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International student recruitment data

​All the numbers you need, in one place

This page includes the most up-to date figures on:

  • new enrollments from international students
  • student visa applications 
  • applications from international students made through UCAS
  • where students worldwide are interested in studying
  • regional and country breakdowns of where and what students are studying, or want to study
Including data from HESA, UCAS, the Home Office, ONS, IDP Connect and Study Portals. This data is updated on a quarterly basis.

With thanks to IDP Connect and Study Portals for providing exclusive access to their insights data.


How many international students are there in the UK and where do they come from?



These graphs show yearly numbers of international student enrollments in the UK across ten years from 2007 – 2017.

The number of EU undergraduates rose to 94,080 in 2017/18 (6% on the previous year), while the number of EU postgraduates (taught and research) dropped by 2% over the same period. Non-EU student numbers rose by 2% among undergraduates and 5% among postgraduates, totalling 157,720 over the 2017/18 academic year. On average, non-UK student enrolments grew by 4% across undergraduates and postgraduates.

Growth has slowed in the past ten years, however. 

​In the EU, there is notable decline from top senders such as France, Germany, Greece and Ireland since well before the 2016 EU referendum. There was a particular drop in growth between 2011 and 2012, which could have been triggered by the rise in tuition fees for undergraduates from £3,000 a year to £9,000.

Internationally, growth has largely been driven by the consistent rise in the number of new enrollments from China, although even here there was a small plateau in growth between 2011 and 2014. With the notable exception of the US and Singapore, most other major sending countries have seen a decline in growth. India has seen some recovery in the number of enrollments to the UK in recent years, with significant growth of 28% in 2017.

How is the number of new enrolments from each sending country changing year on year?​

Source: HESA


First year enrolments:

In 2017/18, the number of international students (EU and non-EU) enrolling for the first year of an undergraduate degree grew by 3%, to 104,555. This growth was driven by the number of non-EU first-year undergraduates (up 4%) while the number of EU first-year undergraduates remained relatively stable compared to last year.

In 2017/18, the number of first-year international postgraduates saw a 7% growth on 2016/17, totalling 143,130. Similarly to first-year undergraduate students, this reflected a rise in first-year non-EU postgraduate students (up 10%) and a slight decline in first-year EU postgraduate students (down 2%).

 

Postgraduate taught (PGT) vs postgraduate research (PGR), total enrolments:

When data is broken down into PGT and PGR students, it becomes clear that growth in non-UK postgraduate enrolments is driven by non-EU PGT students (up 8% on 2016/17), while trends for EU PGT/PGR enrolments and non-EU PGT enrolments are negative (-2/3% on previous year for all three categories). 

 

Postgraduate taught (PGT) vs postgraduate research (PGR), first enrolments:

First-year PGT enrolments increased for non-EU students (up 10% on previous year) and slightly dropped for EU students (down 2%). Non-EU first-year PGR enrolment also saw an upward trend (+5% on 2016/17), while the EU counterpart saw a drop (-4% on previous year in first-year PGR students).


How many students applied for a study visa?



These graphs show:

  1. The number of higher education institution sponsored student visas as compared to student visas sponsored by other types of educational institution

  2. The number of higher education institution sponsored student visas broken down by student nationality

The figures shown are from November 2010 – February 2019 and are broken down by quarter.

Growth in higher education institution sponsored student visas has been gradual across the period, with a slight plateau from 2011.

The latest figures show:

  • The number of non-EEA students accepted by a university and then applying for a visa has risen by 9% to 194,152, the highest level on record.

  • This was driven by increases in applications for the university sector, which increased by 10% to 194,861.

  • The higher education sector accounted for 85% of all sponsored visa applications.

  • Within the total, there have been year-on-year declines in university-sponsored Tier 4 visa applications from Saudi Arabia (-3%) and Malaysia (-3%).

  • Applications for university-sponsored Tier 4 visa applications have risen from China (+12%), India (+33%).



How many international students applied to study in the UK through UCAS?

Source: UCAS

This graph shows applications received through UCAS from international students from within the EU and from outside the EU between 2010 – 2019.

Currently, the data from outside the EU represents only a small proportion of international applicants, as many students from outside the EU do not apply through UCAS. From across the EU though, 98% of all applications are made through UCAS.

The EU data in this graph shows very clearly the significant dips in new applications from EU students in both 2012 and 2016. These changes may have been influenced by the rise in tuition fees in 2012 and the EU referendum result in 2016. Encouragingly, both cases have been followed by some recovery in growth, although recovery since 2016 has been minimal. 

Where are international students interested in studying?


Drawing on online traffic of 77 million visits per year to IDP Connect’s international course search sites, the IDP Connect insights tool shows where, and what, students across the world are interested in studying.

 

Use the graph below to see where students across major sending countries are looking to study: how do we compare to other popular study destinations?

 

For further search data, analysis and a look at how IDP Connect data compares to student enrollment figures, take a look at IDP Connect and UUKi’s joint international student behaviour data briefings.


Indian student search data [PDF]

International student search behaviour 1 [PDF]

International student search behaviour 2 [PDF]



International student recruitment
We work with a range of organisations to encourage the recruitment of international students to UK universities. Download our resources and stay up to date with the latest statistics on international students studying in the UK.

For further search data and analysis, take a look at IDP Connect and UUKi’s joint international student behaviour data briefings.

Indian student search data [PDF]

International student search behaviour 1 [PDF]

International student search behaviour 2 [PDF]