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UK: non-EU applications rise despite visa fears

International applications to UK universities were up by 9.6% at the January deadline, defying fears that tougher visa policies are damaging the country’s appeal as a study destination. The news comes just weeks after UCAS revealed that growth in non-EU enrolments slowed in 2012 with a dramatic 24% fall in the Indian market.

International applications to UK universities have risen 9.6% by the January deadline

According to new UCAS figures, undergraduate applications from outside the EU grew from 41,360 to 45,320 this year—proportionally less than 13.7% last year, but more than the 5.2% in 2011.

“Many remain deeply concerned that, as with last year, this may not result in those numbers actually arriving”

Interest from all but one of the top 10 source countries grew, with applications from India up by 19.3%, Malaysia by 24.8%, and the Far East region (excluding Hong Kong and Malaysia) by 8.3%.

UCAS said that undergraduate applications received by the January deadline were the “first reliable indication of demand for higher education” this year (although they do not include postgraduate numbers which account for around half of all enrolments). 60% of non-EU applications through UCAS were received by this point in 2012, although final enrolments are invariably lower.

Observers welcomed the news but cautioned that it was too soon to say how visa policies would affect the sector in 2013. Many attribute the Indian slump of 2012 to the abolishment of the post-study work visa in April. New border interviews for more than 100,000 students considered a high fraud risk could have a similar impact this year.

Dominic Scott, CEO of the UK Council for International Student Affairs, told The PIE News: “This is great news, after such a turbulent time, if it really does show some positive signs. But many remain deeply concerned that, as with last year, this may not result in those numbers actually arriving, that the new interviews may be off-putting for many and that the more significant postgraduate numbers may well not be half as encouraging.

“It [is] so many of those [postgraduates] who appear to have been discouraged by the overall rhetoric and so few opportunities to stay on and work in the UK.”

A spokesperson for the British Council welcomed the figures which “show that the UK continues to be an attractive destination for international students”. However, they said, “Applications are not the same as enrolments…so we will work hard together with UK government and education providers to build on this interest in the UK to ensure that we don’t miss the opportunity to welcome these talented and ambitious students.”

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4 Responses to UK: non-EU applications rise despite visa fears

  1. Don’t believe everything you read! Although you point out that the UCAS figures are only undergraduate, you don’t say that they are also partial. Some institutions ignore UCAS altogether for international undergraduate applications. Are these up too? Since postgraduate applications by your own statement are not included, how can a claim that international applications overall are up? They also do not include FE applications – for my institution, Foundation students are about a third of new entrants each year. Again, this challenges the assertion that applications are up. I thnk that a much more critical approach is required to these numbers, especially since they will be used to justify the visa regime – if applications are up what’s the problem? But are they really up?

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