British universities boast record number of international student admissions, but EU numbers down

Fresh figures reveal a record number of international students have applied and been accepted to take degree courses at UK universities, however the number of students from EU countries has dropped.

Ucas, the university admissions service, said 2,090 more international, non-EU students applied to start undergraduate courses this autumn, an increase of 2.8% on last year.

The total number of applicants hit 76,380 - the highest on record, reversing the drop in numbers seen in 2016, while the numbers of overseas students accepted on to courses increased by 5%.

Applicants from the EU dropped by 4.4% to 51,185, some 2,375 fewer than in 2016, reversing a year-on-year trend that has risen since 2012.

Ucas also recorded as a 3.1% fall in applications from the UK, with 18,220 fewer applying to start courses this autumn.

"Although UK acceptances are down this year, the number accepted from outside the UK increased by 2% to the highest ever total, the fifth successive year acceptances from this group have increased,” Ucas said.

"Within this, there is a fall in acceptances from within the EU (excluding the UK), which are 2% lower than last year.

"But this decrease in EU acceptances is more than compensated for with a 5% increase in acceptances from outside the EU, as UK higher education continues to be a popular destination for those domiciled overseas who wish to continue their studies."

Alistair Jarvis, chief executive of vice-chancellors' group Universities UK, said: "The small fall in EU students suggest that Brexit is starting to deter EU students from coming to the UK.

"European students make a huge contribution to our universities, the economy and local communities. Spending by European students and their visitors supports 40,000 jobs across the UK.

"We need confirmation from Government that they will continue to provide financial support for EU students applying for 2019 entry and a commitment to a post-exit immigration system that minimises barriers and bureaucracy for students."

Sarah Stevens, head of policy at the Russell Group, which represents 24 leading universities, said: "It is a very positive message that so many talented students from across the globe continue to want to come and study here, attracted by the world-class teaching and research that our universities provide.

"We will be closely monitoring the situation regarding applications from EU countries.

"If it turns out that the fall in places this year is due to the continuing uncertainty posed by Brexit, it reinforces our call for Government to provide greater clarity for EU students coming to the UK.

"In particular, they should confirm at the earliest opportunity the fee rate and other financial support EU undergraduates and postgraduates might be eligible for from 2019/20 onwards as well as arrangements to stay for further study or work after graduation."

Universities Minister Jo Johnson said: "It is encouraging to see record numbers of 18-year-olds going to university and benefiting from our world-class institutions.

"Our reforms are going even further to create a system that provides innovation, choice and value for money for all students, regardless of background."

"A key part of the success of British universities is attracting talent from across the globe.

"EU students make an important contribution to our universities and we want that to continue.

"Earlier this year we confirmed that EU students starting their courses in the academic year 18/19 or before will continue to be eligible for student loans.

"They will also continue to be eligible for home fee status, which means they are charged exactly the same fees as UK students."