Despite Brexit, a record number of foreign students want to study at British universities

A popular choice.
A popular choice.
Image: Reuters/Paul Hackett
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Brexit isn’t putting off international students from applying to UK universities.

That’s the biggest takeaway from recent figures, which found that a record number of international students from outside the European Union (EU) applied to British universities this year. The data, released by UCAS (the UK organization that manages applications to British universities), also showed a 3% increase in the number of EU students (excluding the UK) applying to study at British universities. Students who start university in the fall (September 2018) had until Jan. 15 to apply (though some art courses have later entry deadlines).

The number of EU applicants increased by 3.4% to 43,510 in 2018, reversing last year’s decline. The new figures are above 2015 numbers, but not as high as 2016.

Currently, UK and EU students pay the same university fee and have access to student loans and grants. While UK and EU students pay up to £9,250 a year ($13,046), international students can end up paying around £30,000 a year. Last year, the UK government confirmed it would continue providing financial support to EU students in 2018 and 2019 and that they will pay the same fees as students from the UK. It remains unclear, however, whether that will change after Britain leaves the EU. Thus, the uptake in EU applications may signal a rush to study at British universities before Brexit upturns the status quo.

The number of international applicants outside the EU increased by 11% to 58,450. The number of applications from China rose by 20%, or more than 2,000 students, and the number of applicants from India rose by 36%, or 1,180 students. There was a surge in the number of applicants from Mexico (a 52% increase, or 190 students), which one admission officer suggests is a result of Donald Trump’s presidency.

When British students are factored in, there was a 0.9% reduction in the total number of people applying to UK universities, to 559,000, compared to the same figure in 2017. UCAS puts that drop down to a number of factors; the 2.5% fall in the 18-year-old population in the UK, as well as a fall in the number of older students applying to university.