A total of 35,080 non-EU international students have been accepted – breaking the previous high of 33,630 in 2019 – according to figures from the admissions service for UK higher education.
“Universities and colleges have plans to welcome students onto their courses as safely as possible”
Some 26,440 EU students had been accepted to study in the UK at the same point last year, however, the drop is likely due to exam result delays across Europe following the Covid-19 pandemic.
UCAS emphasised that the 2020 figures are not final as more international applicants are currently holding an offer and their places will be confirmed once their qualification results are provided to universities.
In 2019 international student numbers were driven by 32% rise in accepted applicants from China, and in 2020 accepted students from the country grew a further 1,100 students to 8,840.
Hong Kong also increased its numbers to 3,430 from 3,010 – marking its largest cohort of accepted students.
Numbers of acceptances from the third-highest source country – India – also increased by 12% on 2019 figures, reaching a historic high of 2,720.
However, figures from Malaysia fell to 1,720 – a number not seen for more than a decade. Accepted students from Singapore also declined by some 5% from 1,450 in 2019 to 1,380 in 2020.
The drop in European applications at this point may be surprising as 2020 marks the final year students from across the EU will be eligible for home fee status in the UK.
A survey of more than 2,500 EU students interested in studying in the UK suggested up to 84% could be put off due to the status change. The figures for accepted students from across the continent it expected to change as exam results as released in countries.
“Universities and colleges have plans to welcome students onto their courses as safely as possible, which have been received well,” said UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant.
The UCAS figures will be updated daily throughout August.