In February of this year, the UK Department of Education commissioned a report that predicted that Brexit may result in UK universities losing up to 62.5 million in tuition fee income.
This same analysis hypothesised that any increased tuition fee revenue would not compensate for the lost revenue associated with more students coming in.
According to the most recent data from UCAS, as of January 2021, EU applications to UK universities had fallen 40% year on year, from over 43,000 in 2020 to just over 26,000 in 2021. By contrast, the number of applications from non-EU countries rose by 17%.
Such a sudden shift in international student application patterns is indicative of the challenges that now face UK universities.
Specifically, UK higher education institutions now have two very distinct internationalisation challenges. On the one hand, they must consider how to expand their international recruitment strategy into new global markets.
On the other hand, they face the challenge of repositioning themselves to potential EU undergraduates who may be put off by the loss of their home fee status. But our analysis of international students’ destination preferences tells a slightly more nuanced story. We examined how BridgeU international students’ interest in the UK as a study destination changed between the 2020 and 2021 application cycles.
What we discovered both complements, and diverges from, existing application trends reported by other UK higher education institutions, commentators and policymakers.