Rise in university applications ‘driven by foreign students’

Almost 559,000 students made applications to British universities by the official mid-January deadline – up by 3.5 per cent on the same point a year earlier. Data showed that numbers were being partly driven by a sharp rise in demand from foreign students, with applications soaring by almost 10 per cent. This is from the Telegraph…

The disclosure comes despite claims from universities that students from outside Europe would be put off higher education in Britain by tough new immigration rules.

It also emerged that the increase in applications was fastest among students from the poorest areas who can claim generous bursaries and discounts on tuition fees. Among applicants from the wealthiest 20 per cent of households, numbers remained static compared with last year.

Today, ministers insisted the figures were proof that the imposition of tuition fees of up to £9,000 for the first time in 2012 had failed to have a long-term impact on student numbers.

The Universities and Colleges Admissions Service (UCAS) said there had been “no double-dip for applications” after a sharp drop in demand last autumn.

But critics warned that the figures did not represent a “bounce-back”, insisting that overall numbers were still lower than levels seen in 2010 or 2011, before the introduction of higher fees.

Sally Hunt, general secretary of the University and College Union, said: “Today’s figures are a real body blow for anyone who does not think higher fees are turning some people away from university. Historical data suggests there should have been a considerable increase in the number of applications this year, but that simply is not the case.”

Figures show 558,898 people applied to university by January 15th – the deadline for most courses starting in autumn 2013. It was up by almost 19,000 – 3.5 per cent – in 12 months.

The number of applications from EU students increased by almost five per cent to 37,991, figures show. Demand from outside Europe soared by 9.6 per cent to 45,320.

China and Hong Kong continues to send the largest numbers of students to British universities and numbers were up by a quarter among those from Malaysia this year.

The rise comes despite a crackdown on bogus students and a tightening of visa regulations.

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