UK universities suffer drop in international student numbers after record number of postponements

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British universities are struggling to overcome a double blow caused by the Covid-19 pandemic after a record number of postponements in 2020 and a sharp drop in applications from international students in 2021.

Universities UK International said The National this international undergraduate carry-overs nearly doubled in 2020, from 3,275 to 5,690, and the latest figures show 2021 carry-overs increased 29% from 2019, to 4,230.

Almost 37,000 students, from the UK and overseas combined, carried over to the UK last year – the highest figure in a decade and a 17% increase to 36,790 from 30 325 in 2019 – according to the latest figures from UCAS, the admissions department.

The number of people who successfully applied from abroad to study in the UK in 2021 fell by 8% compared to 2019. to 70,055 from 76,905, with the number of EU students almost halving, from 31,765 to 16,025.

The total number of international applications received by the October 2021 deadline for those wishing to start studying in the UK in the autumn of this year was 21,820, down from 22,730 the year before, a further drop of 4%.

UCAS said many of those who deferred in 2020 came to the UK in September 2021 to begin their studies, providing some relief to the industry.

With the Omicron variant raging across the globe, universities are once again bracing for more upheaval from Covid, with record numbers of students deferring places.

Many institutions internationally have started 2022 with distance learning with the aim of riding the latest pandemic wave, but despite efforts to return to some form of normalcy, some still face spiraling financial black holes. .

In Britain, the Institute for Fiscal Studies (IFS) said UK universities face up to £ 19bn ($ 25.8bn) in long-term losses due to trends related to Covid .

Last year, a report by London Economics, commissioned by the Higher Education Policy Institute (HEPI) think tank, found that in 2018/19 the gross benefit of international students to the UK economy was 28, £ 8 billion, with fee income of £ 15 billion.

The IFS estimates that higher-ranking institutes will be hit hardest by the loss of income.

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“The total size of the losses in the academic sector from the Covid-19 pandemic is highly uncertain: we estimate the long-term losses could be between £ 3 billion and £ 19 billion, or between 7.5% and close to half of the sector’s losses. overall income in one year, ”said IFS.

“Our central estimate of the total long-term losses to the university sector is £ 11 billion, or more than a quarter of income in a year.

“More than half of these losses come from a combination of declines in international student enrollments this year and an increase in balance sheet provisions for pension deficits.

“Large losses at the sector level mask substantial differences between institutions. In general, institutions with a high proportion of international students and those with large retirement obligations will face the largest drops in income or increases in costs. These are usually top-ranking universities, postgraduate institutions, or prestigious art schools.

Some of the best UK universities in the Russell Group were forced to offer applicants financial incentives to postpone their places as places for the courses sold out.

Exeter and Bristol have offered generous incentives to students of certain oversubscribed courses who have agreed to defer – including, in some cases, up to £ 10,000 and free accommodation in their first year.

Durham has offered some potential students £ 5,000 to defer their studies until this year.

“The pandemic has created challenges around the world, so it is a testament to the quality and reputation of the UK academic sector that the number of international students has remained competitive, with an increase in the number of applicants placed from from non-EU countries, “said a representative of the Russell Group. The National.

“Our universities are working hard to provide a range of supports to students, including those overseas, to help them continue to thrive in their studies.”

The latest figures released by UCAS show that 21,820 international students had applied for studies in 2022 by the October 2021 deadline, up from 22,730 in 2021.

“Universities recognize the disruption students have faced as a result of the pandemic and admissions teams will continue to ensure that admissions processes are fair and transparent,” said a representative from Universities UK. The National.

The number of students from the United Arab Emirates rose to 1,465 in 2021, up from 1,255 in 2019. Over a two-year period, the number of successful applicants from Saudi Arabia and Oman was also higher.

The UK hopes to attract more international students with the launch of its Graduate Route last summer.

It will allow eligible students to stay in the UK to work or look for work for two years (three years if studying at doctoral level) after graduation.

UCAS has also launched its free Myriad app for international students exploring postgraduate opportunities in the UK.

While foreign interest can be expected to help the sector recover, the fallout from Covid-19 is such that the IFS is still concerned that some universities may face insolvency.

“With around £ 45bn in reserves and an annual surplus of around £ 2bn before the crisis, the academic sector as a whole should be able to cope with substantial Covid-related losses,” said Ben Waltmann, research economist at IFS. .

“However, some universities were already in dire financial straits before the crisis hit. For a dozen of these institutions, insolvency is likely to become a very real prospect without a government bailout. “

The 10 Best Places in the UK International students are worth the most to the local economy each year

  • Sheffield Central – £ 290million
  • Nottingham South – £ 261million
  • Holborn and St Pancras – £ 243million
  • Newcastle upon Tyne East – £ 240million
  • East Ham – £ 217million
  • Cambridge – £ 214million
  • West Ham – £ 212million
  • Manchester Central – £ 211million
  • Oxford East – £ 211million
  • Liverpool, Riverside – £ 203million

Update: January 13, 2022 9:53 am

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