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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
Including data from HESA, UCAS, the Home Office, ONS and IDP Connect. This data is updated on a quarterly basis.

With thanks to IDP Connect 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 new international student enrollments in the UK across ten years from 2007 – 2017.

We can see that growth in enrollments from both within the EU and outside the EU has stagnated since 2010.

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 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 – August 2018 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:

  • In 2018, the number of sponsored student visa applications (main applicants) rose 8% to 229,488.
  • 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.
  • There was a notable increase in the number of sponsored study visas granted to Chinese students (up 13% to 99,723). 
  • There was also a significant increase in the number of visas granted to Indian students (up 35% to 19,505).
  • This is the largest number of grants to Indian students since 2011.
  • Chinese and Indian nationals together accounted for just under half (41% and 8% respectively) of all Tier 4 visas granted.

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]

Breaking down interest from India

India is a key sending country for UK universities, but there have been significant fluctuations in the number of Indian students choosing to study in the UK over recent years. The graph below shows how the Indian market is diversifying: where previously Delhi has dominated in terms of sending students to study abroad, there is now a much more even spread of students across India who are looking to study outside the country.

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.