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14th March 2024

Take off: Overseas students’ applications for UK universities increase

Overseas Student numbers have increased nationally, for a second year running, despite pressures from policy decisions and national events
Take off: Overseas students’ applications for UK universities increase
Credit: Szymon Shields

The number of international students has increased for a second year running amidst a controversy of overseas students being given a “back-door route” into universities.

UCAS’s data reveals a 0.7% increase in overseas undergraduate applicants for September 2024, compared to 2023 – growing from 114,910 to 115,730.

Despite the increase in applicants, numbers remain below pre-2020 numbers. There were 140,955 in 2019.

Enrolments of Students’ coming from the European Union have decreased by 53% since Brexit.

The rising numbers are happening in spite of the Government’s attempt to slash international student numbers as part of a clamp down on immigration.

The numbers of overseas students studying in 2021/22 were 679,970, which the government hopes to reduce to 600,000 by 2030.

Rishi Sunak’s effort to do this means he has removed the rights of masters students to bring family to the UK, while he is also reviewing overseas students’ two-year work visa after graduating.

According to new studies released in February 2024, this strategy has resulted in a decrease of about 33% in the number of overseas student visas issued, compared to the same time last year.

Overseas students are an increasingly beneficial asset to universities because of their higher fees. At the University of Manchester, fees are varied depending on course, with some international fees ranging from £24,000 to as much as £38,000 per annum.

In comparison, home students pay £9,250 per annum, a price frozen since 2012 despite inflation.

According to the Russell Group, this means Russell Group universities are making an estimated loss of £2,500 per home student.

The recent data shows that overseas students’ fees is key in financially supporting UK universities.

The chief executive of Universities UK, Vivienne Stern proclaimed her “worry” about the situation and told Radio 4: “It’s unstable and that’s seriously bad for universities because… they need international students to fund domestic education.”

The increased overseas applications come in the wake of controversy, sparked by The Sunday Times’ investigation, of overseas students “buying” their way into top university courses.

The investigation alleges that 15 Russell group universities are offering a one-year foundation course to overseas students’ that make it significantly easier to get into undergraduate courses.

Manchester is one of the 15 universities mentioned, and are accused of offering overseas students an entry requirement of 3Bs for economics, while home students are required to achieve 3As.

Overseas students are an important part of the student body at the University of Manchester, making up 32.4% of the student body as of 2021/22.

In a statement published, Manchester “absolutely” denies the claim and state that every student has to reach their “rigorous” criteria.

On the matter of foundation years for overseas students, the university claim they’re offered as an important bridge for international students who finish secondary school a year earlier than their UK counterparts.

The accusations have prompted Universities UK, a group of 142 universities including Manchester, to announce a review into the fairness of their admission process.

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