New UCAS figures show a threefold increase in Chinese applicants from 2013
More students from China applied to study at UK universities this year than the sum total of students from the European Union countries combined.
New figures published by UCAS show a record breaking 31,400 Chinese students have applied to British universities, marking a 193% increase from 2013.
Despite the Covid pandemic and the strict regime of lockdowns in China, the upward trend of Chinese applicants over the past decade has only continued. Chinese students are particularly attracted to the UK’s high-ranking universities in worldwide league tables, says Director of the Higher Education Policy Institute Nick Hillman. English language tuition and the growth of the Chinese middle class over the past 20 years have had an impact too.
But these figures are likely to cause disquiet as concerns mount about the UK’s reliance on fees from Chinese students. Were the relationship between the UK and China to seriously sour “a very chill wind would blow through Britain’s universities” says Hillman, “especially prestigious ones.”
Earlier this week at a conference in Australia, Vivienne Stern, head of Universities UK International, said: “We would be failing ourselves if we didn’t consider the particular challenges posed by the potential deterioration in the relationship with China.”
In contrast, applicants from the EU have nearly halved in the past two years. This year, 23,160 students made applications to UK universities, a 93.1% decrease from 2020.
The trend can mostly be explained by Brexit. While Britain was a member of the EU, students from the bloc were entitled to tuition loans and the same fees as British students. Since August 2021, European students have faced the same higher fees as all international students and cannot access tuition loans.
UK universities may now look to other large foreign markets to broaden their income streams. India supplied 11,880 applicants this year, making it the largest source nation of applicants after the EU and China. Another fast-growing market is Nigeria, whose applicants increased by 58% from last year.