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The rise of International students studying in the UK

The number of International students applying to study internationally continues to increase According to ISC data, 90% of Grade 12 international students were offered places at Universities, with top choice destinations being UK, USA and Canada. Here our Head of Education, Fiona Mckenzie, look at the reasons behind the rise in applications and the benefits for international students.

Nearly 64,000 international students applied to study in the UK in 2019, this represents a 9% increase on the previous year, and this is surely set to rise further now changes to the visa rules permitting students to stay on and work in the UK for 2 years after their degree finishes.

Why are more students keen to study abroad?

There are many factors driving this increase and for a significant proportion of students the decision is subject driven. International students are looking for a quality education, at a well respected university in a subject that is going to give them a clear career path. ISC research reveals that 33% of international applicants favoured STEM subjects, whilst a further 9% were applying for Natural Sciences or Maths and Statistics based courses. An additional 7% were looking for Engineering or Construction degree programmes. But the perennial favourite of Business or Management Studies related degrees continue to be a top choice for many students coming from an international background.

Top Subject Choices for International Students (ISC research)

How are students choosing their universities?

For many it is about location and major cities such as London, Edinburgh and Manchester remain popular choices, although some are more persuaded by the campus model offered at universities such as Warwick, Exeter and Surrey. Quality, reputation and ranking all play a role in choosing a university and increasingly cost is a factor too. Students are comparing not only the cost of a degree course but also the cost of living in a particular location, for example the most expensive student accommodation in Southampton is still cheaper than the most affordable student housing in London. Safety is another key concern for students and they are readily influenced by friends, peers and family about their choices. Finally, employability plays a role in terms of future career prospects and this can be influenced by the visa benefits both during and after the degree.

Top UK University choices for International Students 2019 (ISC)

What are the benefits for International Students?

The benefits for an international student are myriad and are often linked to employability. Studying abroad is a key differentiator when returning home to work an can open up better career opportunities in an increasingly globalized labour market. These highly educated and mobile students are well placed to contribute to knowledge creation, innovation and economic performance and on the back of this to command higher salaries.


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