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UK-based internationals vital, say universities

The UK-based international student market remains vital to UK universities despite the impact of tougher visa policies, The PIE News has learnt. Last month at the UK University International Student Fair (run by SI-UK) in London – which welcomed 70 universities and around 2,000 students from 150 countries – institutions said an important proportion of overseas applications originated within the country.

50% of undergraduate applications to UK universities originate onshore

A study of UCAS data this year found 50% of all undergraduate applications were made onshore

They added that onshore marketing was more cost effective and led to better quality students.

Siobhan Marshall, international officer at the University of Sussex, said: “The UK-based international students tend to be better informed, they ask more challenging questions than you see overseas, and they are very realistic about the universities they can go to, so as an international officer you end up rejecting fewer students.”

Robert Brunning, international progressions assistant at the University of East Anglia, said around 20% of the university’s overseas students applied onshore. “I think the international recruitment market in the UK is very important to us because obviously we travel all around the world to meet international students, but there are actually very good students on our own doorstep.”

“The UK-based international students tend to be better informed”

While it is hard for a university to tell exacly how many applications come from within the UK, a study of UCAS data this year found 50% of all undergraduate applications were made onshore. Universities say that most come from UK universities, boarding schools, colleges, foundation providers or language schools.

But while institutions said the government’s tighter visa policies had placed constraints on the market, few had seen enrolments fall – an observation shared by Vicki Smith, director at SI-UK.

“Numbers from India are down; and due to new UKBA requirements students are having to go back home in order to apply when traditionally they’ve been on a visitor visa for 11 months and gone straight on to university, which raises costs. But people are still coming, the UK remains a popular destination,” she said.

Despite 21% fewer visas being issued across all sectors last year, UCAS (which handles only undergraduate applications) says non-EU university enrolments were up 4% this year. Universities also expect their revenue from this group to rise in the next three years according to a new Higher Education Funding Council for England report – although it warns visa policy could still upset this.

SI-UK, which also operates as an agency in the UK, Turkey, Japan and India, said it would be expanding its UK fairs which it believes fill a “hole in the market”. “We’re still growing as a company and just expanded to Manchester. There’s lot’s more brand recognition,” said Smith.

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