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UK: UCAS applications forecast +10% from China and India

The January deadline for applications made via the UK’s UCAS platform has suggested that record numbers of undergraduates from two key international markets are expected to join courses in September 2022, new statistics have shown.

Recent UCAS research found 88% of international students see the UK as a positive, or very positive, place to study. Photo: pexels

Around 75-80% of EU domiciled students and around two thirds of non-EU students apply via UCAS

The latest figures show that applications from China grew by 12% to 28,930 applicants compared to 2021 and India has grown by 11% year-on-year to 8,660 applicants – almost double of 2019 numbers.

“It’s a very positive story, given the turbulence of the time,” managing director of UCAS International Des Cutchey told The PIE.

International applications for 2022 so far stand at 111,410, similar to 2021. While non-EU applications continue to increase, applications from Europe have continued to fall, but UCAS says the EU market is beginning to stabilise.

Non-EU applications are up 5%, reaching 90,590, while a 19% fall across Europe is a decline of almost 5,000 applications. EU applicants dropped to 20,820 in 2022.

Ireland – where students continue to have access to home fee status in the UK – saw applications grow by 5%, to 5,100.

“Though the numbers are falling, there are markets that are stabilising”

“The decline in the EU can be made up for the in the growth of those countries traditionally seen as international markets,” Cutchey added.

“What the EU figures are showing is that, after the initial huge amount of decline, though the numbers are falling, there are markets that are stabilising.”

Beyond Europe, the statistics show big rises in applications from Nigeria and Canada, +47%, to 2,380 applicants and +17%, to 2,450 applicants, respectively.

Singapore and Malaysia have returned to levels seen around five years ago, reaching 3,390 and 3,140 applicants, respectively.

However, some countries such as South Korea, Pakistan and the US saw declines, with the US down almost 1,400 to 5,280.

“As we recover from the Covid pandemic and see the increased opening up of international travel, this year was always going to be pivotal for the international student market,” Clare Marchant, chief executive at UCAS, said in a statement.

Robust demand internationally, particularly in China, India and Hong Kong and other new and emerging global regions shows “the enduring appeal of our world-class universities”, she added.

While Hong Kong declined by 390 applicants to 6,010, it remains the third largest international market overall.

“We are expecting, as part of the journey to a projected million applications by 2026, the number of international students to grow by two-thirds,” Marchant noted.

UCAS acknowledges that not all international applicants come through the service.

Earlier in February, head of policy, Ben Jordan said that the organisation had previously estimated that around 99% of UK domicile students, compared with 75-80% of EU domiciled students and around two thirds of non-EU students apply via UCAS.

“We do have a comprehensive picture and we are the largest supplier of international students to the UK, but it’s not necessarily a complete picture,” he said, adding that figures in recent years had shown a decrease in EU students, similar to that of HESA statistics.

“What you see from UCAS is a good indication of the trend”

“What you see from UCAS is a good indication of the trend, particularly as we have a greater coverage of EU domiciled students,” he said at a recent Westminster Forum event.

However, Cutchey noted that the UCAS data “is a good indication” of what the UK sector can expect to see for the years ahead.

While the latest figures cover the undergraduate applications, UCAS has also officially launched its technology-backed international postgraduate application service, Myriad by UCAS. It announced it would develop an app for prospective postgraduate students in 2020.

“As part of our trusted and independent role, we are delighted to launch today our new platform dedicated to international postgraduate students, Myriad by UCAS,” Marchant added.

“Myriad by UCAS will support the International Education Strategy’s ambitions by providing an excellent user experience for students coming to the UK as well as champion new and emerging markets for universities and colleges’ recruitment activities.”


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