British universities
Some international students are still keen to attend British universities. Source: JUSTIN TALLIS/AFP

There is no waning of interest for British universities despite a raging pandemic on hand.

According to The Times, Chinese students continue to drive the number of international enrolments up, despite Beijing’s anger towards British leaders over Huawei and unrest in Hong Kong.

Quoting data from UCAS, the report said British universities have so far accepted 8,570 Chinese students, an increase of 14% on the 7,490 with places on the same day last year. This figure has more than doubled since 2015.

Hong Kong followed suit with 3,340 students, an increase from 3,010 in 2019. India is at third place with 2,680 students, up from 2,430 last year.

The report said there are more international applicants holding an offer; their places will be confirmed once their qualification results are provided to universities.

The survey in June of 30,000 university applicants from around the world who planned to study abroad found that the plans of 57% had been disrupted. Another survey found UK universities are expected to have a shortfall of over 400 million pounds from international students shunning the countyr.

British universities expecting shortfal in student enrolment

The survey by the British Council’s International Education Services said UK universities will likely have nearly 14,000 fewer new enrolments from East Asia in 2020/21 compared to the 2018/19 academic year.

The 12% drop would lead to a decline of 463 million pounds in spending on tuition and living expenses.

More than half of non-EU international students at UK higher education institutions are from eight East Asian markets — China, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.

The survey was carried out between April 19 to May 15, 2020.

Other key findings from the survey include:

  • 29% of respondents indicated that they are at least somewhat likely to delay or cancel their overseas study plans this year;
  • 35% are “neither likely nor unlikely” to do so. These figures, however, varied widely across study levels and markets.
  • 63% of prospective postgraduate students also overwhelmingly favour a face-to-face start in January over an autumn start online (15%).
  • 37% of undergraduate students prefer the online start in autumn, compared to 46% preferring a delayed January start.

They said Hong Kong stood out as the market with the most positive sentiments — 57% said that they are at least “somewhat likely” to keep their plans to study abroad.

UK universities — who are heavily reliant on tuition fees from international students who pay double or more the fees of domestic students — will have to brace for sharp losses amid a shortfall in international student enrolment.

Nick Hillman, director of the Higher Education Policy Institute and a former government adviser, told The Times that international students “undoubtedly benefited every constituency of the UK”. 

He said last year that each international student in the UK cross-subsidised university research by 8,000 pounds 

Universities that were struggling financially before the pandemic may be flexible with their entry grades to make up for the shortfall in student numbers.

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