International student numbers are way down. Could China be the answer?


Emerging Communications


Mar 15, 2024

Why we need to look beyond the headlines to find the "brightest and best"

UK Universities have seen a dramatic drop in international applications since last year, as a result of policies to curb immigration. Data published in The Guardian shows a drop in visas of up to 1/3 compared to last year.

A number of factors have contributed to the drop, including visa fees, a curb on student’s abilities to bring families with them impacting mature students in particular, and uncertainty over entitlement to work after the completion of studies.

The government has questioned whether universities are really attracting the “brightest and best” when students from some countries are dropping out at a rate of 20-25%, compared to the average of UK students at 8% (the lowest in Europe).

There are sharp differences by country though with Chinese students dropping out less than 3% of the time.

The rise in student numbers since 2019 has contributed 60bn to the UK economy, and the threat is not just to the universities themselves but their surrounding economies including accomodation, retail and hospitality businesses.

Is it time for the UK to start attracting more Chinese students, who typically aren’t bringing families, and have lower dropout rates than even UK students?