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.”