Market forces keep them away

February 19, 1999


Global economic problems look likely to continue to hit British higher education financially in the new academic year according to the latest UCAS figures, which show a fifth fewer overseas applications, writes Alan Thomson.

There were 22,996 fewer degree applications as of February 12 than there were at the same time last year, a fall from 111,624 to 88,628. At the same time last year overseas applications represented 6.3 per cent of total degree applications. As of last week, applications for courses starting this year were 5.2 per cent of total applications.

British universities had recruited heavily from the Pacific Rim economies.

Such full-fee students are a lucrative source of income for universities but a series of economic crises over the past three years has led to recession in countries such as Malaysia, Thailand, Korea, Singapore and Indonesia.

Students from Malaysia accounted for just under a third of all of Britain's overseas students in 1996. Last year's intake was 44 per cent lower. Last year numbers from Thailand were down 29 per cent on 1997, from Korea 23 per cent down, Singapore 19 per cent, Indonesia 19 per cent and from Hong Kong 7 per cent.

Again some universities seem to have been hit harder than others and not always the post-1992 institutions. Highly rated Birmingham University had received 814 fewer applications last week than it did in February 1998, a 23.8 per cent fall. Newer universities, while attracting fewer applications generally, have suffered proportionally greater reductions. Glasgow Caledonian, for example, has seen overseas degree applications fall by 32 per cent.

Nofootnote_xy notes: This table contains the total number of applications made to each institution by February 12 through the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service compared with the number received by February 13, 1998. It excludes institutions that had received fewer than 500 applications. The total figure includes overseas students, HND students and home degree students.

1. The 1998 figures for King's College London include applications made to the United Medical and Dental Schools of Guy's and St Thomas's, which is now part of King's. 2. The figures for Heriot-Watt include the environmental studies faculty of the Edinburgh College of Art and exclude the former Scottish College of Textiles. 3. The 1999 figure for the University of Edinburgh includes applications made to Moray House Institute of Education.

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