Overseas student interest in UK ‘bounced back in April’

Data on prospective student enquiries show demand to study in UK is strong despite coronavirus

May 9, 2020
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International student interest in studying at UK universities dropped significantly in the first quarter of the year, but there was a substantial rebound in April, according to new data from one student recruitment firm.

UniQuest analysed enquiries it had received from almost 24,000 prospective overseas students looking to study at UK universities between October 2018 and April 2020.

It found that year-on-year growth in the number of enquiries dropped by 59 per cent between November 2019 and March 2020, with each month seeing at least a 13 per cent decline compared with the previous month.

However, UniQuest saw 67 per cent more enquiries in April 2020 compared with April 2019.

And while there was a significant drop in growth in the first quarter of the year, at no point was there a decline in the absolute number of enquiries year-on-year in the wake of the coronavirus, which UniQuest suggested was partly due to the reintroduction of post-study work visas in the UK.

The main countries of origin of students analysed were India, Nigeria, Ghana, Pakistan, the US and China. The analysis controlled for factors such as the number of recruitment events from institutions to provide an accurate picture of year-on-year change.

Jennifer Parsons, partnerships and insights director at UniQuest, said that she expected that the “pretty bleak” downward trajectory of growth would continue throughout April, but the reverse has proved to be the case.

She said that the data suggest that as countries have gone into lockdown, enquiries from prospective international students in those nations have increased, which she said may be because they have more time to research university options and make enquiries.

Ms Parsons added that only about 7 per cent of questions from prospective students at events have been related to Covid-19. Of these, most have related to whether their course will now be taught online.

“The rest have all been questions we would expect to see at this time of year, such as, 'how can I get accommodation?’ or ‘how do I get a visa?’ They haven’t really switched into being, ‘I’m not coming’ or ‘I’m too worried about Covid-19 to make a decision to come’,” she said.

“The intent is still there. The demand is still there. Whether the reality is that students can get on a plane and come to the university in September is a completely different question.”

ellie.bothwell@timeshighereducation.com

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Reader's comments (2)

We should allow students to travel to study in other countries. They can quarantine at arrival if they must, but what is the problem with that if you are planning to stay for a whole year?
From perspective of pandemic control, UK seems not to be a safe place for international students and hence, may not a good destination. A new survey is required urgently to investigate how the Universities are behaving with the international students during this crisis period. However, at least, they didn't do in the same way as the Harvard did. The later asked the students to leave in few days' notice leading to a chaos. Overall, UK Universities' behaviour with students is probably not bad. Very bad days are waiting ahead. Students from third world countries must be cautious before spending their hard earned money for high level of tuition fee. Quality of teaching, residence and availability of healthy food are also important factors that, I believe, not available in many Universities. I'd request especially the young learners, to think twice before attending a undergrad course fully on self-finance at this moment. Students may opt for those institutions where social and personal hygiene are manageable. Sharing room is not a good option at this moment.

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