Worries grow as Chinese shun UK

September 2, 2005

Fears of a fall in demand for Chinese students appeared to be realised this week as figures showed a 21 per cent drop in admissions from China to the UK, writes Tony Tysome.

The number of Chinese students accepted on undergraduate courses in the UK has dropped to 3,464, compared with 4,401 at the same time last year.

Despite the disappointing intake from China, the figures from the Universities and Colleges Admissions Service show that the overall number of acceptances for overseas students is up 7.4 per cent on last year.

Acceptances for students from outside the European Union are up 4.1 per cent.

Home acceptances are up 8.4 per cent overall to 354,256. There has been a 42 per cent rise in the number of students accepted on foundation degrees, up from 6,2 to 8,870.

The drop in the number of Chinese acceptances is balanced by increases in admissions of students from countries such as Nigeria, which has seen an 85 per cent rise in acceptances (up from 1,558 last year to 2,882 this year), and Poland up 99 per cent from 415 to 8. There has been a 62 per cent increase in the number of students admitted from EU accession countries (from 2,086 to 3,381).

But the fall in Chinese intake will cause concern for a number of institutions, such as Nottingham University, which is soon to open a new campus in China.

Nottingham has seen a 40 per cent drop in applications and a 41 per cent fall in numbers of accepted offers from China for undergraduate courses.

Chinese applications for taught postgraduate courses are down 48 per cent and accepted offers by 8 per cent. Postgraduate research applications have dropped 29 per cent and acceptances by 3 per cent.

Christine Humphrey, Nottingham's international office director, said competition from the US and improved higher education in China may be to blame. She said that Nottingham's new Ningbo campus in China would reach "a whole new market".

The British Council said the downturn from China was the sign of a "maturing market", since the fall comes off the back of "incredible market growth".

A spokesman said: "Chinese students are still very interested in overseas study, but annual figures are starting to level off.

David Thornber, international officer at Portsmouth University, which is opening an office in China, said numbers of applications from Chinese students were down. "To be successful now is going to require some in-country investment," he said.

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