British universities report shows UK still a top destination for UAE students

Total applications from overseas to study in UK set to rise by almost 50%, survey finds

Applications to UK universities are set to rise by nearly 50 per cent within five years from international students, figures from Ucas suggest. PA
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A report by the UK's universities admissions service reveals that Britain is one of the world's leading destination for international students.

Ucas, in a report published on Thursday, forecasts the volume of international undergraduate applicants will increase by 46 per cent to 208,500 by 2026.

It found the number of students from the UAE choosing to study in the UK has risen by 247 per cent since 2011.

In a survey of more than 1,200 students across 116 countries planning to study internationally, factors such as global admiration of the National Health Service and the English language were important for those considering university in the UK.

During the coronavirus pandemic, it found 88 per cent of students viewed Britain as a positive or very positive place to study, with 77 per cent applying because of its strong academic reputation.

Ucas and College Board’s report, Where Next? What influences the choices international students make?, shows that international students tend to apply for a focused group of subjects, are highly independent with their research and about half follow in their parents’ footsteps by studying abroad.

It found students' motivation differs by nation, with Nigerian students most interested in gaining skills to support them in their career, while for Indian students the most important factor is that higher education options are of "better quality" than at home.

Clare Marchant, Ucas chief executive, said: “International students are showing extraordinary resilience — the universal appeal of living and studying in another country continues.

“Despite the challenges of the pandemic, international students have pursued the opportunities available to them and we forecast sustained growth in interest to study in the UK to continue into the next decade.

“Our findings from this joint research with College Board focus on international students’ mindsets and what they want from their higher education experience. To continue to inspire and support international students to cross borders, the global higher education community should personalise applicants’ experiences, using information that's relevant and useful for specific countries to share the outstanding opportunities on offer.”

In 2021, more than half of international students accepted through Ucas to study in Britain came from only seven countries, with two in every nine coming from China.

Linda Liu, College Board’s international vice president, said the results of the study reaffirmed "the desire of so many students to study in another country".

"Studying abroad is a big decision and we continue to see international students planning early, being thoughtful about their research and fiercely seeking tangible outcomes from their experience," she said.

"We are pleased to partner with Ucas on this research, which not only includes learnings from this new survey but also combines insights from previous research to uncover evolutions and differences in how globally mobile students are making their choices.”

Unesco reports that 5.6 million students study in a different country to their home nation. The UK continues to be a leading host destination for international students, second only to the US, with the two countries together hosting 30 per cent of international students.

Updated: May 26, 2022, 6:06 AM