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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 enrolments 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.

Key facts: 

  • In 2017/18 there were 458,490 international students studying in the UK. 139,150 of these were from the EU and 319,340 were non-EU.
  • Total international student numbers in the UK increased by 5% between 2011/12 and 2017/18. The USA and Australia have seen increases of 28% and 73% over the equivalent time period.
  • In the year ending September 2019 there were 222,047 Tier 4 visa applications made by non-EEA applicants to UK universities. This is a 14% inrease from the same point in 2018.


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

In 2017/18 there were 458,490 international students studying in the UK. 139,150 of these were from the EU and 319,340 were non-EU.

Chinese students make up the largest cohort with over 106,000 studying in the UK in 2017/16. China is followed by almost 20,000 students from India and 19,000 from the USA. Italian and French students are the two largest cohorts from the EU with almost 14,000 students each studying in the UK in 2017/18.

The map below shows the number of enrolments from each country in the world in the selected academic year. If you hover over a country, you will see the change in total enrolments from that country over the period of 2007/08 to 2017/18.

In 2017/18 the total number of non-EU students grew by 4% whilst EU student number grew by 3%. However, growth has not been cosistently strong over the past ten years.  

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 enrolments 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 enrolments to the UK in recent years, with significant growth of 28% in 2017.

 

According to HESA total enrolment figures for the top 10 sending countries to the UK in 2017/18 were:

  1. China (106,530)
  2. India (19,750)
  3. United States (18885)
  4. Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China) (16,350)
  5. Malaysia (14,970)
  6. Italy (13,985)
  7. France (13,660)
  8. Germany (13,545)
  9. Nigeria (10,540)
  10. Greece (10,135)   



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

Source: HESA

The map below shows the number of first year enrolments from each country in the world in the selected academic year, you can also break down this data by level of study. If you hover over a country, you will see the change in total first year enrolments from that country over the period of 2007/08 to 2017/18 for the selected level of study.

 

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 (down 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 (up 5% on 2016/17), while the EU counterpart saw a drop (down 4% on previous year in first-year PGR students).


How many students applied for a study visa in recent years, and where do they come from?


The map below shows the number of Tier 4 student visas applied for from each country in the world in the year to the selected quarter. If you hover over a country, you will see the change in visa applications from that country over the period of 2010 to the most recent quarter available.

The latest visa figures for the year to September 2019 show:

  • The number of non-EEA students accepted by a university and then applying for a visa has risen by 14% to 222,047, the highest level on record.
  • The higher education sector accounted for 85% of all sponsored visa applications.
  • Applications for university-sponsored Tier 4 visa applications have risen from China (up 43%), India (up 63%).


According to visa statistics the Tier 4 visa numbers for top 10 non-EU sending countries to the UK in the year ending September 2019 were:

  1. China (105,400)
  2. India (27,276)
  3. United States (10,196)
  4. Malaysia (6, 468)
  5. Nigeria (5,854)
  6. Saudi Arabia (4,508)
  7. Thailand (4,132)
  8. Pakistan (3,742)
  9. Hong Kong (Special Administrative Region of China) (3,695)
  10. Canada (3,219)


How does the number of international students studying in the UK compare to other countries? 

As of 2018 the UK remained the second most popular destination for international students to study higher education globally with only the USA ahead of it. This position is however increasingly coming under threat from Australia which has experienced strong growth in recent years. Between 2011/12 and 2017/18 the UK saw a 5% growth in international student numbers compared to 73% in Australia. Despite recent decreases since 2016 the USA also experienced 31% growth over the same time period.




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

Source: UCAS

Currently, the UCAS data for applications 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 available from 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 enrolment 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]


How has the announcement of the new Graduate visa route impacted student interest in UK study?

Source: IDP Connect

The graph below shows the number of IDP Connect course search users looking at courses in the UK before and after the new graduate visa route was announced on 11 September 2019. You can explore the numbers by country and by area of study. Note the 148% increase in traffic from India between the 10 and 13 September and the 130% increase in Nigeria. While Nigeria's numbers dipped back down to their usual levels within two months of the announcement, Indian numbers have remained high. 

Regional data

India

​Europe

Middle East

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]