In 2021, the UK government had set itself a goal of 600,000 international students enrolled in UK universities by 2030. However, as the latest reports of new enrolments in the country are revealed, we can the goal seems to have been a cakewalk for the UK government.
For the 2020-21 academic year, the UK higher education providers enrolled 605,130 international students, surpassing the 600,000 goal a decade earlier than expected, as revealed by figures published by the Higher Education Statistics Agency.
The Pie News reported that 452,225 international students were recorded as non-EU students for the 2020-21 academic year, meanwhile, 152,905 students were classed as EU students. The overall figures totalled 2,751,865, a 9% increase compared to 2019-20 numbers. Meanwhile, the 48,505 rise in international student numbers is an 8.7% rise over the 2019-20 statistics, where the non-UK students totalled 556,625.
Further statistics from the Higher Education Statistics Agency (HESA) revealed a rise of 27% in Indian student enrolment, meanwhile, a decline of 5% in Chinese student enrolment was seen for the first time. Overall, a 13% rise in first-year domestic student numbers had been witnessed meanwhile, a 4% rise in non-UK first-year student enrolment had been witnessed. HESA also reported a rise in taught postgraduate degree enrolment, in both international and domestic students.
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Lucy Van Essen-Fishman, HESAs Lead Policy and Research Analyst commented that despite fears about the potential effect of the pandemic, the data collected reveals a rise in first-year international students, overall.
She also pointed out that the first-year-first-degree EU student enrolment was up 8%, slightly below the rate of increase of the overall first-year enrolments. Further, the EU-domiciled postgraduate student numbers were also on the rise, however, the rate of increase was revealed to be smaller comparatively.
Essen-Fishman also pointed out that the international first-year student numbers from outside the EU had been revealed to be lower, 73,455 in AY 2020-21, compared to 74,975 in AY 2019-20. However, she added that this decline is counterbalanced with the rise in non-EU postgraduate research (7%) and non-EU taught postgraduate enrolments (8%). As per reports, a total of 212.515 non-EU postgraduate students enrolled in AY 2020-21, with an additional 34,015 non-EU students enrolling in postgraduate research programmes.
In the words of Essen-Fishman, UK higher education remains an attractive option for international students, despite the effects and restrictions brought forth as a result of the pandemic.
The AY 2020-21 statistics revealed that 32% of all non-EU enrolments were from China, totalling 143,820 students, HESA reported. It further revealed that the student enrolment from India, though not as high as China, saw a significant rise of 67,660 over a span of 5 years.
Stephanie Harris, Acting Head of Policy and Global Engagement at Universities UK International, commented that the growth is testament to the perseverance shown by students and our members from the wider sector and government working together to make international students feel welcomed in the country, further adding that the UK reached the international education strategys target, well ahead of schedule.
As per media reports, Indian students represented 19% of all non-EU student numbers for the AY 2020-21, which is equal to 84,555 students. Among the other top sources of students, Nigeria just beat the US for the third spot, with 21,305 students enrolling from Nigeria and 19,220 enrolling from the US. Meanwhile, Hong Kong became the 5th top source of international students, with 16,665 students enrolling in UK courses.
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Representing the EU, students from Italy took the top spot, with 14,605 students enrolling across the UK, followed by France, with 14,090 student enrolments and Romania with 12,860 student enrolments.
However, in England, the second position had been taken by Romanian students, HESA reported while adding that Ireland was the top source of EU students in Scotland. The Scottish universities saw 2,376 Irish students enrolled across different courses, with Germany following close behind with 2,360 student enrolments in AY 2020-21.
HESA reports also pointed out the institutions with the highest international student enrolment, which include:
Coventry University enrolled 13,760 international students;
Kings College London enrolled 15,550 international students;
The University of Edinburgh enrolled 15,590 international students;
The University of Manchester enrolled 17,625 international students; and
University College London enrolled 23,360 international students.
The numbers reported by the Higher Education Statistics Agency reveal that the UK has been successful in managing a worldwide health crisis and maintaining its position as a top study abroad destination among prospective international students. Further, the significant increase in international student enrolments also highlights the students willingness to and dedication to continuing their studies abroad, despite the restrictions and challenges brought forth by the Covid-19 pandemic.
Source: The PIE News
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