers demonstrate a brighter outlook”
“Informal conversations with many of our partners have indicated that the key markets of India and Nigeria were down slightly, something shown in these latest figures,” Williams added.
Nigeria has recently been dealing with heavy issues on the ground. The country’s devaluation of the Naira has resulted in difficulties for students wanting to pay fees, as well as market concerns following the end of the country’s fuel subsidy.
The country is also one of the key markets for those wanting to come to the UK with dependents.
After the ban was announced on postgraduate taught dependents, there was a scramble on social media offering applications for places before it comes into place in January 2024.
This scramble, however, doesn’t seem to have been an uptick reflected in Enroly’s data. In September 2022, just under 11% of all students on the platform declared they would be bringing dependents. In 2023 to date, that figure is now only 9.3%.
Declarations of dependents among Nigerian students lowered even more significantly – just 20.7% in 2023 compared to 33% in 2022’s full intake.
While those drops were seen in India and Nigeria, more encouraging data can be found for countries like Nepal, which saw a 225% increase in deposits paid on 2022 figures. CAS issuances, similarly, went up by 259%.
“One of the main reasons [for this growth] is due to it being the last September 2023 intake with the allowance of dependents,” noted Bickey Kumar Shah, country manager at Boost Education Services in Nepal.
Despite the growth, Nepal suffered some ongoing turbulence in recent months as a decision was made then reversed to effectively bar students from leaving the country for non-higher education courses.
A recent increase in tax rates for outgoing students was also implemented, but stakeholders say it may be too early to see whether this will be a deterrent.
Also showing over 100% growth in the last year on deposits was Pakistan, with 141% on last year’s figures, as well as Iran (119.5%) and Ghana (100.4%).
Pakistan’s CAS issuances also went up by 201%. All of the top 10 markets in the report apart from India and Nigeria saw increases in CAS issuances. Sri Lanka saw a 118% increase, Malaysia went up by 30%, and even Canada and the US saw bumps of 25% and 18%, respectively.
“We are pleased to see that the Enroly numbers look positive, demonstrating that UK Universities are continuing to support applicants,” UUKi’s head of global mobility policy, Charley Robinson, told The PIE.
“It is important to maintain swift visa processing for applicants as part of ensuring we remain a leading destination for international students. We will be closely monitoring trends across the sector, including the expected impact of recent policy changes around dependents and fee increases,” she added.
Speaking on India’s and Nigeria’s performance in the data, Bhalla predicted it by no means spells bad things to come.
“We were living in an iconic bubble period and now the bubble has started to burst – I mentioned this last year in a conference, that by 2023, things will start slowing down.
“As my friends in the stock market would say, the market is correcting itself this year. By 2024/25 we will have stabilised our recruitment across these regions and others as well,” she explained.