A record number of students from the UAE have applied to UK universities in 2022, data from admissions service Ucas reveals.
The trend was replicated globally with a record number of international students applying in total, with big increases in applications from China and India. Applications from European Union students continued to decrease.
A Ucas representative said the "UK's world-class universities and colleges" explained why applications from UAE students were up 17 per cent from 2021 and "rising much quicker than for many other countries outside of the EU".
To date, 2,950 applications from UAE students have been received by Ucas.
Fiona McKenzie, head of Carfax Education UAE, said the specificity of the UK's higher education syllabus proved very attractive to UAE students.
"Most British universities offer subject-specific degrees allowing students to specialise in particular areas. They are recognised for their academic integrity and small group teaching," she said.
The globality, heritage and pioneering reputation of the UK's higher education sector also contributes to the country's appeal, with only a few institutions failing to meet its high standards.
"UK universities feature highly in top global rankings and many universities are doing cutting-edge research into topical fields and this feeds into the student experience," said Ms McKenzie.
"Plus the age and history of many universities appeals to students who enjoy the traditions and longstanding reputation that this adds."
Ms McKenzie said the education system in the UAE prepares students well for transition to a UK university to study across a range of disciplines.
"We are currently working with students who want to study anything from engineering at Imperial College, PPE at Oxford, economics at LSE and fashion design at the London College of Fashion," she said.
China and India turbocharge international applications
The 17 per cent yearly increase in UAE applications trumps the 11 per cent growth in applications from India and the 12 per cent rise from China.
The 28,930 applicants from China helped to retain the country's position as the third-biggest market for UK higher education. The number of applicants from India – 8,660 – has almost doubled since 2019.
Hong Kong has declined by 390 applicants to 6,010, though it remains the third-largest international market overall.
Alongside the UAE, Nigeria (47 per cent, to 2,380 applicants) and Canada (17 per cent, to 2,450 applicants) have had the most significant proportional increases this year.
Applications from Singapore (3,390) and Malaysia (3,140) are once again increasing after falls in recent years but there was fall in applicants from the US, down almost 1,400 to 5,280, though still up on 2020.
Looking at the global picture, the total number of international applicants so far in 2022 is 111,410, similar to 2021 (111,630).
The plateauing can be ascribed to an increasing bifurcation in the numbers from EU and non EU countries.
The number of applicants from outside the EU continues to rise and is currently up 5 per cent to 90,590. There are slightly fewer than 20,820 EU applicants, a fall of 19 per cent on last year. The outlier is Ireland where applicants are up 5 per cent, to 5,100.
The sharp fall in EU applications corresponds with the UK leaving the bloc and onset of the coronavirus pandemic.
“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," said Ucas chief executive Clare Marchant.
“While applications have been very resilient throughout the pandemic, the robust demand from China, India and Hong Kong, as well as demand from a number of new and emerging global regions, shows the enduring appeal of our world-class universities, with our recent report indicating that nearly nine in 10 still view the UK as an attractive place to study.
"We are expecting, as part of the journey to a projected 1 million applications by 2026, the number of international students to grow by two thirds.
Ms Marchant also launched Myriad, a new platform dedicated to international postgraduate students to provide "excellent user experience ... as well as champion new and emerging markets for universities and colleges’ recruitment activities".
More than 90 per cent of UK universities and colleges are listed on Myriad and it is already being used by students in 150 countries.