The UK aims to attract 600,000 international undergraduate students by 2030 to ensure that it retains its number two position (behind the US) for attracting overseas students, after reductions in applications from Indian, Iraqi and Saudi students and a substantial downturn in applications from the EU following Brexit.
UK universities are specifically targeting the Middle East as part of their strategy as the number of applicants from the region applying to the UK is steadily rising.
The 17 per cent yearly increase in UAE applications is well above the 11 per cent growth in applications from India and the 12 per cent rise from China. In 2021, the number of UAE students accepted on to undergraduate courses in the UK increased by 16 per cent compared to 2019. Students applying from Oman rose by 18 per cent and students from Saudi Arabia increased by 29 per cent.
The UK’s Institute for Fiscal Studies revealed that UK universities are facing up to £19 billion in losses due to the pandemic amid a drop in international applicants. The latest figures show the UK lost its market share in 16 of the top 21 countries and territories sending students overseas between 2010 and 2018, with third-place Australia increasing its international share of students by 16 per cent and Germany increasing its numbers by 20.4 per cent.
Commenting on 2022 applications, UCAS chief executive Clare Marchant said; “As we recover from the Covid pandemic and see the increased opening up of international travel, this year was always going to be pivotal for the international student market. We are expecting, as part of the journey to a projected 1 million applications by 2026, the number of international students to grow by two thirds.”
The UK government has also introduced policy changes to allow international degree students to remain in the UK to work - eligible students are permitted to stay to work, or look for work, for two years (three years if studying at PhD level) after they have completed a degree. This is a substantial incentive given historical constraints on international students seeking to plan their working future in the UK and an important incentive given that the UK is comparatively more expensive in terms of tuition fees, student visa fees and health costs.
In an effort to support post-graduate international students, UCAS has also launched Myriad, a new platform designed to provide "excellent user experience ... as well as champion new and emerging markets for universities and colleges’ recruitment activities". More than 90 per cent of UK universities and colleges are listed on Myriad and it is already being used by post-graduate students in 150 countries.
For international students from the UAE seeking to continuing their education at universities that are among the best in the world, the option to stay on in the UK for the long term has also become simpler and more attractive.