Before the COVID-19 pandemic began in March 2020, global student mobility was projected to grow to 9 million by 2030. However, things have undergone drastic changes post that with several people left speculating if this is the end of international student movement across the world.
But as universities, countries and students adjust to the ‘new normal,’ there is a fresh rise in the interest to study abroad among international students. Annual surveys conducted by the College Board indicate that 83% of foreign students in 2020 and 93% of students in 2021 said that they are interested in studying outside their home country. This compares to 82% immediately before the pandemic.
This indicates that instead of dampening the spirits of students to study overseas, the pandemic has made them even more resilient and interested in pursuing a foreign qualification.
- It is predicted that there will be an increase in the volume of international undergraduate applicants to UK by 46% to 208,500 by 2026.
- More than 1 in 10 international students are considering higher education abroad before they turn 11.
- About 47% students say that their parents/guardians or close members of their family have previously studied abroad and this motivates them too.
Is UK Still Popular?
Many of you are often posed with questions such as ‘why study in UK’ or ‘why choose UK for studies’ or ‘why is UK better than other countries for study.’ A few things that have influenced these decisions or changed include how students and their families decide on studying abroad and what factors drive their decision making.
The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) in UK, in association with the College Board, has conducted latest research on the above and provides new insight on the attributes and mindset of undergraduate international students.
One of the key findings of the research is that the demand for UK higher education is high. UCAS predicts an increase in the volume of international undergraduate applicants by 46% to 208,500 by 2026. More than 50,000 of these applicants will be from China. It also suggests that more than 1 in 10 international students are considering higher education abroad before they turn 11.
About 47% say that parents/guardians or close members of their family have previously studied abroad and this motivates them too.
However, the motivation factors vary from country to country. For example, for 80% of Nigerian students, gaining skills to support their careers is important while for 75% Indian students, the quality of higher education being better abroad is the deciding factor.
UK Popularity Vs Other Countries
The research shows that global higher education has something for everyone. Prospects after graduation appear to be more important for those wanting to study in the US (57%), Singapore (54%) and UK (54%); whereas experiencing life in that country is more important to those considering Italy (75%) and the Netherlands (72%).
Currently, 5.6 million students, equivalent to the population of Singapore – study in a country different to their home nation. This has grown 250% since 2000, and is forecast to grow as high as 9 million in 2030 – equivalent to the population of Austria.
Within UK alone, UCAS, forecasts that the volume of international undergraduate applicants will increase 46% to 208,500 by 2026. During the pandemic, over 155,000 international students chose to study in UK universities and began their undergraduate studies with 88% of international applicants continuing to see UK as a positive or very positive place to study. Around two in nine international acceptances to UK higher education (HE) are from China, but new markets are emerging with Nigeria (+102%) and Pakistan (+59%) seeing notable increases since 2016.
The largest increases in applicant numbers in the last ten years have come from China (+18.8k, +195%), India (+6.8k, +222%), and the US (+4.8k, +165%) – these are also the top three largest international markets and among the ten markets with the largest proportional growth11. The next to feature among the top markets for both raw and proportional growth is the UAE – a 247% increase since 2011 (+2.1k), followed by Turkey with a 233% growth (+1.1k), and South Africa with 229% growth (+0.6k).
Also, international students are highly independent: More than half say that it was their own research that informed their choice of country of study; 1% reference teachers and 2% name education agents.
University or college choice comes ahead of subjects for foreign students. Quality and reputation of university or college are more important than the equivalent metrics for field of study. College Board research indicates that 57% of international students are interested in studying STEM subjects. Open days (40%) and interaction with current students (39%) are increasingly used by students considering overseas study.
Individuals are five times more likely to rank landing a job in their destination country, relative to their home nation, as their top priority.
UK Vs Ireland
UK and Ireland are often on the priority list for many looking to study in the region. However, when it comes to prospects after graduation, these appear to be more important for those wanting to study in UK (54%) than in Ireland (36%). UK also scored above Ireland on other aspects such as reputation of institutions and students’ desire to experience life in the country.
Overall, UK institutions, due to their popularity over Ireland over decades, saw 4,16,400 applicants in the January 2022 cycle. This excludes applicants to Scotland and Wales. Northern Ireland, on the other hand, had 17,750 applicants for the same period.