UK universities see an increase in Chinese student applications

(2min read)

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) has recorded a sharp decline in the number of EU student applications in the UK, while applications from Chinese students have risen. EU applications had dropped by 43% to 28,400 in 2021 but applications from China had risen to 28,490; more than double the number in 2017. The figures highlight the potential impact of Brexit, with rule changes meaning EU students are now paying higher fees at most British universities, and the education sector’s growing reliance on Chinese applicants.

Data recorded by the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) has stated that Chinese students form the largest cohort of international students, with 139,130 students studying in the UK from 2019-20. This number was closely followed by India with 52,545 and the USA with 19,949. In comparison the two largest sectors within the EU are Italy with 13,605 and France with 13,340 students in the UK in 2019-20.


The Global Times reported in May that the Chinese Embassy in London had recorded a total of approximately 216,000 Chinese students studying in the UK. It is widely known that China is the UK’s single biggest provider of overseas students, with 35% choosing to study in the UK across all levels in 2018-19.


A spokesperson from Universities UK International (UUKi) has suggested that UK universities have ‘all the pieces in place’ to successfully attract international student’s post-pandemic. The UK has remained flexible by keeping its borders open to international students and universities have also extended their remote learning concessions until April 2022. Universities have extended their duty of care to accommodate international students and also provided additional support measures such as airport pick-ups for returning students. Despite the pandemic having a negative impact on Chinese students seeking to study abroad, many are still eager to take their learning overseas with application numbers on the increase.


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